Can ferns and ivy save you some green? Can a princess-cut diamond be a royal bargain? Well, sure. Wedding planning can be all about getting great deals. You just have to know where to look.
Here's a mini-roadmap of some of the best shortcuts to Bride Bargaintown, sorted by category. The wedding magazines will tell you that this city doesn't exist. Don't believe them. We've seen it, and it's beautiful.
If it's good enough for Serena van der Woodsen, why not the rest of us? Round diamonds are the most popular for engagement rings, so you'll often find that different shapes are less expensive. Check out square-cut, princess-cut, or heart-shaped options, or choose an oval diamond like Blake Lively's—though yours might not be 12 carats.
You can also save some coin by picking a different stone or metal. Sapphires are less expensive than diamonds and almost as durable (and Kate Middleton seemed fine with hers). Instead of pricey platinum, try the white metal palladium.
In the olden days, brides made an obligatory visit to the fancy stationery store to choose their invitations, thank-you cards and other paper products from fat, posh binders. You have more options, you modern girl. There's a world of lower-priced printing options online, including Zazzle and Vistaprint. Or support an emerging artist on Etsy. Whichever way you go, you typically save money by buying all your paper in one place.
Planning a huge wedding? Cut postage costs by emailing your save-the-dates (which don't have to be as formal as the invitations), and use postcards for your RSVPs instead of full cards.
Speaking of online options, there are lots of stylish brides who realize they won't wear their dress again, so they put it up for sale on eBay or Craigslist. If you've got a good dry cleaner and don't mind a gently used garment, you can grab a gown for a steal. Otherwise, check out sample sales and trunk shows for some sweet bargains.
So you're a December bride who yearns to carry a peony bouquet? Sorry, sweetie. You'll pay much more for blossoms that are out of season and need to be hothoused or flown in from afar. Two buzzwords for smart flower choices: Seasonal. Local.
As for the flowers decorating your ceremony and reception venues, greenery tends to be less expensive than petals. Use ferns, ivy, leaves and other filler options between the blossoms. And don't rush out to buy a lot of vases. Often florists can rent you those.
Food and drink
Serving just wine and beer is way cheaper than having a full bar. To keep up the variety and make the choices feel special, offer local, interesting vintages and microbrews. If you really want some hard stuff, limit yourself to one signature drink.
Go back to school by tying the knot at a library, garden or alumni club at your old university. Alumni discounts are often available for venue rentals. Nostalgia is free.
In general, venues charge more for Saturday-night weddings. Would a Sunday work for you? Or, can you negotiate a slightly cheaper rate if you rent the place for one less hour?
One of the sneakiest ways to save is by faking your cake. For the photos, order a beautiful wedding cake, but keep it small and affordable. Then your caterer will quietly slice up a plain old sheet cake for the guests to eat.
What's sneakier than that? There are companies that make fake foam cakes—with one genuine slice for the cake-cutting pictures. The next day, sell the fake cake online. Brilliant bride!
MissWedTips is the pen name of a California journalist and perpetual newlywed who loves helping friends plan their nuptials. She has also turned her husband into a fan of “Say Yes to the Dress.” She is the author of the Kindle book “1,001 #Kickass #Wedding Ideas, in 140 characters or less,” a resource for busy brides who like their wedding-planning tips to be no longer than a tweet. Follow her on Twitter at @MissWedTips.