How To Not Suck At Planning Your Wedding, Part 2: The Stuff People Pay Too Much For

How To Not Suck’s 5-part Wedding Week series continues today with information on all those purchases that only cost a lot because engaged couples are too-often willing to pay too much.

Yesterday we showed you how to save lots of cash on some big-ticket wedding items you need to book early. Once those are under control, you can move to the next phase in wedding-mania.

Here’s how to not suck at the rest of the big wedding stuff.

THE INVITATIONS
While professionally-printed wedding invitations can be gorgeous, they can cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars that you could spend on other wedding items.

This is one wedding category you should absolutely consider DIY-ing, or asking a bridesmaid or family member to help. All you need is a decent printer at home or work (if your boss doesn’t mind), a paper order from a warehouse store or online outfit (and you can ask for samples before you order so you can check paper quality), some hand-tied ribbon from the dollar store and a good imagination.

Overall, professional printing will cost more, but you can use the following tips to lower your bill whether or not you DIY.
•Shop around: Don’t get suckered into paying a fortune to some company that “specializes” in wedding invites. They are really just specializing in fleecing couples who don’t know better. Visit retailers such as stationary stores, office supply outfits and warehouse stores to see what’s out there, then compare prices with online offerings. Any number of smaller, digital printing operations can provide you exactly what you need for a fraction of the cost.

•Reconsider the extras: Invites with multiple layers of paper, bows, ribbons and other embellishments will cost more, as will envelope liners, custom ink colors and hand painted details.

•Plus, they add to an invite’s weight, which may mean more in postage.

•The paper: Choose invitations with recycled paper rather than the fancy options.

•Go single: Wedding invitations are often sent in an envelope that’s in another envelope so that what arrives for the guest is in perfect condition. But really — how many envelopes do you need? Plus, that means extra weight for postage.

•Size matters: Square envelopes cost more to mail than rectangular ones. If you go square, it could cost you 13 cents more for postage per envelope.

•Order extras: It will cost more later to get a few extras in case you have last-minute guests, so splurge for a few to give breathing room to spare.

•Forget the map: Rather than print a map for your guests (more paper, more postage), give your guests a URL on the invitation with directions to the affair.

•Forget tradition: Traditional wedding invites have the ceremony and reception info on two separate cards. Save on printing and postage by putting all the information on one card.

•Go online: Rather than include pre-stamped RSVP cards, ask guests to respond to an email address.

•Or use a postcard: If you want to include RSVP cards, you can save about 15 cents postage per response by using postcards rather than RSVPs that are returned in envelopes.

•Go paperless: Give digital invites a try. You’ll find many online party evite services that will give you wedding-ready invitations.

THE FLOWERS
Flowers can be a huge expense. Not only does tradition call for bouquets for the bride and bridesmaids, and boutonnieres for the men, you also need to consider flowers for the ceremony, the table settings and even a wristlet for Grandma.

To limit your flower costs:
•Stay in season: If you insist on a certain kind of bloom but it’s out-of-season, the cost will be higher.

•Think big: Larger blooms, such as hydrangeas (my personal favorite and the focus of the flowers at my wedding), sunflowers and peonies are among those that allow you to use fewer stems and still have a larger presentation.

•Use greenery: If you use lots of leafy branches in your arrangement, you’ll still have a full look even if you use fewer blooms.

•Go simple: The bride and the wedding party can carry single roses instead of a big batch of flowers.

•Pick your own: Depending on the time of year and where you live, wildflowers might be an option. And they’re free.

•Double-up: When you create centerpieces for your guests’ tables, choose something that can double as decor for your ceremony.

•Do-it-yourself: Rather than hire a florist, have a friend or family member take charge of the arrangements.

•Forget the flowers: Hit the dollar store for some inexpensive vases, and fill them with sand and seashells, or fruit, or pine cones.

•Light it up: Go for candles instead of blooms.

While you may not want to carry a lit candle down the aisle, no one says you must carry flowers. Maybe you want to add some whimsy and personality to your ceremony by carrying a pinwheel, or a golf club, or an apple. Or a fairy wand or a fly swatter. Get creative!

One surefire way to cut these costs is to have fewer people in your wedding party. Fewer people means fewer bouquets and boutonnieres you will need.

As with any service provider, make sure you check out the florists’ reputation. And history of lawsuits.

THE TRANSPORTATION
When it comes to wedding day limousine service, you simply have to shop around and compare prices.

While that Rolls Royce might look snazzy, the price tag may not be. Traditional limos will carry more people and probably be more reasonable. If you have a large wedding party and you plan to provide transportation for all, you may get the biggest bang for your buck with a bus.

If you have the ceremony and the reception in the same location, you can probably cut down the hours for which you’ll need the transportation, if you need it at all; like if you have your party at the hotel where you plan to stay after the reception.

If you do hire someone, ask the company about hourly rates rather than buying a block of time. That way you won’t be paying for the driver to hang out in his car during your celebration.

Before you hire any car company, know that every state has different rules for how many people can be passengers in different vehicles. Make sure the company is licensed and insured in your state, and that they’re properly registered, too.

But like everything wedding, you don’t have to go the traditional route. Maybe you hire a car to get you there, but when the party is over, you and your spouse can:
•Take off on roller skates (and pre-park your car down the road)

•Use a scooter, a bike built for two or pull each other in a Radio Flyer wagon

•Rent a horse or two

•Borrow an old-fashioned car and ask your friends to decorate it with a “married” sign and cans and all

THE CAKE
Does anyone really like the wedding cake, anyway? Depending on the number of guests you expect, you could be looking at one big cake that doesn’t end up in many the belly.

If you plan to offer a dessert bar (a large added expense for your reception), think twice about having a wedding cake for all the guests. Maybe you only need a small one for the ceremonial shove-the-cake-in-each-other’s-faces tradition.

If you have your heart set on “letting them eat cake,” you can order a smaller tiered cake for the cutting, and then add a matching sheet cake (that no one will see but the kitchen workers) for the guests. Or perhaps you can serve a cupcake tower rather than a traditional tiered cake.

Another option is to ask Aunt Betty to make you one. Experienced bakers would love the challenge and the chance to do something special for you and your betrothed.

If you do decide to go with a pro, keep it simple. The more time the baker spends decorating the cake, the most it will cost you. And if you plan to use fresh flowers on the cake, you can probably do that part yourself for far less. While you get prices from boutique shops, also make inquiries at your supermarket or warehouse or chain stores. You’d be surprised at what those guys can make for less.

Or, contact a local culinary school and see what they can offer.

CLOTHES FOR THE MEN
There are few grooms, I’m told, who care as much about their own wedding attire as the bride cares about her dress.

A tux is a tux, right?

Wrong.

There are no rules for what the groom must wear (unless the bride has some of her own rules, of course). Here are some ideas to take with you into the dressing room.

• Do you really need the Armani tux and the Armani price tag? ‘Nuff said.

•Shop around, and compare apples-to-apples.

•Cut back on some of the extras to lower the price. The store will probably offer ties (bow and otherwise) cummerbunds, vests, cufflinks, suspenders and shoes.

•You don’t need to rent it all in one place, and some items may be cheaper if you buy in bulk elsewhere.

•Ask for a group discount if you can get your groomsmen to all rent from the same shop. If the bride is buying her dress at a traditional bridal salon, it may also offer tuxes. Again, ask for a group discount.

•Do you need a tux at all? Depending on the venue for your wedding, perhaps a traditional suit will do. (And you can buy one. Even if the suit price is twice a rental, think of it as investment in long-term apparel that you can use again.)

•Buy the tux instead. You might be surprised at the difference in cost between a purchase and a rental. Go to stores, but also check online auction sites.

•Go different. Maybe try an old fashioned vest and derby hat instead of the traditional wedding look. Or, if your wedding is on the beach, khakis or Bermuda shorts might work from fine.

•Look for coupons. They’re out there. Really, they are.

•You could forget tradition altogether and go for a different look for you and your groomsmen.

Just make sure you warn the bride, and more importantly, your future mother-in-law.

HAIR AND MAKE-UP
Two choices here: hire someone or DIY. Either way you go, there are plenty of ways to cut costs.

•Go to the cosmetics department of a store and strike up a conversation with the counterperson. If you purchase a few items, you’re likely to walk out with a ton of free samples.

•Have a make-up party. You’ll get lots of free gifts or credits based on the amount of product your guests buy from the host company.

•Take a lesson. If you want to DIY, invest in a class to learn how to do it right.

•Ask a friend. Hand over the mascara and let someone else do the job for you.

•Buy in bulk. If you hire a pro for hair, make-up or both, ask for a group discount if you include your bridesmaids.

•Be willing to travel. Rates are usually cheaper if you go to the salon rather than have the artist come to you.

•Fib a little: If you say you’re a bridesmaid rather than a bride, you might find cheaper prices from a pro.

•Call your local cosmetology school and you can get someone in training for less than a pro.

Whether you DIY or hire someone, invest in a trial run. You sure don’t want to have a surprise a few hours before you’re due at the ceremony.

Tomorrow we tackle all those extras, from party favors for the guests to tipping.

Have a topic you’d like to see covered in How To Not Suck? Or maybe you’re an expert who would like to share your insight with Consumerist readers? Send us a note at notsuck@consumerist.com.

You can read Karin Price Mueller’s stories for The Star-Ledger at NJ.com, follow her on Facebook, and on Twitter @kpmueller.

PREVIOUSLY ON HOW TO NOT SUCK:
How To Not Suck At Planning Your Wedding, Part 1: The Most Expensive Steps
How To Not Suck… At Teaching Your Kids About Money
How To Not Suck… At Valentine’s Day Gifts
How To Not Suck… At Merging Your Money When You Marry
How To Not Suck… At Borrowing For College
How To Not Suck… At Saving For College
How To Not Suck… At Pre-Paying For Your Funeral
How To Not Suck… At Making Financial New Year’s Resolutions
How To Not Suck… At Last-Minute Christmas Gifting
How To Not Suck… At Saving For The Holidays
How To Not Suck… At Charitable Giving
How To Not Suck… At Disputing Credit Report Errors
How To Not Suck… At Lowering Your Utility Bills
How To Not Suck… At Home Inspections
How To Not Suck… At Understanding Credit Card Rewards
How To Not Suck… At Getting Ready For Tax Season
How To Not Suck… At Picking A Retirement Plan
How To Not Suck… At Deciding When To DIY
How To Not Suck… At Getting Out Of Debt
How To Not Suck… At First Year College Budgets

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  1. Mapache says:

    Paper flowers, they are cheap and look like the real thing. Etsy has great shops and pretty good on the wallet

    • CommonC3nts says:

      That is a good idea. Go with the cheapest route.
      No one notices the flowers at a wedding anyways. Everyone is chatting or just watching the bride and groom.