Martha Stewart Living / marthastewartweddings.com
Comparison Shop Wedding Cakes
If your caterer's contract will permit it, hire an outside baker to provide the wedding cake. Even though you'll have to pay a cake-cutting charge, you will likely pay less overall if you shop around.
Buy Local Ingredients
Have your caterer use local fruits and vegetables that are in season. Not only will these items be more economical
Avoid Pricey Main Courses
Use expensive ingredients, such as lobster, in hors d'oeuvres rather than in a main course.
Forgo Full Dinner Service
How dinner is served affects the price. French service, in which guests are served by waiters from a platter at the table, and regular plate service are the most expensive.
Make Cake the Dessert Course
Dispense with a separate dessert course, and just present the wedding cake as dessert, with coffee and tea to end the meal.
A punch-and-cake reception held in the late morning or afternoon is the least expensive type of party. To make it special, serve several cakes of different designs and flavors, or make punch in colors that match your palette.
Two Wedding Cakes Can Be Cheaper than One
Order two cakes for the reception: a large sheet cake and a small fancy one to be used for display and the cake-cutting ceremony.
Top Off a Simple Wedding Cake
Order a moderately priced, plainly decorated cake, and make the focal point the cake topper.
Serve Champagne for Toasts Only
Instead of pouring Champagne all night long, serve just a single glass to each guest at the appropriate time to toast the bride and groom.
Select In-Season Flowers
While most popular bridal flowers are available year-round, some traditional ones—peonies and lilies of the valley, for example—can be difficult to find and expensive out of season.
Economical Wedding Bouquet Embellishments
Mix berries, pinecones, and other economical non-floral embellishments among costlier blooms to fill out bouquets and displays.
Repurpose Your Wedding Flowers
Arrange Fruit-Filled Centerpieces
Bowls, compotes, or even cake stands filled with seasonal fruits from a farmer's market can take the place of expensive floral presentations.
Decorate Tables With Candles
A single pillar candle in a hurricane lantern is a wonderful centerpiece, as is a casual display of votive candles in the middle of a table.
Turn Favors into Centerpieces
As an alternative to traditional flower centerpieces, group favors together on the table.
More Flowers Can Cost Less
Don't overlook such floral standbys as daisies and carnations. They're available year-round, are quite affordable, and when arranged en masse make delightful centerpieces and bouquets.
Find Low-Cost Drama in Flowering Bulbs
Flowering bulbs—amaryllis, narcissus, and hyacinth among them—often cost less than regular flowers and are dramatic, even when arranged simply.
Two-in-One Favor Place Cards
Use favors as seating or place cards to save a bit on stationery costs. For seating cards, write guests' names and table numbers on strips of paper, affix them to the favors, and set in order on a table near the entrance. For place cards, put favors with names attached at guests' places.
Use What You Already Have
Your florist won't have to supply vases for your centerpieces if you have a collection of containers, such as jelly or milk jars. Filled with flowers, such vessels make pretty displays.
Put a Cap on Calligraphy
Have a calligrapher letter only the cover of the ceremony program; print the interior pages using favorite fonts on your own computer. Consider making up menus, seating cards, and place cards with your computer, as well.
Make Your Own Favors
Handmade favors and decorations are appealing and usually cost less than store-bought.
Vendors will be more likely to reduce fees if you choose a winter date rather than scheduling for summer, when rates are at their highest. This doesn't apply, however, during holidays. Fridays and Sundays are generally less expensive than Saturdays for renting a venue.
Better to Borrow
Borrow accessories from family and friends instead of buying them; this can also provide your "something borrowed."
Party in Public Spaces
The nicest wedding sites—parks, museums, public gardens—may be the most affordable.
Know Your Priorities
Prioritize aspects of the wedding that are most important to you. By compromising in some areas, you can afford to splurge on others.