How to save money on a destination wedding

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Picture this: you just announce that engagement and fantasize about a destination dream wedding. But while we all love the idea of a fairytale ceremony and reception, is the cost unrealistic?

Consider this: the average wedding runs about $25,000 in the US. The price easily goes up based on location, venue, guest list and all that extra bling.

But with some smart planning and a willingness to haggle, brides-to-be could make their dream wedding a reality.

Try to negotiate

Negotiating with venues and vendors and could result in hundreds of dollars in potential savings.

“Don’t let your vendors know that they are your top choice and ask if they can offer you a better rate or add value with free extras to make the offer more appealing!” says Consumer Expert Andrea Woroch.

Woroch says to do the following when trying to cut costs:

1. Compare prices

Make sure you get quotes from other florists, bands, coordinators and caterers so you can use their pricing structure to negotiate. You can also ask about price matching — for instance, the bridal shop, Mon Amie in Costa Mesa, was able to price match a dress that I saw somewhere else, saving me $250. So don’t be afraid to ask if you saw a better deal somewhere else.

2. Lowball your budget

Your vendors will quickly surpass any budget you give them so stick to your numbers and give them a lower number than your ultimate max.

3. Lock in cheaper rates for a less popular night

Saturday is the most popular day and night to tie the knot. Friday is a less popular choice so you can get less expensive rates, but Thursday and Sunday are by far your best bet for negotiating the least expensive rates across the board for weddings.

For destination weddings, consider off-peak wedding destinations—for instance, I chose to get married in the mountains during the “shoulder season,”— between summer and winter when most people don’t travel and there aren’t many activities being hosted. However, the weather was beautiful and guests had many opportunities to explore the mountain at a cheaper rate with hiking, fishing, biking and more.

Other ways to save:

Stand-only ceremony: ditch chair rentals and decorations and opt for a stand-only ceremony on the beach or a park.

Pass on open bar: drinks run about $10 per person. Open bar tab can easily surpass $1,000 for a reception with 100 people.

Do math on food: ask the caterer what’s most cost effective. For example, some venues charge more for serving stations than sit-down plated dinners.

Cut the guest list: cutting just a few spots can help save couples.

Use local flowers: Use in-season flowers and discuss with the florists your budget ahead of time.

  • $$$ — orchids, peonies and lily
  • $$ — roses, hydrangeas and calla lilies
  • $ — daisies and dahlias

Get a DJ: hiring a DJ is less expensive than a band.

Pass on edited photos: editing photos and videos is time consuming; request only the raw files from photographers.

Skip fancy wedding cake:  the fancier the cake, the more bitter the bill.

Bottom line:

Set a budget ahead of time and prioritize. Be willing to compromise and negotiate. With a budget intact, couples can then focus on that dream wedding day — not a squashed nest egg.

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