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Weddings on a Budget:Ways to Save on Your Big Day

Wish you could have a $50,000 wedding, but your budget is more like $5,000? Some wedding and bridal magazines feature amazing spreads about weddings that are nothing short of a fairy tale. Looking at them makes couples long for something that is completely out of their price range.

Betrothed couples who do not want to start their new lives together in debt for a fancy wedding can breathe easy. There is no need to spend beaucoup bucks to pull off a classy wedding. Budget does not automatically equal tacky. We break down some of the best ways to have the wedding of your dreams without breaking the bank.

Budget Tip #1: Choosing the Right Location

The best way to save money on your wedding is by being open to where you agree to say your “I dos.” Wedding venues are the biggest expense in most wedding budgets. Any location can be made special with the right amount of effort. Country barns are becoming a more popular option for couples looking to save on their ceremony and reception locations. Some of the options in Allegheny County include the Rose Barn in North Park ( and the barn at Richland Park (

Budget Tip #2: Feeding the Guests

Catering a wedding is second only in expense to wedding venues. The larger your guest list, the more money you can expect to shell out for food, drinks, and cake. There are options for traditional catered meals and wedding cakes that can help with savings.

Food trucks are becoming a popular alternative. In the Pittsburgh region, wedding planners looking for something different have many viable options. From smokehouse-style fare to ethnic foods, there is a food truck to suit just about every palate.

Opting for a food truck is not the only solution for keeping catering costs down. Many couples are forgoing a conventional wedding cake in favor of cupcakes. Brides and grooms who wish to engage in the traditional cake-cutting ceremony can have a separate, small ceremonial cake for this purpose. Serving cupcakes to guests is a fun and creative way to save money. Traditional wedding cakes are priced by the slice, with the average cost around $2.50 per piece. Cupcakes cost less than half that amount and offer greater variety. Local bakeries can meet the request for cupcakes, so check with yours to compare pricing when setting your food budget.

Budget Tip #3: Decorating on a Dime

Decorations are an integral part of making your wedding day special. They also can be an expensive line item on your wedding budget. Some couples cut costs by shopping at local discount stores and making their own decorations. While that is an excellent way to cut decorating costs, it does pose a completely different problem.

“You’re stuck trying to figure out what to do with them when you’re done with them,” said Patty Grubbs, owner of Pippa’s Pieces of Gibsonia. Her business rents out vintage and rustic wedding decorations.

Grubbs said some couples will sell their decorations after use on local marketplaces, but they will likely only recover a fraction of what they cost to buy. Instead, she suggests considering renting wedding decorations for your wedding venue and reception.

“Instead of buying a $12 lantern for every table, they can rent them for around $3 per table,” she said, adding that renting wedding décor also is a real time-saver. “All of the brides I’ve served have found renting was a great way to save money.”

Budget Tip #4: Capturing the Special Moments

Professional photographers are another big expense associated with planning your special day. The average cost of a two-hour professional wedding photoshoot in the Greater Pittsburgh area is just under $900. One-hour sessions are around $500. A creative way to reduce the costs associated with professional photography is to get your guests involved in snapping your special occasion.

Consider hiring a professional photographer for the ceremony and a few important shots, but leave the candid memory catching duties to your friends and family. Place some disposable cameras on tables at your reception and ask guests to capture the best moments of the night. You will be pleasantly surprised at some of the sweet memories they can get on film. Make it easy for guests to use their own digital cameras and cell phones to snap away and upload to a centralized cloud account for your wedding. Google Drive, Amazon Drive, DropBox, and iCloud are just a few services that work and are free.

Budget Tip #5: Classy and Thrifty Attire

What wedding would be complete without fancy attire? Brides spend an average of $1,600 on their wedding gowns, according to wedding planning website The Knot. Looking your best on your special day does not have to break the bank when you consider choosing your dress and tuxes or men’s suits from a consignment shop.

Dana Mazzarini, owner of Style Exchange Boutique, said getting your dress at a consignment shop can deliver huge savings. With designer gowns at 50 to 60 percent off retail prices, brides can expect to pay no more than $400 for a gown in her shop.

“A lot of our gowns come in new with the tags still on them. Most of our dresses come from weddings that were canceled and from brides who opted for a different gown but couldn’t return the one they already had,” she explained.

Her consignment shop has hundreds of wedding gowns and other formal dresses in-store, with additional options available online. Brides looking to offload their dresses also can reach out to Mazzarini, who is actively looking for more dresses to offer in her shop.

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