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4 Ways to Cut Wedding Costs

Save money without spoiling the celebration

Whether you're footing the bill for your daughter's wedding or hosting a bash for yourself as you retie the knot, you can expect to shell over big bucks for the big day: The average wedding now costs about $27,000.

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Looking to keep costs down?  Here are four ways to save:

1. Practice the “something old” mantra. Websites such as Ruffled and RecycledBride sell everything from gowns and shoes to cake toppers and linens for less than retail. OnceWed focuses on secondhand bridal attire, while Brides Against Breast Cancer has a calendar of local sales offering discounted dresses (with a share of proceeds benefiting programs for cancer patients and their families).

2. Dates that rate. You might save up to 30 percent with a wedding in January to March (except for Valentine’s Day) or in November — the caterers, musicians and many of the other folks you’re going to be dealing with will likely give better prices on off-peak months. Meanwhile, a wedding on Friday or Sunday during any month is usually less expensive than the popular Saturday ceremony.

3. Chicken or fish? Rather than offering guests a choice beforehand, opt instead for combination meals — say, grilled shrimp and chicken breast on the same plate. This way, the chef doesn’t have to over-order to compensate for guests who change their minds. And since most wedding venues charge for each bottle that’s opened, cut the bar tab by serving only signature cocktails using select types of liquor, or sticking only with beer, wine and champagne. Another option: Instead of champagne, add wine or vodka to sparkling soda, topped with berries.

4. Decoration discounts. Wedding cakes can be budget busters because of the labor that goes into those sugar-based frillies on them. For a classy way to cut costs, Real Simple magazine suggests pinning real lace or satin ribbon around each layer, which costs pennies but can make a priceless visual impact. Also, for lower-cost table centerpieces, consider an arrangement of a single seasonal flower interspersed with fresh herbs that can provide post-reception flavoring for guests’ meals.

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Sid Kirchheimer writes about consumer issues.