Brides on a Budget - Can you have a dream wedding for half the cost?

By Lauren Keith
CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - According to the on-line web site, the average couples in the Heartland spend on a wedding is between $10,000 and $15,000. In times like these, that's enough to pinch any wallet. Still, most brides want every little detail to be perfect, no matter the cost.

So, is there a way to have the ideal wedding day and stay within budget?  Yes - says local bride Stacey Gambill. "We're on a budget mainly because we want to save a bunch of money for our honeymoon in Colorado."

Gambill might be an expert when it comes to cost-cutting but not compromising her special day. She envisions a royal-style wedding, but not the royal price tag. First, she began by picking an almost-all inclusive venue to host her special celebration. "They have everything ready for you so you don't have to do it yourself," explains Gambill.

That way, you know the package price up front, usually ranging between $900 and $2400 at the St. Charles Conservatory where she and her fiance will get married. Stacey will ride up in a horse-drawn carriage. She'll proceed down the aisle inside the ready-to-go garden sanctuary while the conservatory music plays in the background. All the while wearing her not-so-traditional but dream wedding gown. "So, I have this 1800's style ball gown that has beading and embroidery on top and it's baby pink," describes Stacey.

She saved some serious cash on that by looking for it in the prom section rather than among wedding gowns, a tip bridal consultant Gina Jansen gave her.  Jansen owns the Andrew Jackson Boutique in downtown Jackson.
"Just come in and talk to shop owners. They'll be willing to talk with you and work with your budget because we have so much inventory and are willing to work with you in anyway," she said.

That's another tip - shop local. Jansen says "mom-and-pop" bridal boutiques can negotiate prices with brides more easily than most chain stores. Want proof? Jansen has a section of gowns she needs to move from her inventory. "I have one for $1,073 and we're going to go down to $199 very shortly.  I have inventory I must sell," she says.

Jansen predicts the gown's discontinued because the dressmaker can't find all the proper beading to reproduce it in mass production. "You're not getting less of a dress . You're just getting a dress that was a slow-mover or a discontinued and still getting a beautiful gown."

Bridesmaid's dresses aren't just for the "ladies in waiting" these days. As "destination" and  beach weddings grow more popular, Jansen says more local brides are ordering more affordable bridesmaids gowns, but in the shades of champagne or soft white. "They can save lots of money by using the bridesmaid section, if they'll give us time to order the gowns."

Also, look for coupons online and at bridal expos. Ask shop owners if they'll negotiate a price if you buy your gown, headpiece and accessories all at once. Plus, see what discounts they can throw in, if you agree to also order the entire wedding party ensemble at the same boutique. "We do like it when they tell us they're on a budget," explains Amy Kasten-Yates, owner of Rental Land in Cape Girardeau.

She agrees the reception can be the most expensive part of a wedding.Kasten-Yates says more and more local brides are signing up for her store's payment plan when renting most reception items. "They're still having weddings. They're just watching what they spend and doing a lot of price checking."

She says monitor the guest list. You don't have to invite everyone who's ever said hello to you. Also, don't include a full meal. Instead, offer appetizers and if you choose, a limited selection of cocktails.
Kasten-Yates says there's also a trend of brides decorating with glassware, instead of more expensive fresh flowers.
"We're seeing a lot of glassware."

She's also seeing more local brides select smaller cakes on the table, but then serve guests sheet cake or cupcakes.  You can also cut costs on invitations, especially if you make them yourself on a computer or opt for what Amy calls "Seal 'n' Sends." "Seal 'n' sends are a nice way to save. They're a long invite with wedding info on it and the response card is a postcard, so you'll save on postage."

In several cases, Amy says you may not even need response cards, especially if you're offering a buffet or appetizers, which is exactly what bride Stacey Gambill and her fiance are doing. "We're only going to do cakes and candies and wine...things like that rather than have a big buffet."

The crafty bride's also arranging her own silk flower bouquets and making her own jewelry. "I got some pearls on sale for $5 a piece," she says.

And, Stacey couldn't be any more excited for the big day to finally arrive. "I'm cutting traditional things I don't want and having focus on absolutely everything I dreamt of."

Finally, don't forget to browse online sites like eBay.  You can find all kinds of gently used decorative items for the reception and more.  Plus, it never hurts to ask friends of family if you can borrow some items all to truly make your special day everything YOU ever dreamed about.