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More couples deciding to have 'do-it-yourself' weddings to cut costs

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Posted: Sunday, May 5, 2013 12:00 am

When Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of former President and Mrs. Bill Clinton, got married the family was tight-lipped about how much they shelled out to celebrate the nuptials. However, nobody in the know placed the estimate at less than $2 million and many expert onlookers pegged the amount as high as $5 million.

While few modern brides have pockets that deep, the average cost for a wedding in America is still between $20,000 and $25,000. For some couples, that's as much as they will make in their first year as newlyweds, especially if they are students on a tight budget. For those that want a nice celebration without breaking the bank, creative couples are breaking the mold. The do-it-yourself wedding is growing in popularity.

Traditionalists might be aghast to hear that a friend or family member is considering such a passe strategy to celebrate their marriage. However, most people have attended a do-it-yourself wedding already and don't even know it. When newlywed Roshelle Brown got married for the second time, both she and her husband were on tight budgets, dealing with bills, separate households and children. Brown, however, has always been creative.

"I just figured: why pay someone to do my invitations when I could do it myself?"

Like Brown, many brides begin the DIY adventure with do-it-yourself invitations. As a cost-saving strategy, it certainly makes sense. According to the Internet comparison portal Cost Helper, commercial wedding invitations can run as much as $9 a pop. Even cheap options available from printing houses can cost around $4. Multiply that by the number of guests - often 100 or more - and it starts to add up. When a bride breaks the mold and goes for do-it-yourself invitations, the numbers quickly dip. By using a kit from a craft store, DIY wedding invitations can be mailed to an entire guest list for about $1.50 each. If a couple is computer-savvy and can design their own wedding invitation on a common graphic program, the cost per invitation can be brought down to about 15 to 25 cents: the price to print a photo at a local photo center.

Hannah Smith was surprised to find that her college graphic class saved her so much money in the wedding planning process. She designed her own wedding invitations using PhotoShop with basic strategies she'd learned in class.

"If someone would have told me the class would help me have a nicer wedding, I probably would have laughed at them," she jokes.

Of course, for very creative couples, the DIY flavor goes well beyond invitations. This is also the realm where most socialites start to twitch. From asking your gifted friends to provide entertainment or photograph the wedding, to potluck receptions, there are dozens of ways that cash-strapped families are tying the knot. Most people hesitate to implement these money-saving wedding techniques, because they can certainly look tacky.

"The key is to make these strategies tasteful and transparent. Do not compromise class for cash," says wedding consultant Lily Spencer.

Weddings are not known for being cheap and it's certainly not possible for all couples to be skilled in all the areas necessary to pull off a budget event. Luckily, most brides find that their families and friends are also on tight budgets, and this can work in their favor. Even if a bride and her significant other don't have what it takes to make their own invitations, they probably have a friend or family member who does.

Instead of expecting the normal toasters and crockpots for wedding gifts, savvy couples are happily taking skills and talents in lieu of traditional wrapped presents. The main caution that most wedding planners give, however, is to carefully screen each offer. The last thing a bride wants is to end up with fuzzy wedding photos or a dress that doesn't fit right. If a potluck reception is attempted, always ask for the guest's best recipe and transfer it to a matched set of serving dishes.

Do-it-yourself weddings can be a huge success, providing a high-class, but low-cost way for couples to begin their life together. While no one will claim that these strategies will ever outshine Chelsea's million-dollar affair, they should certainly cut it for the average couple's celebration.

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