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How to save money when planning a wedding

 

The median cost for a wedding is about $15,000, according to the industry's Wedding Report. But many people shell out much more. Consumer Reports found plenty of ways to cut costs without sacrificing your celebration.

One great way to save is to schedule the wedding for any day but Saturday night. Or go for January or February. Those are often the cheapest months.

Don't let vendors charge more just because it's a wedding. Consumer Reports secret shoppers found a good percentage of businesses do just that. In its calls, Consumer Reports found photographers and limo services often charged more for weddings. But when asked, some businesses suggested lower-priced alternatives. And Consumer Reports says it always pays to negotiate for everything.

Some other ways to save:

Limit the entrée choices.

Limit the hours of the open bar. Consider serving only beer and wine.

Send the photographer home an hour early. A lot of guests will have left by then.

My first reaction to a “save the date” I received recently was not the appropriate one. I exclaimed “Oh, God” and immediately began racking my brain as to how I would find the time and money to attend.

Of course, once I got over the initial shock — this wedding wasn’t on my radar and I already had five other nuptials on the calendar for this year — I felt excited for my friends and honored to be included. Still, the save the date served as a reminder that with so many friends’ special days on the horizon I should probably start doing more to make sure they don’t sink me financially.

My approach to wedding budgeting has been pretty haphazard thus far. Since I graduated college, I’ve attended between five and 10 weddings of friends. I’ve scrimped when I can with hotel points, cheaper flights or other resources available to me, but essentially I’ve spent whatever it takes to attend.

My reasons for this are twofold. First of all, I have fun at weddings. Often, they’re an opportunity reconnect with people I haven’t seen for years, make new friends and just generally exist in a universe of love and happiness away from the Internet and other stressors. Perhaps more important, it’s a special time for my friends that I want to witness and be a part of.

But that doesn’t erase the fact that they’re expensive. So far this year, I’ve spent more than $1,300 on wedding travel, gifts and ancillary events like bachelorette parties. And I haven’t even bought all the gifts or booked all the flights, buses and trains I’ll take this year to be a part of friends’ nuptials.

Erin Lowry, the author of , a personal finance blog, estimates that between the ages of 23 and 33 — prime wedding-going years, if you will — young adults will spend roughly $15,000 on attending their friends’ weddings. That’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation, based on the average cost of travel, clothes, gifts and other expenses, but she doesn’t appear to be far off. Guests say they expect to spend $703 per wedding in 2016, more than double the $339 spent in 2012, and they anticipate attending three weddings this year, according to data released Tuesday from American Express’s Spending & Saving Tracker. And if history is any indication, that cost is likely to grow.

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Let your florist pick flowers that are in season. They'll be the least expensive.

When it comes to planning a wedding, you may hate the thought of reading the fine print. But Consumer Reports says to check every contract carefully. It found that some caterers included a built-in tip as high as 26 percent, and one charged a fee of $7 per person to cut a cake brought in from the outside.

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