Cost-saving suggestions

At costs of $5 to $10 per slice, the wedding cake takes a big bite out of your budget. A smaller "presentation" cake out front and sheet cakes in the kitchen can slice costs and save you some dough. Or you can opt for a "dummy cake." (At, decorated plastic-foam rental cakes start at $100.) Butter-cream frosting can run less than rolled fondant, and simpler decorations can save money on the bottom line. For a bouquet of savings, pick flowers that are in season and avoid scheduling your wedding close to any big flower holiday such as Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, Easter or Christmas, when flowers are more expensive. Have your flowers do double duty; bridesmaids' bouquets can become table decorations, the bride's bouquet can become the head-table centerpiece and altar designs can flank the buffet or cake table. Save on your wedding gown by checking out bridal-shop sales, designer trunk shows (you'll often save 10 percent to 15 percent if you order during the show), bridal consignment stores and online stores. Favors can add substantially to your wedding budget. Craft stores have suggestions and directions for do-it-yourself projects. Or consider skipping favors and making a donation to a favorite charity instead. You can tuck little cards at each place setting letting guests know which organizations are benefiting. Design and print your own programs. Skip the band; hire a disc jockey. Everyone from caterers to florists to limo drivers offer specials. Check for coupons before making purchases. A grouping of candles on a mirrored mat makes a beautiful and inexpensive table centerpiece. Be sure to go to any bridal expos in your area. Wedding-service providers often offer special discounts to attendees.