Kardashian-style blowouts aside, the recession is leaving its mark on weddings. According to The Wedding Report, the average cost of a wedding this year is $18,859 at a 22 percent decrease from 2010's average of $24,066. Gifts for parents, reception meals, save-the-dates, and place cards all took substantial cuts.
But those averages, depressed as they are, don't always reflect the median and can be skewed upward with a few big-budget affairs.
Cara Davis, author of Cheap Ways to Tie the Knot, got married in 2003 on a $5,000 budget. "We've been planning budget weddings all along and the recession doesn't change that," she says.
Davis recommends a few simple strategies, beginning with establishing a budget with your spouse. "After that," says Davis, "make a budget for your new life together."
It's an important first step to making sure you come out of the wedding debt-free. Keep in mind, traditional sources of money, from parents to low-interest loans, may be harder to come by these days.
If you decide to go the DIY route, plan ahead to avoid being overwhelmed with last-minute projects that turn celebrations into sweatshops.
Khris Cochran, founder and CEO of the blog diybride.com, warns, "Most DIYers underestimate the amount of preparation, production time, and money that a project will take." To make matters worse, said Cochran, "There is an undercurrent of competitiveness within bridal communities when it comes to DIY."
Both Davis and Cochran stress prioritizing. Pick what's meaningful to you, plan, and delegate. Then decide what has to be done professionally. Most often this would be photography, though couples are reducing costs here by going with younger, less established photographers . . . after a thoughtful perusal of their portfolio, of course.
Professional or not, get it in writing. With the volatility of the market and businesses opening and closing, contracts are essential. You might even consider wedding insurance.
And like the magic mark up that occurs when you add "wedding" to anything, certain months mean higher prices. Go off-peak, says Davis. Some blogs suggest doubling up with another bride booking the same date or sharing a menu from the same caterer to negotiate discounts.
Beth Landahl, manager of park operations in Dakota county, says, "The last couple of years we've been increasingly busy at the two facilities that we rent out for weddings," both in the Twin Cities metro area. While some brides just want to have a green wedding, others choose a park wedding for the competitive costs, says Landahl.
After Davis went through her own cost-efficient wedding (booking the church for the ceremony and reception, having a dessert buffet with a hot chocolate bar instead of a meal), the experiences she really remembered were the moments shared with loved ones. In a sea of logistics and planning, her father, who has since passed away, walking her down the aisle stands out.
So when creating a guest list, think quality not quantity, and keep the list short.
Even still the industry is resistant to change. "The uber-luxe blockbuster wedding is still the industry ideal," says Cochran. But she added, "for every mega-hyped multimillion dollar celebrity wedding, there are dozens of 'real' weddings."
In the end, don't listen to the inflated averages of wedding costs or the overworked but oh-so-crafty divas.
Just follow Davis' own example. After all her planning and organizing, she told everyone not to let her know if anything went awry the day of. Davis admits with a laugh, "I'm sure some things went wrong, but nobody told me about it!"
Wedding photos courtesy Arrow & Apple