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Wayne Gurnick

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Tips For Brides Who Want Elegance Without the Big Budget

Posted: 10/24/11 04:17 PM ET

The average cost of a wedding in 2010 was $26,984, a decrease of 5 percent from 2009, according to the The Knot. While the wedding industry analyzes trends to make sense of how the challenging economy is impacting wedding planning decisions, weddings are still a mostly emotional event. Marriage is an important commitment, a defining moment in peoples' lives, distinctly making this celebration different from others. What defines a stand-out wedding? It's a feeling, a moment in time when people experience intense joy.

Helping people find their own way to celebrate their marriage while working within their budget is what I do.

My number one tip for the bride and groom who want an elegant wedding without the big budget is to select a few elements that are most important to them. A wedding is not about showing off. It's about creating moments and memories. The best way to do that is to concentrate on a few "wow" items. Outside of that, here are a few other ways to save:

Be flexible about your wedding date. Saturday night is the most popular choice and commands top prices. You can get better pricing for weddings on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. This applies to your food and virtually all other services. Many hotels offer well-priced packages on these less common days. Don't forget that June is the most popular month; consider other months with special meaning to you.

Limit your guest list. Be realistic and invite those people with whom you have an emotional connection. With the average cost per guest of $194 (according to The Knot), every 5 guests equal $1,000. Don't invite people out of obligation, because they just might come, out of obligation.

Plan a destination wedding. A combination of celebration and vacation, this is one of the best ways to keep your guest list in check and reserve your budget for the types of activities that create life-long memories. With fewer guests, you will be able to afford a more elegant venue and meal.

Do It Yourself. DIY projects provide a creative outlet and the opportunity to save money. Websites such as DIYbride and A Practical Wedding provide useful DIY tips and projects for brides. Another option for the bride who is more hands-on and/or budget conscious is my innovative wedding planning system, The Ultimate Wedding Planning Systemtm, which helps DIY brides plan their wedding and have 24/7 access to a professional wedding planner.

Find creative ways to decorate. Shop flea markets and thrift stores to find vintage items for centerpieces and other décor items. Everything does not have to match, as long as it is within a cohesive theme. Trader Joe's and Costco are just a few places where you can pick up fresh flowers and plants that don't require involved arranging. (Also consider how these items will be assembled, kept fresh, transported to the reception and set up. My advice is to put a responsible friend in charge, someone not part of the bridal party. Give your friend the authority to rent a van if needed and choose flowers that are hardy, particularly for a summer wedding. Hire a professional florist for the more involved items, such as bridal bouquets. Another option -- buy glass containers at a discount retailer such as Target and float a single large flower such as a gardenia or a garden rose. Use candlelight to create a romantic and elegant feel -- you may need a fire permit, so check with the reception venue ahead of time).

Skip the full bar. A full service bar is expensive. Serve beer and wine instead, or better yet, a signature drink in an elegant martini glass in keeping with your color.

Shorten the time frame of the cocktail hour. Make it 30 minutes instead, and save on the amount of hors d'oeuvres and drinks served.

Skip the formal dinner. Create a stylish lounge with cocktail tables and lounge furniture; serve elegant hors d'oeuvres instead of the traditional dinner.

Rent your bridal attire. Companies such as One Night Affair offer an extensive collection of wedding gowns for rent, from budget-friendly dresses to couture gowns. Another good option is Kirstie Kelly's Signature collection at Costco, with savings starting at 40 percent. At Adorn Jewels for Rent you can enjoy luxurious jewels for a fraction of the price.

Go without guest favors. Even at a few dollars per person, favors can add up to hundreds of dollars. Let your guests bring you gifts and express your gratitude through personal thank you notes.

Consult with a professional planner. Most brides understand that a professional planner can save them time, but do not realize that a pro can also save them money. For the bride who doesn't have the time and/or interest in doing all wedding planning, hiring a planner is money well spent.