Whichever way you slice it, making a wedding is expensive. But planning a wedding on a budget doesn’t necessarily mean you need to sacrifice elegance or ambiance where it counts. There are many ways to significantly cut expenses, while maintaining a dignified and enjoyable affair. Community Magazine spoke with some experts in the field, including veteran wedding planners and bridal fund administrators, to glean some valuable advice for reducing expenses without reducing the joy.

Reception Hall and Caterer

Cost Range (based on 400 guests)

High end: $50,000+

Average: $30,000

Budget: $12,000

As clearly the most significant expense, the caterer’s price is generally a direct function of the number of guests expected to attend. But there are also significant differences between different caterers and wedding halls.

Shop around.Explore the variety of wedding halls and caterers in your area. You may be surprised to see a vast price difference in the cost per guest – which may even lead to savings as high as $20,000 – for the same basic menu. Although you may be inclined to go with the popular venues, you and your guests may be pleasantly surprised to see how elegant and spacious some of the other halls can be.

Be flexible. If you are willing to schedule the wedding mid-week or in slow seasons, you’ll find the prices to be much lower than a weekend or peak season event.

Limit the menu.If you are working with a budget, stay as close as possible to the standard menu the caterer offers. Extras such as sushi stations, carving boards and open bars will naturally inflate the total bill – often very significantly.

Consider the extras.In addition to the per-head charge, wedding halls and caterers offer services like bride/groom attendants, doormen, and valet parking. Carefully consider which extras are critical for your wedding and eliminate where you can.

Flowers and Centerpieces

Cost Range

High end: $20,000+

Average: $5,000

Budget: $500

Flowers do have a special way of adding to the ambiance and beauty of an affair. So although flowers are not long lasting, it’s hard to do without them. The question is, how can we lower this expense?

Go silk.One way to cut down the costs dramatically is by renting or borrowing silk flowers, some of which can look so good, you’d never believe they were fake (unless you touched them, of course). You may be skeptical of the idea of using fake flowers for a wedding, but as you look into the high quality options, you may be surprised by how beautiful and natural looking they can be.

Get to the Gemach. It’s hard to find a better price than free. And that’s how much you’d pay to borrow silk flower arrangements from a gemach (free lending service). Brooklyn-based gemachs can be contacted at 718-336-6118 and 718-376-8002.

Pick a flower.If fresh flowers are very important to you, carefully consider which varieties you choose to include in the arrangements, as this will affect the total price. “Decide on a budget and stick to it,” advises Jene Zoloshin of Elegance Floral Design.

Invitations

Cost Range (including stuffing and addressing)

High end: $12+ per invitation

Average: $3 dollars per invitation

Budget cost: $1 per invitation

Think simple.Additional layers and die cut shapes might look great, but will add to the cost of your invitations. Consider simpler styled invitations which can still be very elegant looking. Esther Faham from Creative Expressions suggests focusing on the text layout. “Using a sharp layout with an interesting font can make an inexpensive invitation look expensive.”

Lighten the load.Even if you find a moderately priced invitation, bear in mind how the size and weight of the paper will affect postage. Heavy papers and oversized envelopes can easily double or triple the postage costs.

Laser the address.Real calligraphy looks beautiful, but the cost, time and potential waste (from errors) involved can take a toll on your budget. Consider laser printing the addresses using an elegant font instead.

Photography/Videography

Cost Range

High end: $20,000+

Average: $5,000

Budget: $3,000

Share your album.A big part of the cost of the photography is in the hardbound custom albums. To save money, Morris Gindi from Gindi Photography advises, “Consider a main album only, and not the parents’ albums. Or just take the proof and make the album later on, when you have the money.”

Skip the overtime.“You don’t always need that many hours of photography,” Morris suggests. “You may choose to cut on the hours, which can definitely help reduce the cost.” Consider reducing portrait time, and ask a friend or family member to help you make the most of it by ensuring that everyone who needs to be photographed is around just before they’re needed.

Amateur video.While the album and pictures are usually displayed on the coffee table, the video often sits inside a closet collecting dust. Save on the video by asking only for the raw footage instead of an edited and polished version with a highlight reel and baby pictures.

Music

Cost Range

High end: $15, 000 (band with singers)

Average: $5,000 (standard orchestra)

Budget: $1,500 (One-man-band or DJ)

By the piece. A full orchestra is impressive to watch, but, unless your guest list includes seasoned music connoisseurs, they will not likely hear the difference between an eight-piece and four-piece band. Limiting your band to only the basic instruments can produce some real cost saving.

Go with a solo. One-man-bands may not have the visual presence of an ensemble, but skilled musicians can still churn out great music to get your guests dancing, at a fraction of the cost of a full orchestra.

Spin it.Aside from the cost-cutting benefits, DJ’s also offer the advantage of versatility. Isaac Chalouh of Isaac Chalouh Entertainment explains that “DJs are able to play many different beats; we can do Mizrahi, Leibedic, Hasidic or modern, while many bands are limited to one style. Higher end DJs can also add a remix – for example, we can take Mizrahi music and put Hebrew words to it.”

Attire

Cost Range

High end: $10,000+

Average: $2,000 (gown rental)

Budget: $300 (alterations of a gown from the gemach)

Don’t fall in love. If you’ve already found the perfect gown in a high fashion magazine, or you’re hung up on a particular designer, you may not have much luck finding exactly what you want for rent or at the gemach. Try to keep an open mind and you could find something beautiful that will cost you almost nothing.

Gemach city. Aside from bridal and sister/mother of the bride gown gemachs, there are also hat gemachs to match “Going Away” or Sebbet outfits, headpiece and veil gemachs, as well as tiara and flower gemachs for the sister/mother’s hair. And remember, it doesn’t hurt to look! You may just be very pleasantly surprised.

Everything Else

It’s not just the wedding itself that is expensive; there are many expenses that crop up en route to the big day. The expenses of the engagement party and swanee can add up significantly. Recently, some parents of engaged couples have opted to scale down (or even cut out) the engagement party, preferring to give the money saved to the young couple, instead. Closed swanees also offer potential cost savings by relieving the pressure to impress the whole world.

Planning a wedding on a budget certainly has its challenges, but ultimately, what’s most important is not to lose sight of the fact that it’s really just a three-hour party . When planning for the big day, the top priority is to bring happiness and joy to the two people who are beginning their lives together. So rather than risk compromising financial stability and facing unhealthy anxiety and tension, it pays to weigh your options with an open mind and with an eye toward the many years of happiness that will, please Gd, follow the wedding celebration. A bit of patient research and careful planning can help you make a beautiful wedding without breaking the bank, and ensure that the joy and festivity of the big day will be just the beginning of a lifetime of happiness and fulfillment.