Jason Walz

  • Consider choosing a nontraditional venue. “Where you have the wedding often drives the cost,” says Fields. Rather than a dedicated wedding reception hall or country club, check out less expensive facilities, from city-run spaces like zoos and civic gardens to restaurants or more offbeat locations that have some meaning for you, from a beach to your parents’ yard. One caveat: If the space is not equipped to cater a party, calculate extra costs for bringing in tables, toilets, or even a kitchen.

The Wedding Dress

  • Shop designer or sample sales. Find out the dates of well-known annual sales at places like Filene’s, where you might snag a $2,000 dress for $249, or the sample sales at Vera Wang. “You can save up to 70 percent on gowns, headpieces, veils, and shoes at a sample sale,” says Naylor. “Look for the touring list on your favorite designers’ websites, or get on the mailing list at bridal gown salons.” You may even get to shop before anyone else and have first pick.
  • Consider renting or borrowing a dress. “Or buy one secondhand,” Post says. Chances are, it’s only been worn once! Look on eBay or craigslist for postings. Oftentimes, if the bride changes her mind about her dress or has to postpone the wedding, you might be able to score a deal on a never-been-worn gown.
  • Or combine self-interest with philanthropy. Says Fields, "Buy at one of the sales of donated new and used gowns" staged in many U.S. cities by bridesagainstbreastcancer.org. Or look for a vintage or consignment store that carries wedding dresses. The Bridal Garden in New York City (bridalgarden.org), for example, features designer-donated dresses, and a portion of the proceeds go to charity.
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