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How to Plan a Wedding on a Budget: Part 2

Posted on 3/30/2012 10:18 EST

If you've taken your first steps toward planning a cheap wedding (choosing a venue, setting a date), it's time to start thinking about vendors. Our second batch of budget wedding ideas centers on the services you need for the big day. Here's how to save on everything from a DJ to a caterer.

Photo by sxc.hu/shezita

Wedding music.

Students and novice DJs can make great cheap choices for wedding entertainment and ceremony music. Post on local school bulletin boards and scour Craigslist. Make sure to meet any aspirants and see that they can properly mix and play the type of music you want. A band is another option, but more than one person may cost extra. Each band member may also require a meal during the reception. If you still want to go this route, try auditioning student bands willing to trade a low price for publicity and practice.

The cheapest option is the iPod DJ, a popular budget wedding idea. Program playlists of songs you love and let your digital mixtape bring a crowd to the dance floor. (At least you can be sure this DJ has good taste in music.) Recruit a friend or family member to press play and pause -- and to make sure no one else tries to take over.

Wedding photography.

To really get "wow!" wedding photos, consider hiring an artist, as opposed to a wedding professional. A photography major at an art college can look beyond the typical wedding checklist (bride and groom with bride's family, bride and groom with groom's family) and capture more than just portraits. Check out portfolios from students and from photographers just starting out. You may see work worthy of magazine editorial spreads for less than half the cost of a self-described wedding photographer.

Wedding hair and makeup.

Once you've chosen a cheap wedding dress and accessories (see our buying guide for recommended retailers), you don't have to spend a lot to complete your look. The easiest way to save on hair and makeup is to do it yourself, or have a skilled friend help. With the wealth of online resources and tutorials on sites such as Pinterest and YouTube, almost anyone can learn to pull off stunning makeup and hair with a little practice. Consult our guides to the best mascara and lipstick to save on supplies. Are any of your guests hairstylists or beauty school students? Ask them to share their expertise as their wedding gift to you.

Photo by sxc.hu/bjearwicke

Wedding flowers.

Cut costs by sticking to flowers that are in season and choosing less expensive varieties. Gerbera daisies and greenery amount to less than calla lilies and peonies. To save even more, forgo a florist and buy in bulk online or from a source such as Costco. Turn the building of the bouquets into bridesmaid bonding time.

Rustic and minimal centerpieces, both popular recent trends, also make appealing budget wedding ideas. Think wildflowers in Mason jars or a few elegant blooms floating in water.

Wedding catering.

To save money on wedding catering, consider both the menu and the format of the meal. A family-style dinner or a cocktail reception with passed canapes and food stations is generally cheaper than a formal, sit-down dinner. These setups typically require fewer servers and eliminate time spent plating individual dishes. You also don't have to account for uninvited guests or last-minute changes to entree preferences.

When you make up your menu, look to items that are low-cost but sure to please. Instead of the typical (and expensive) steak or chicken options, think macaroni and cheese, barbecue, or slider burgers. These types of food are a hit with guests, work for family-style meals or buffets, and -- best of all -- come cheap.

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