Inside Money: Have a money-smart wedding

This is Jersey. We like to do things — just about everything — over the top.Yes, a wedding comes just once in a lifetime, we hope. But if you pull out all the stops, you could end up paying for that special day for years to come. Instead, do it the money-smart way. Here are some suggestions for reducing wedding costs.

The guest list: Most venues charge a per-guest rate, so every name on your list means a larger expense. And it’s not just the per-guest fee. Every additional table means another centerpiece, and additional party favors. Think carefully about whom you invite. Will they still be in your life when you celebrate your 10th anniversary? Your 25th? Consider eliminating distant relatives, colleagues, children and the “plus one” for your single guests.

The time: Do you need to get married on a Saturday night? Sure, Saturday nights may be convenient for your guests, but they’re also the most expensive. Less desirable days are also times you’ll find even the hottest wedding locales empty, and that means a cheaper rate. Even daytime weddings on Saturdays and Sundays can save thousands of dollars. Also think about the time of year. October, November and April are generally less popular, so you may find cheaper services all around.

The venue: Get creative and forget the traditional wedding hall. Go for an alternative site, such as a friend’s beautiful home, a local park or a place that means something to you and your spouse-to-be. You also can save by saying your vows at the same location as the reception, which eliminates chapel fees and the cost for limos to take the bridal party from the ceremony to the reception.

The invitations: Think about making your own invitations. Stationery stores sell beautiful, high-quality paper and cards for a fraction of the price of a printer. If you do go for a professional job, skip the engraving. Either way, save on postage by choosing smaller or more lightweight designs. And rather than paying for reply cards and postage, ask guests to respond via e-mail or phone.

The bridal party: The bigger the bridal party, the larger the costs. You’ll have to buy more flowers and more thank-you gifts and pay for a larger rehearsal dinner. Instead, ask close friends to do readings at your ceremony or say a few words at the reception.

The apparel: Before you buy a designer gown, look for sample sales and check online for individual sales. (That woman who just got divorced may sell her designer dress for a song.)You may need to pay a cleaning bill, but the overall cost will probably be far less than a new dress. Or, cheaper yet, consider a rental.

The music/photography/cake: Ask a friend to create an iPod playlist, man the camera or bake a killer wedding cake. If you don’t have friends with such talents, call local colleges or trade schools. A young string quartet, a budding photographer or cooking student might do the trick. If you hire a pro photographer, negotiate a price to get all of the shots on a CD, and make the albums yourself for a fraction of the cost. You’ll get all the fun outtakes, too.

The flowers: Consider silk flowers, but if you want fresh, try wholesale warehouses or a farmers market and choose flowers that are in season. For the arranging, find trade school students who want a side job. Also consider designs that can double in your ceremony location and at the reception. If your ceremony or reception location will be used by another couple on the same day, you may be able to share the costs.