That popularity comes with a price, however, which soon-to-wed couples are paying. An average wedding in New York costs $40,000, in contrast with the national average of $25,000, making New York the most expensive place in the U.S. to get hitched.
On the upside, there are lots of ways couples save money when planning their big day, according to local wedding consultants.
“For New York couples, its going to cost more, but you can still have a beautiful wedding even if you need to cut corners,” according to Kathleen Murray, editor-in-chief of www.theknot.com, New York’s most popular wedding website. “The first thing to do is figure out a budget and stick to it.”
Susan Changnon, president of event consultancy Special Events For You, said advance planning is the key.
“Have a clear idea of how you’ll spend your money before you book anything,” she said.
“Be clear about basic aspects of the wedding; date, how many guests and what style of wedding you want. Set a date, set a budget, and book a venue, in that order.”
In a time where more young couples are paying for their weddings independent of family input, it’s more important than ever for them to use their budgets creatively.
“Couples need to work out what’s really important to them. It’s about determining your priorities,” according to Elaine DeLuca, owner of Long Island based wedding consultancy www.equisiteeventsnewyork.com.
“Some brides don’t give a hoot about flowers but they have to have a great band.”
“It’s all about flexibility,” agreed Susan Bain, co-founder of www.cheapchicweddings.com, a Florida-based website that offers budgeting tips on every aspect of a wedding from favors to food.
“If you buy a $10,000 dollar dress you might have to spend less on your reception. I wanted hand ink invitations for my wedding, but I didn’t mind saving money by having a buffet reception.”
A warm reception
When setting the date, bear in mind that avoiding the peak months (May through October) can result in significant savings.
“One of the biggest impacts you can have on the cost is deciding the time of the week and the time of year to hold the reception,” according to DeLuca.
“If you have your heart set on a Saturday night wedding in New York, you’re going to pay top dollar. Marrying on a Friday or a Sunday is much cheaper than a Saturday. People think that November is a quiet month but in Manhattan, not so much. February is generally the cheapest month,” she said.
“One of the best weeks ever to get married is Thanksgiving weekend and few couples do it,” said Changnon.
“Its often not booked and you could potentially negotiate a really good deal. December is the most expensive month to get married as you’re competing with holidays.”
Deciding on a venue can also impact on the cost whilst at the same time giving couples a chance to do something different.
“Go to an alternative site like a museum, park, garden or private house,” suggested Bain, who got married in the garden of a private club in her hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., followed by a reception at a local museum.
“If you can think outside the box and get away from that traditional idea of holding your reception in a big hall, you can save money.”
For couples with their heart set on Manhattan venues, there are ways and means to avoid Manhattan prices.
“If you want to save money, go to a wedding venue that has in-house catering — you’re not looking at renting out a gallery or an empty space where you’ll have to import everything from cutlery to food,” said DeLuca, who co-ordinates many Manhattan receptions.
“A small restaurant might be willing to shut down for the evening if you negotiate with them.”
Smaller venues mean smaller guest lists, which Murray said can have the single biggest impact on a wedding budget.
“The best way to cut costs is to slash your guest list,” she said.
“At least 50 percent of the budget goes towards catering, so it makes sense to keep numbers down.”
Food for thought
Catering is one area where cutting costs need not mean compromising on quality. Surprisingly, buffets are often more expensive than sit down meals, as they require larger quantities and more varied cuisine. Cocktail and hors d’oeuvres receptions are an option, as are square cakes, which feed more people than round ones.
“Fake cakes are becoming a big trend,” said Murray.
“The bottom layer of the cake is real, the top two layers are Styrofoam. Often, there’ll be a sheet cake out the back in the same flavor.”
When it comes to bridal attire, Murray said New York brides actually have an advantage.
“Brides in New York are lucky, because there are a lot of sample sales,” according to Murray.
“That is the best way to find value in a dress. The Bridal Garden on 21st street sells used wedding dresses on consignment. You can rent a wedding gown. If you’re having a gown made, try using less expensive fabric and limit embellishments — to the bodice only, for example.”
With a little creative thinking, wedding flowers can be beautiful without breaking the budget, according to Murray.
“Buy in season flowers,” she said. “Peony flowers are very popular and very expensive, but large open roses or carnations can achieve the same look. If you spend money on anything, it should be photography.”
While most couples still opt for a traditional photographer, digital photography is becoming increasingly popular on account of its convenience and lower cost. However, Changnon worries that it may lack reliability.
“Type in a Google search and you’ll find hundreds of people with digital cameras who think they can photograph your wedding,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with digital photos in 10 or 15 years.”
Being flexible about music can also shave a significant amount off a wedding budget.
“The cheapest way to go is a DJ. A pianist or a string trio are also cheaper than hiring a band,” said Changnon.
Even couples that have their heart set on having live music can cut corners.
“Consider only having a band for a certain amount of time, and having a DJ or playing a CD during cocktail hour, when people aren’t really paying attention,” suggested Murray.
Bain thinks couples are often pressured into thinking they must spending huge amounts of money to ensure a beautiful wedding.
“Everything to do with weddings is expensive because people in the industry know your only going to have a big wedding once,” she said.
“I think it’s outrageous. $25,000 dollars, $40,000 dollars, that could be a down payment on a house. That’s why we started up our website. Most people don’t have that kind of money to spend. We had one bride in the Midwest who did her whole wedding for $3,000 based on tips from our website.”
Murray advises newly engaged couples not to rush into wedding preparations. “Enjoy the engagement for a couple of weeks before you get into planning, because it can be a stressful time,” she said.