Main Line Weddings

Tips for budget-minded brides-to-be. PLUS: A CD to calm prenuptial jitters.

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Illustration by Jennifer KalisEight Ways to Plan a Wedding on a Budget

And not have it look like you were trying to save a buck.

By Leah Ingram

Bridal experts will tell you that most weddings hover in the $30,000 range. But in this down economy, budget-minded couples are looking to get the most out of their big day for less. A recent David’s Bridal survey showed that one third of all brides polled plan to spend no more than $10,000 on their weddings. How can you eke out an affair to remember without shouldering a debt that haunts you forever? Here are eight suggestions.

1. Try consignment stores for your bridal attire. Frugalistas everywhere know that some of the best clothing bargains can be found in thrift and consignment stores. It’s no different with wedding attire, where you can spend maybe a few hundred bucks—instead of a couple of thousand—on a dress you’ll wear for just a few hours.

Originally, 27-year-old Haverford realtor Christina Carroll planned to spend $2,000 at a bridal salon for the ensemble she’ll wear to her September wedding. But by going the consignment route, she found a fabulous gown and veil for $842 at Sabrina Ann Once Worn & Never Worn in Ardmore (24 Ardmore Ave., 610-642-6228,

2. Book a restaurant for your reception. With more people staying home rather than eating out, restaurants are likely to negotiate a great deal for your wedding reception. It’s either that, or their tables might sit empty.

“For a day wedding on Saturday or Sunday for up to 65, you can spend $1,000 and have a run of the place,” says Christine Olmsted, events coordinator for Win Signature Restaurants (, which owns Flavor in Wayne and other Main Line eateries.

What’s another great way to save money on your reception? Serve hors d’oeuvres and finger food instead of a sit-down meal. Talk about a no-brainer.

3. Be your own bartender or spirits provider. You can save when you arrange a BYO reception, supplying the alcohol for their event. That way, you reduce the cost of stocking the bar and avoid the exorbitant fees some locations charge (think $35 per bottle) for opening and pouring wine.

Think about simplifying liquor choices to keep the bar tab in check. Rather than an open bar, serve popular mixed drinks that share ingredients—like gin and tonic, vodka tonic, Bloody Marys and screwdrivers. With the meal, provide a bottle each of red and white at the table only; that should satisfy most guests.

4. Fake a cake. You can rent one (some bakeries will provide them for $100) so you have something that looks good for cake-cutting pictures. What you actually serve your guests for dessert is quite different—and a heck of a lot cheaper. For about $40, you can get a regular sheet cake from your local supermarket or warehouse club that serves 60.

5. Think outside the vase with centerpieces. Cluster bowls of fruit or candy, arrange candles, or do just about anything that doesn’t involve fresh flowers, and you’ll have great-looking tables for cheap. Beka Rendell of Innove Events & Paper (930 Clover Hill Road, 215-825-7610, in Wynnewood loves the idea of harvest produce as centerpieces for a fall wedding. Then you can give it away to guests so none of it goes to waste.

Haverford’s Carroll found $1 cloth “market” bags on to give her guests as favors. “Then, at the end of the night, people can go produce shopping and fill their bags,” she says of the organic fruit that will comprise her table centerpieces.

6. Save on hair and makeup for you and your bridal party by avoiding a big to-do about updos. There’s no need to book an expensive salon for your wedding-day hair. Instead, make an appointment at a beauty school, where many folks at pricey salons got their start. Empire Beauty School (454 W. Lincoln Highway, 610-594-6181, in Exton offers wedding hair and makeup packages starting at an unheard-of $60.

Save even more by avoiding having a hair and makeup person hanging around throughout the wedding, just in case your curls fall flat. Arm your maids with hair spray, bobby pins and pressed powder (picked up at a dollar store), and make them responsible for their own touch-ups.

7. If you must have flowers, buy locally grown and/or in-season. If you’re not shipping in roses from Texas or birds of paradise from Hawaii, you’re not paying through the nose for your blooms. “Pennsylvania is such an amazing ‘buy local’ state,” says Rendell.

Visit the Local Harvest website ( to find farms and nurseries near the Main Line.

8. Get creative with your music choices. If you don’t plan to have traditional dancing, do the DIY thing with an iPod or MP3 player. Or create a more economical orchestra-like sound with a DJ and a few band members.

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