Dream Wedding without a Big Budget

Fresno newlywed Claire Opie just got married at Wolf Lakes. She said it was the wedding of her dreams, but flexibility was key to staying on budget. Opie approached her planning with the mentality: "Where can we cut our costs in order to stick between this budget? And you just kind of as a bride, you just have to say what's most important and what are the things I can kind of cut back on?"

So Claire splurged on a 4-thousand-dollar photography package, but cut out flowers ... other than the $200 she spent for her bouquet and one rose for each attendant. She also had a family friend make her cake.

One way to save big bucks is to have your wedding and reception outdoors or at a park, like Claire did, which keeps decorations and flower costs to a minimum.

Fresno wedding planner Cassandra Arnold says more budget brides are asking for her help. She described a conversation with one client, "When she first came to me she said, I have 10-thousand dollars and we have to stay within that budget. So the first thing I talked to her about was how many people because that's the single biggest determining factor in how much your wedding's going to cost you." That includes whittling down your wedding party. Have three bridesmaids and groomsmen instead of 10. Then consider an off-peak time and place. Arnold suggests, "Have a morning wedding and do a brunch. Brunch menus are a lot less expensive than a dinner. One couple had a Tuesday wedding and I said why Tuesday, and they said you will not believe the deals that we got."

How about a wedding dress for $99? You can definitely find high fashion at low prices. Ask the bridal shop for discontinued dresses. Silva Kassouf with Elegant Bride showed us a dress marked down to $250, normally $1300. She said, "Brides are afraid to ask. If they ask, believe me, all the stores have this." In fact, Elegant Bride in Northeast Fresno has hundreds of designer dresses between $25 and $250.

Kassouf: "What you see is what you get, so if they fit the size and like the color, we have lots to offer them."

Joann Gehrke--owner of Cakes by Joann--says a lot of clients are cutting corners on cakes too, "The main thing we're finding is they want to do a small three-tier and then some sheet cakes in the back, which we set them up so when they're sliced, they look like a wedding cake. Tastes the same, same cake, just not decorated and up in front." That can slice a hundred dollars from the cost. And forget the favors ... they're usually forgettable. Just because you're on a budget doesn't mean you can't have your cake and eat it too.

Cakes by Joann
Joann Gehrke

Elegant Bride
Silva Kassouf

Weddings By Cassandra
Cassandra Arnold

25 Money Saving Ideas from Cassandra:
1. Use Ceremony Flowers at your reception site: (use unity candle arrangement for your head table centerpiece, use bridesmaids bouquets for head table decor.

2. Order a smaller cake (2-3 tiers), along with sheet cakes for your reception.

3. Use more candles in your centerpieces, instead of fresh flowers

4. Don't do wedding favors! Most people don't even take them home, and if they do, they will end up throwing them away.

5. Find a venue that you can have your ceremony and reception, this will cut down on transportation needs, and driving for your wedding party and your guests.

6. Ask your vendors if they offer discounts for weekday or Friday or Sunday dates.

7. Have a morning wedding, followed by a brunch reception. Most caterers have less expensive brunch menus, then you won't have to worry about having appetizers and an extensive bar selection.

8.Print your own wedding invitations. Stores like Office Depot and Office Max, even Target now, have large selections of 'do-it-yourself' wedding invitations, programs, menu cards, etc.

9. Trim your guest list down. Numbers speak volumes when it comes to wedding planning. If you really want to keep your budget low, try to cut your guest list down to the bare minimum.

10. Get a wedding website. Like www.theknot.com Most wedding planning websites offer 'free' wedding websites to couples. They are great ways to keep your guests informed about wedding details, like hotels in the area, directions and these sites will also help track your RSVPs, so you can eliminate your RSVP card in your invitation and that extra stamp.

11. Try websites like ebay, craigslist to see if brides in your area are selling any of the wedding stuff. Some brides will buy their own centerpieces, decorations, etc, then sell them after the wedding, at a fraction of the cost to purchase new.

12. Alcohol ... if you feel that you must offer 'free' drinks at your wedding, limit it to just beer and wine, and maybe just one or two signature drinks during the cocktail hour. If you want to save some money, do not do an open bar.

13. A wedding at home will not necessarily save you money. Most people think planning a wedding at home will save money, but you actually might end up spending more money, and you'll be more stressed out. An 'at-home' wedding requires a large rental bill. You will need to bring in EVERYTHING, tables, chairs, lighting, restrooms, tents, heaters, fans, linen, china, flatware, etc.

14. Cut out champagne for your toast. Not everyone likes champagne anyway, and most people just have a sip of it for the toasts. Instead of having it, just have your MC ask people to fill their glasses with their 'favorite' beverage before the toasting starts.

15. When looking for music for your ceremony, why not ask your DJ? This will save you the money of having to hire 'live' musicians.

16. Choose a DJ over a band. Most DJs in the valley around about $100 per hour and bands usually end up costing a lot more. Plus, it's more vendors that you'll have to organize on the day of your wedding. Or, be your own DJ. Compile your own wedding mix into your iPod or laptop, plug it in, and go!

17. Get your flowers at Costco. They have beautiful flowers year around. If you have enough friends that can give you a hand, it might save you some money to do your own bouquets and/or centerpieces.

18. Keep your wedding party small. The least amount of people will save you money in the long run. The smaller your wedding party is the less amount of gifts you have to buy, smaller rehearsal dinner, less bouquets and boutonnières

19. Find out if there are other weddings at your facility the weekend of your event. Maybe the two of you could split the cost of a backdrop or other decorations.

20. Go to local bridal shows. Bridal shows are great places to get a lot of your wedding planning done in one day. It will save you tons in gas! You will be able to see multiple wedding vendors all in one location. You aren't driving all over town to meet with everyone. You can also enter to win a variety of prizes and special discounts at most bridal shows. Next big show coming up the Valley is Sunday, August 17th at the Convention Center in Downtown Fresno.

21. When choosing a caterer, try to choose a caterer that supplies everything, linen, plates, silverware, glassware, servers, etc. This will save you money trying to rent everything yourself.

22. Choosing an outdoor location can sometimes save you money. If you choose an outdoor venue that has a lot of trees, plants, flowers, etc. It will save you money in decorations. Let your surroundings be your 'decor'. Take advantage of the 'after Christmas' sales at craft stores to purchase decorations, and especially white Christmas lights. You'll be able to get them very inexpensively during the holiday season, instead of trying to buy them in June!

23. Do an evening wedding followed by an hors D'ouvres and dessert reception. Skip the dinner all together. If you do this, your wedding would have to be late enough so that your guests would've already eaten dinner.

24. Keep your priorities in order! Don't go crazy on things that people are not even going to notice or care about. Spend your money on the things that are most important to the both of you.

25. Hire a wedding consultant. A wedding consultant can actually save you money, and especially stress when it comes to your wedding plans. A wedding consultant and steer you in the right direction in terms of what vendors to contact that will work for your budget, so you aren't wasting your time (and gas) driving around to vendors that you won't be able to afford anyway.

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