Planning an Eco-Indie Wedding

Budgeting: Martha Does Cheap!

Posted on: February 11, 2009

You probably remember the extensive list of cost-cutting wedding ideas I posted, thanks to Snippet + Ink. Though very crafty, Martha Stewart isn’t always the biggest promoter of money-saving concepts. Delightfully, that seems to be changing, by way of her 50 Ways to Trim Your Budget list on Martha Stewart Weddings.

Here are some of my favorites (many of which do overlap my previously-posted list):


  • Limit alcoholic beverages to wine and beer, choices that will satisfy most of your guests.
  • Breakfasts, brunches, and afternoon teas are usually more affordable than evening receptions: They’re shorter, the fare is lighter, and guests tend to consume less liquor early in the day.
  • Buy your own wine wholesale. You’ll pay your caterer a corkage fee to pour it, but wine purchased through him can cost twice as much.
  • Most merchants offer a 10-percent discount for buying wine by the case, and they’ll often increase that if you purchase several cases at once.
  • 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.
  • Use expensive ingredients, such as lobster, in hors d’oeuvres rather than in a main course.
  • Dispense with a separate dessert course, and just present the wedding cake as dessert with coffee and tea to end the meal.
  • Order a moderately priced, plainly decorated cake, and make the focal point the cake topper. Vintage bride-and-groom figurines, wedding bells, horseshoes, a basket filled with fruit, or a pair of doves (from an antiques shop or handmade) are classic symbols that can make a cake memorable.
  • 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.

Flowers +Decorations

  • Mix berries, pinecones (for winter), and other economical nonfloral embellishments among costlier blooms to fill out bouquets and displays.
  • Bowls or compotes filled with seasonal fruits from a farmer’s market can take the place of expensive floral presentations.
  • 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.
  • Flowering bulbs — amaryllis, narcissus, and hyacinth among them — often cost less than regular flowers and are dramatic rising from a layer of stones set in clear containers.
  • Your florist won’t have to supply vases for your centerpieces if you have a collection of containers, such as jelly jars or milk jugs. Filled with flowers, such vessels make pretty displays.

Other Budget Tips

  • Try to keep the number of attendants as small as possible: The larger the bridal party, the more you’ll spend for gifts and flowers.
  • To minimize the guest list, refrain from inviting children and coworkers. Include your friends’ significant others but not casual dates.
  • Before signing a contract with your caterer, photographer, or florist, try to negotiate a lower, yet still reasonable price.
  • Borrow accessories from family and friends instead of buying them; this can also provide your “something borrowed.”
  • Ask talented friends or relatives to help with your wedding. An artistic friend, for instance, might design your stationery, or a baking enthusiast could make cupcakes or cookie favors.
  • The nicest wedding sites — parks, museums, public gardens — may be the most affordable.
  • Pay wedding costs with a credit card to earn frequent-flyer miles toward your honeymoon. Just make sure to avoid incurring interest charges by paying the balance in full each month.
  • After the event, donate your flowers to a hospital or nursing home; it’s a thoughtful thing to do and also a tax deduction.

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