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The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
Published: 27 May 2009

June is wedding season, and if you're starting to plan ahead for your own future nuptials, you know that the price can be steep. In fact, the average overall cost of a wedding in the United States is around $28,000. However, it is possible to have a memorable day while sticking to a realistic budget, advises the Oregon Society of CPAs. Here are some tips:

Avoid the crowds. June is the most popular time to schedule a ceremony, which also means that it is the most expensive. Caterers, reception halls and other vendors are much more likely to offer better pricing—or be willing to negotiate on costs—if you set the date during the slower months of the year, such as January, March or November. You can also lower your costs by avoiding a wedding on a Saturday night, the busiest time for receptions, and picking an afternoon affair or a Friday night instead.

Set smart priorities. If your budget is limited, then it's wise to devote your dollars to the most practical items, those that will be meaningful to you and your spouse and last the longest. It may be best, in other words, to pay a little extra for a high-quality, reputable photographer, since the value of pictures or videos will last a lifetime. On the other hand, while flowers add a touch of beauty to the festivities, it's best to avoid setting your heart on out-of-season or very expensive varieties. If flowers are too expensive altogether, simple candles or tea lights can brighten up your surroundings at a much lower cost.  

Think outside the (dress) box. A wedding dress sold in a bridal shop will likely cost significantly more than a beautiful gown that you buy at a department store or prom shop, so keep an open mind when you go shopping. Find out, too, if the mother of the bride or groom or another loved one has a gown that she would be willing to lend for the occasion. That will not only cut your costs but also add some meaning to the moment. Finally, in lieu of renting or buying a tuxedo, consider opting for a great new suit for the groom that he can wear again. 

Be creative. Simple party invitations with a postcard for responses will probably run much less than an elaborate traditional wedding invitation with multiple layers and inserts. To add a personal touch, consider designing and printing your own invitations.  

Have fun with your choices. Catering is usually a big ticket item, so this is a great place to search for cutbacks. Consider choices that will make your party unique and most enjoyable for you and your guests. A buffet meal, for example, not only promotes socializing, but it will also cost less than a sit-down dinner because the caterer does not have to hire wait staff. Don't feel compelled to have a wedding cake, either, since they can be very costly. Some couples opt for a tower of cupcakes or other fun and affordable alternatives.

Dollars & $ense is a regular column on personal finance prepared and distributed by certified public accountants, produced in cooperation with the Oregon Society of CPAs and the American Institute of CPAs. Copyright 2009 The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

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