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Hurry Up and Get Married

I hate to light a fire under your veil, but if you want to save a bundle on your wedding, hop to it.

March and April are the best months to get married if you want to keep your special day from costing more than the down payment on your first condo. Given that the average wedding these days will set you back more than $20,000, putting a rush on those wedding invites (and explaining that no, it's not a shotgun affair) is certainly in order.

Here come the savings ...
Lovebirds pay a premium to tie the knot on a Saturday or in June. Pair the two, and you're facing a few extra Gs on your bill. Off-peak wedding months such as March and April are more affordable, as are morning weddings when food, transportation, and hall rentals can be a lot cheaper.

Even if your wedding date is set in stone, all is not lost. A stroll down the aisle doesn't have to mire you and your lovely in debt. A little creative thinking can cut your wedding tab by 25% to 50%. Following are a few ways to save on your big day.

Fire your wedding planner. Hiring a helping hand may be tempting (not to mention a lifesaver during certain situations), but as anti-etiquette bride Stephi Stewart told us in an NPR interview, assertive (and organized) brides and grooms can save a bundle doing the heavy lifting themselves. Here are more of her wedding savings tips.

Take a pass on the party favors. "Happy couple forever" bottle openers? Feh. Engraved napkins? Puh-leeze. Most of this stuff ends up in your guests' junk drawers -- or, worse, their trash cans. If any guest has the poor taste to ask about the lack of a silly tchotchke on the table, just tell him or her you were going for an uber-chic minimalist look. Or if you really want your guests to have a memory of your wedding that they won't forget, one that will make a difference, you might consider wedding favors for charity -- giving a small donation to your favorite charity in the name of each guest. Read up on more ways to give back on your big day.

Location, location, location. A Modern Bride study found that the same wedding reception in San Diego costing $4,000 would cost $9,000 in Chicago and $15,000 in New York City. See? Even not-so-small towns have their charm. Wouldn't your mom be thrilled if you got married in your childhood stomping grounds? Your guests will certainly appreciate cheaper lodging costs. Even if you live in a high-priced city, nontraditional places such as public parks and art galleries can cost less than rental halls and hotel ballrooms.

Bite your tongue. Anything that has the word "wedding" attached to it can instantly fetch a 25% premium (or more) over the generic version. When shopping for your cake, flowers, tablecloth, "ring pillow," or dress, beeline away from any options preceded by the "W" word.

Put your pals to work. In lieu of another Crate & Barrel knickknack, ask your talented friends for a gift that you could really use: their help. Perhaps you know someone who can perform music at the service (or DJ the iPod mix you and your sweetheart made for the reception), take photographs, tend bar, or play videographer -- all functions that will cost you $500 to $900 to have someone else do. Chances are your best friend's brother won't charge a corking fee.

Trim the guest list. At $80 per person for food, wine, cake, and napkins, this is the fastest way to save. Remember, this isn't just some kegger that's open to all of your office mates. It's your wedding.

Dream of the future. Before you shampoo the rice and rose petals out of your hair, start planning your financial future -- together. Saving for a house, putting away money for college for your future critters, paying cash for a vacation -- these things should all be in the back of your mind before you write a check for your wedding gown.

Just say "no." No, not at the altar. Just say "no" to going into debt for your big day, unless you plan to devote several pages of your wedding album to your credit card bills. A good bridal budgeting rule is this: If you can pay for it with cash, then you can afford it. That simple tenet will help you and your betrothed prioritize (together!) and start your coupledom on solid financial footing. Isn't that romantic?

Skip the roses and anniversary gifts, too. You can call me unsentimental all you want, but the best way to show your love is to plan a romantic date for two that shows you're committed to financially happily-ever-after. And while you're at it, take out those paycheck stubs, where I'll bet there's plenty of loot hiding in plain sight.

Advice for bridesmaids, guests, and, well, everyone
Feel more self-conscious about your finances than a bridesmaid in a peach taffeta frock? Check out the Motley Fool Green Light service (your party favor is a free 30-day pass!) for financial advice that's flattering on everyone -- whether you're looking for advice on managing your IRA, ideas for your first ETF, or ways to make smart decisions about every dollar that comes your way.

Dayana Yochim is the advisor for the Motley Fool Green Light service along with Champion Funds' Shannon Zimmerman. She's also the author of The Motley Fool's Guide to Couples & Cash and is a frequent "phone a friend" and "referee" for her coupled friends in financial tight spots. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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