Tips to Cut the Costs of Your Wedding Reception

Face it: Weddings are as beautiful as they are expensive, but soon-to-be brides and grooms can save money while still having the ceremony of their dreams. "Real Simple" executive editor Jaimee Zanzinger has tips for the perfect but still affordable wedding reception.

Learn how to save on invitations, flowers, food and music.

Choose Rectangular Invitations

Invitations (and other stationery) should make up about 2 percent of your total budget, but postage can get pricey. To cut down on cost, choose a rectangular invitation instead of a square. The square will cost you at least 17 cents more per invite to mail.

Also, you should think seriously about whom you invite to your wedding. You may spend 50 hours a week with the guy in the cubicle next to you, but do you really need him at your wedding? The rule of thumb for co-workers is to either invite all of them, or exclude all but the few who have become your outside-the-office inner circle.

However, if you work in a small office where everyone from the receptionist to your boss have heard you arguing with the florist, it's a good idea to invite the whole group. That said, the No. 1 way to cut down your budget is to invite fewer people.

Stay Away From Floral-Heavy Holidays

Stay away from floral-heavy holidays like Valentine's Day or Mother's Day. It's all about supply and demand. When flowers are in high demand, they are bound to be more expensive. You should always go with something that is affordable for the season in which you are getting married.

These blooms are available all year long, and are affordable: alstroemeria, freesia and snap dragons. They all cost less than $2 per stem.

Focus on Flowers for the Reception, Not the Ceremony

If you're looking to shave money off your flower budget, cut down on the flowers during your ceremony. The guests are closer to the flowers at your reception.

Finally, if you don't feel like seeing all those beautiful buds going to waste, donate them after your wedding to a hospital, hospice or nursing home. Some cities even have nonprofit organizations that will pick up flowers and drop them off for you. Check out for more information.

Don't Say Wedding When Calling Vendors

When you call to inquire about availability for a caterer, don't mention the word wedding. Instead, say you're calling about a party. Sometimes when certain vendors hear wedding bells, they see dollar signs and inflate their prices.

You always should ask about taxes and other charges that will be added. Look out for things like corkage fees for wine and cake-cutting fees. Make sure the contract has a breakdown of all the fees.

You also don't have to offer a full open bar. You can consider open bar for a cocktail hour only, and then switch to wine and beer. Or you could serve a signature cocktail that goes along with your wedding theme. By not serving hard liquor you can shave a whopping 30 percent off the cost of your reception.

Butter Up With Buttercream Frosting

If you're looking to save money, go with buttercream instead of fondant. The simpler, the better. Intricate designs will set you back more.

Also, don't think you have to have a wedding cake. Many couples now are choosing to do cupcake towers, or even different pies.

Try a DJ Instead of a Band

A DJ generally is less expensive than live music. It also offers a great musical range, and most are willing to act as the emcee for the evening. Check out to find a list of pros in your area.

If you want to trim costs even more, download music onto an mp3 player and consider making copies of your wedding soundtrack or your favorite songs as a couple to give to your guests as favors.

For more ideas, and helpful checklists to plan your wedding, visit the Real Simple Web site.