Get Inspiration from Scottish Folklore

 

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The origins of the traditional Scottish wedding:

Scotland always seems to do things in it’s own way and style – and a Scottish wedding is no exception to the rule. In the 21st century, the Scottish wedding is an intricate blend of ancient highland tradition mixed in with modern, streamlined rites. Present day Scottish wedding traditions have their origins as far back as the 13th century. Back then the medieval Celtic church would proclaim the ‘banns of marriage’ for three successive Sundays. This practice of announcing a forthcoming marriage lasted for 600 years – until in the latter years of the 20th century it became standard to ‘give notice of intent’ to a registry office several weeks before the intended event.

Medieval Scottish wedding traditions:

It was normal practice in olden times for an entire village to get involved in the preparations for the ‘big day’. People would line the streets to the church to cheer on the happy couple before they took their vows. In pre-reformation times, there is evidence that two Scottish wedding services would frequently take place. One in which the priest would address the party in Scots dialect and lead a ceremony outside the church. Whilst the more formal Latin mass and nuptial ceremony would take place inside.

The exchange of the rings has always been a main feature in Scottish wedding ceremonies from ancient times . A ring has no beginning and no end and as such symbolises the love within a marriage. The kissing of the bride follows on from this exchange of rings, and often leads to a cheer from the body of the kirk.

Following on from the formal church ceremony, a piper or group of pipers would frequently lead the entire group of guests down the streets, often to a relative’s house, for a non-stop night of celebration, feasting and enjoyment. Local musicians led by pipers would get the dancing started and tradition has it that the first dance, normally a reel, would involve the newly wed couple. Following on from their efforts, the rest of the guests would then dance all the way into the sma’ hours. In this respect, little has changed over 800 years – maybe apart from the dress code and the type of beer on tap.

When the wedding celebrations were over, the married couple would then leave to spend the night in their new home. The ancient tradition of carrying the bride over the doorstep was linked to the superstition that evil spirits inhabit the thresholds of doors. Hence the bride is lifted over the thresholds – and into the wedding bed. In medieval times, a priest would often bless the house and bless the wedding bed at this time. Then for the first time, as man and wife, the newly weds would have some quality time on their own.

Other wedding rituals such as the Highland custom of ‘creeling the bridegroom’, involved the groom carrying a large creel or basket filled with stones from one end of a village to the other. He continued with this arduous task until such times as his bride to be would come out of her house and kiss him. Only if she did, would his friends allow him to escape from the ‘creeling’ otherwise he had to continue until he had completed the circuit of the town.

Modern Scottish Wedding Traditions:

In more modern times, a lot of the superstition and rituals have been replaced by more showpiece proceedings. However, many of today’s traditions still hark back to the past.

The bagpipes can be used to add atmosphere and grandeur to a wedding. The piper, in full Highland dress, stands at the church door and plays as the guests arrive. Later he leads the couple from the church to the car. The piping traditions continue, the married couple are frequently piped to the top table of honour along with the bridal party. With the cutting of the cake, again a piper is often asked to perform and a dirk, ‘sharp highland dagger’, is traditionally handed over by the piper to start the ‘cutting of the cake’. As the bride slices the first piece of cake, custom dictates that her hand is guided by that of her new husband.

The bride’s ‘show of presents’ originates from the tradition of the ‘bridal shower’, where local female villagers would gift items that would help a young couple get started successfully in their own home. Nowadays, this often takes place in the home of the mother of the bride and the gifts have a touch more luxury than those in older times.

A bridegroom’s stag night, likewise has ancient roots. The young man accompanied by his friends takes to the town and downs a fountain of beverages. One tradition has it that in smaller towns the groom to be would be stripped of his clothes and left in the street outside his home – or worse still tied to a lamp post! The good news is that he wouldn’t realise what had happened till the next morning.

The wedding ring, until the late 20th century tended to be for the bride and not the groom. In later decades both bride and groom now wear rings for the most part. The traditional Scottish gold wedding band dates back to the 1500’s. This style of ring is still popular as a wedding ring today – as also are Celtic knot work designed engagement and wedding rings.

Traditions in Scotland Before the Wedding Ceremony:

Often before a Scottish bride is married, her mother holds an open house for a traditional “show of presents.” Invitations are sent to those who gave wedding gifts to the couple and the wedding gifts are unwrapped and set out for viewing. After the show of presents the bride-to-be is often dressed up and her friends escort her through her town, singing and banging pots and pans, heralding the bride’s wedding day. This tradition has evolved into the legendary ‘hen night’.

The groom, meanwhile, is taken out for a stag night on one of the evenings preceding the wedding. The Stag Night is meant to be a celebration of the last night of freedom, and a way of reassuring friends that being married doesn’t mean that they are shut out of your life. The groom, like the bride, is dressed up and taken around town by his friends and work mates. There is often a great deal of harmless practical joking, of which the poor groom is the main target. When the night winds down, the groom is sometimes stripped of his clothes and covered in soot, treacle and feathers and left overnight tied to a tree or post. In some rural areas an open lorry is hired and the groom is paraded through his local area with much noise and celebration.

Traditional Scottish Wedding Dress:

There is little doubt that traditional Scottish outfits add a touch of class and splendour to the wedding day and its associated ceremonies. The use of highland dress and the kilt, jacket, dirk and sporran in Scottish weddings has continued over the centuries. Whilst the bride’s white gown and veil has its roots in more modern times. A Scottish bride will usually wear a traditional white or cream wedding gown. The groom’s party and her father may come to the wedding resplendent in full Highland dress in the traditional clan tartan of their clans. She might wear a horseshoe on her arm for good luck, or a pageboy might deliver one to her as she arrives at the ceremony. Bridesmaids may wear whatever the bride has chosen to match her dress and it may include a little tartan accessory. Bouquets may include tartan ribbons or bows.

A gent’s highland wedding outfit in its entirety consists of the following:

Bonnie Prince Charlie jacket and waistcoat, kilt, tartan flashes to match kilt, white hose, gillie brogues, kilt pin, sgian dubh, black belt with buckle, formal sporran with chain strap, wing collar shirt, black or coloured bow tie, and a piece of lucky heather on the lapel. He also has the option of wearing a fly plaid, which is anchored under the paulette on the shoulder of the jacket and secured by a large plaid brooch, (Cairngorm).

For the bride ‘something old …. something new’ –

For the bride a universal custom is the ‘something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue’ – of course the ‘something new’ can be the bride’s dress! The ‘something new’ at the wedding can become the ‘something old’ or ‘something borrowed’ at the next generation’ s weddings. The bride sometimes wears a blue garter (symbolizing love) which plays a part later at the wedding reception. It was also traditional in some areas for the bride to put a small silver coin in her shoe to bring her good luck.

Something old –

A gift from mother to daughter to start her off for married life, and symbolising the passing on a bit of mother’s wisdom.

Something new –

A gift symbolising the new start married life represents.

Something borrowed –

The idea here is that something is borrowed from a happily married couple in the hope that a little of their martial bliss will rub off on the newlyweds.

Something blue –

There are two likely sources for this. Roman women used to border their robes with blue as a sign of modesty, love, and fidelity. Also blue is the colour normally associated with Mary the mother of Jesus who is often used to symbolise steadfast love, purity, and sincerity.

After the wedding ceremony, it is traditional for flowers, petals, or pretty paper confetti to be thrown at the departing couple. In some rural areas the couple throw coins to the children who have gathered outside the church to watch. This is called a “scramble”. This is the reason children make a bee-line for local weddings. As the couple leave the ceremony the groom dips his hands into his pockets (or sporran), and throws all his loose change out on the ground for the children to scramble for.

Another tradition frequently seen during the evening wedding festivities involves the bride throwing her bridal bouquet, usually white roses, over her left shoulder. Her female non-attached bridesmaids and other single women in the bridal party stand in a line behind her. The girl who catches the thrown flower posy is by tradition going to be the next in the group to get married.

Traditional wedding reception festivities can easily last all night and the newly-wed couple lead off the dancing. Before the evening is finished the bride and groom leave as quietly and secretly as they can and go to a pre -arranged destination for their wedding night – often leaving for the honeymoon the next day.

More Scottish Wedding Ideas:

Give a Scottish brooch (called Luckenbooth) as a token of your love or as a betrothal gift. This is usually made of silver and is engraved with two hearts entwined. Some couples pin this on the blanket of their first-born for good luck.

Weddings and receptions are sometime held at a Scottish castle if there is a suitable one nearby. For something simpler and less expensive, the village hall, an outdoor venue or, for an even more traditional option, the ceremony can be in the house. If money is very tight, try arranging a “Penny Wedding,” in which guests are expected to bring their own food and drinks to the church to celebrate after the ceremony is over.

The difference between Scotland and the rest of the U.K. is that, in Scotland, it is the person who is licensed to conduct a marriage service and not the building that is licensed to hold a wedding.

Local Scottish Wedding Traditions:

Wedding customs have changed dramatically over the years. Some parts of weddings seem steeped in tradition whilst you will be glad to hear of some customs which have died out over the years!

In Aberdeenshire even now, the ‘blackening’ is a ritual performed with great relish. The engaged couple are captured one night by so-called ‘friends’ and covered with foul substances such as treacle, feathers, soot, etc. They are then paraded around the village and usually the pubs. It takes days to wash clean!

In the eighteenth century, the custom of hand-fasting was observed. A couple would live together for a year and a day, at which time they could decide whether to part or make a lifelong commitment. It was considered more important for the bride to be experienced and fertile than to be a virgin.

Tradition says sew a hair onto the hem of a wedding dress for luck, or let a drop of blood fall onto an inner seam. The bride must never try on a complicated dress in advance of her wedding day. To facilitate this tradition a small section of the hem is left unsewn by the dressmaker until the last moment.

Lastly, the bride, when she leaves home for the last time as a single girl, should step out of the house with her right foot for luck.

Penny Bridal or Silver Bridal:

These festivities, also known as Penny Weddings, were renowned for feasting, drinking, dancing and fighting and were enjoyed by all except the clergy – who disapproved of such raucous behaviour. Gifts were made to the newly-weds towards the cost of the wedding feast and the celebrations started on the eve of the wedding with singing, toasts and the ceremony of ‘feet washing’, which is described below.

Feet Washing

A tub of water was placed in the best room, in which the bride placed her feet, her female friends then gathered around to help wash them. A wedding ring from a happily married woman was previously placed in the tub and it was believed that whoever found the ring would be the next to get married.

The men folk were outside the door making jokes and attempting to watch through the doorway. The bridegroom was then seized by the women and made to sit at the tub. His legs were none too gently daubed with soot, ashes and cinders – quite a painful procedure as you might guess!

Wedding Procession

The following day, the bridal party made their way to the church with flower petals being thrown in front of the bride. If they encountered a funeral or a pig on the way, it was considered bad luck and they would return home and set out again. The first person they encountered was called the first- foot and would be given a coin and a drink of whisky by the bride. He would then have to accompany the bridal party for one mile before being allowed to continue on his way.

Adopted Scottish Wedding Traditions:

Tying shoes to a car bumper

This tradition represents the symbolism and power of shoes in ancient times. Egyptians would exchange sandals when they exchanged goods, so when the father of the bride gave his daughter to the groom, he would also give the bride’s sandals to show that she now belonged to the groom. In Anglo-Saxon times, the groom would tap the heel of the bride’s shoe to show his authority over her. In later times, people would throw shoes at the couple. Now folks just tie shoes to the couple’s car.

The taking of each other’s right hand

The open right hand is a symbol of strength, resource and purpose. The coming together of both right hands is a symbol that both the bride and the groom can depend on each other and the resources that each brings to the marriage.

Tying the knot

This wonderful expression originated from Roman times when the bride wore a girdle that was tied in knots which the groom had the fun of untying. As a side note, this phrase can also refer to the tying of the knot in hand-fasting ceremonies, which were often performed without the benefit of a clergyman.

Wearing of a veil

Originated with arranged marriages. In these, the groom’s family informed him that he was to marry, but they very rarely let him see the bride. After all, if the groom didn’t like the bride’s looks, he might not agree to the marriage. With this in mind, the father of the bride gave the bride away to the groom who then lifted the veil to see his wife of all eternity for the first time.

Wedding cake

Like most rituals handed down through the ages, a wedding wouldn’t be complete without fertility symbols, like the wedding cake. Ancient Romans would bake a cake made of wheat or barley and break it over the bride’s head as a symbol of her fertility. Over time, it became traditional to stack several cakes on top of one another. The bride and groom would then be charged to kiss over this tower without knocking it over. If they were successful, a lifetime of good fortune was certain for the new couple. Finally, during the reign of King Charles II of England, it became customary for such a cake to be iced with sugar.

Leap year proposals

The right of every woman to propose on 29th February each leap year, goes back many hundreds of years to when the leap year day had no recognition in English law (the day was ‘leapt over’ and ignored, hence the term ‘leap year’). It was considered, therefore, that as the day had no legal status, it was reasonable to assume that traditions also had no status. Consequently, women who were concerned about being ‘left on the shelf’ took advantage of this anomaly and proposed to the man they wished to marry.

It was also thought that since the leap year day corrected the discrepancy between the calendar year of 365 days and the time taken for the Earth to complete one orbit of the sun (365 days and 6 hours), it was an opportunity for women to correct a tradition that was one-sided and unjust.

For those wishing to take advantage of this ancient tradition, you will have to wait until February 29th 2008!

Throwing confetti

Throwing confetti over newly-weds originated from the ancient pagan rite of showering the happy couple with grain to wish upon them a ‘fruitful’ union. Pagans believed that the fertility of the seeds would be transferred to the couple on whom they fell. The throwing of rice has the same symbolic meaning.

The word confetti has the same root as the word confectionery in Italian and was used to describe ‘sweetmeats’ that is, grain and nuts coated in sugar that were thrown over newly-weds for the same pagan reason. In recent years, small pieces of coloured paper have replaced sweetmeats, grain and nuts as an inexpensive substitute, but the use of the word confetti has remained.

Carrying the bride over the threshold

Earlier we looked at the medieval Scottish tradition of carrying the bride over the threshold – to avoid contact with ‘evil spirits’. The Romans similarly believed that it was unlucky if the bride tripped on entering the house for the first time. So they arranged for several members of the bridal party to carry her over the threshold. Nowadays the groom is expected to do the job himself.

Grey Horses

All the best bridal carriages used to be pulled by grey horses and it is still considered good luck to see a grey horse on the way to the church.

Lucky horse shoe

Horseshoes have always been lucky. There is a nice story about the devil asking a blacksmith to shoe his single hoof. When the blacksmith recognised his customer he carried out the job as painfully as possible until the devil roared for mercy. He was released on condition that he would never enter a place where a horseshoe was displayed. A horse shoe carried by the bride is considered a symbol of fertility.

Wedding Bells

A peal of bells as the bridal couple leave the church is one of the oldest traditions. Before the days of widespread literacy and newspapers this was how the local people knew a wedding had taken place. The sound of bells was also said to drive away evil spirits.

Lucky Chimney Sweep

Brides still consider it fortunate if they pass a chimney-sweep on the way to the wedding as the old fashioned soot-covered sweep had magical associations with the family and hearth – the heart of the home.

Lastly, Don’t look in the mirror!

It is bad luck for the bride to look in the mirror wearing her complete outfit before her wedding day – old beliefs say that part of yourself goes into the reflection and therefore, the bride would not be giving all of herself to her new husband.

Inside the mind of a detailed-oriented wedding planner – Exclusive Interview with CEO Kathlee Akers of Beau Tied Events

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW


 

As a successful wedding professional, I get the unique chance to become associated with top-notch providers in every event category. This allows me to reach out to a one vendor each month and ask them the tough questions you are wanting the answers to.


Introduction

This week I feature Kathlee Akers, CEO of Beau Tied Events in a candid discussion of how creativity and experience plays a major role in producing a success event. We tap into the importance of inspiration and love for your job. Also, expanding into how trends influence both brides and planners, as sites like Pinterest and Etsy have allowed brides to express themselves more openly.

Thomas McGregor: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions today!

Kathlee Akers: Thanks for asking!

TM: So I know you love what you do, it shows. So tell me, where did the inspiration come from to start planning weddings and events?

KA: I planned my own wedding, which I think is a common theme I hear a lot. I guess because you don’t really get a chance to plan weddings until you do your own, it never even really occurred to me I could do it, though I had always been interested. When I did my own, I became compulsive about learning as much as I could, and about the design behind it all. I was definitely interested in doing it long term, from the beginning, and started taking classes right after I got engaged.

TM: Was there something specific that sparked your interested, after doing your own wedding?

Bohemian Wedding Inspiration: Event Design: Beau Tied Events// Photography: Kat Bevel Photography// Florist: Rosehip Flora//Venue: Swan Dive// Rentals: Bee Lavish Vintage Rental//Stationery: Antiquaria// Desserts: Rebecca Garcia //Dress: Ivana Krejci Design// Jewelry, Accessories, & Clothing: LACED WITH ROMANCE VINTAGE// Makeup & Hair: Michelle Weber | Hair + Makeup//Model: Maggie Leyenberger// Phonograph: Austin Phonograph Company

KA: The design aspect, first and foremost, and then the rigid organization and planning. I’m very detail-oriented, so that fit me to a ‘T’.

TM: Have you always been detailed-oriented?

KA: It was something I had to reign in as I got older. I was always a really creative kid, always putting on plays and writing stories, and I would lose myself in my projects and my imagination, often to the chagrin of my parents. When I went to college and was able to focus intently on things that I felt passionate about– design, literature, etc., I saw that side really come out. I really wanted to be successful, so I became very focused on any and all details that would add to that.

TM: And would you deem that hyper-focusness a requirement for success in the category of event planning?

KA: Absolutely. And I don’t think you can fake it. You have to be 100% focused and in love with this job to make it work, because you have to care as much about the details as your bride would.

TM: And as a result, would you agree there is a personal reward to the results you produce?

KA: Yes. I get very close to my brides over the course of a year, I often become their confidantes and friends and therapists, even. So when their wedding day comes, and they give me a hug and tell me how thankful they are I was there for them, it’s hugely rewarding. It’s sometimes hard to part with them after the fact and maybe sometimes… I don’t… haha we remain pen pals.

TM: Well then that would be a bitter-sweet reward of your job, which is arguably the best kind.

KA: Agreed.

TM: Now, as many of the readers may not know; there is a constant shifting in trends in the wedding industry. Can you elaborate as to how you have need to adjust to the changing trends throughout the years? What has changed in style, tastes and the way you have approached each event?

KA: I really try to stay away from anything too topical or too trendy, because I feel like it dates weddings within 5 years. Obviously, there’s a huge DIY shift that’s happened in the wedding industry since, and undoubtedly due to the recession, which I found has creatively really inspired brides to see something they love and do it themselves instead of hiring someone. It also has given me a bit more creative freedom with design. Also with Pinterest that DIY wedding aspect has exploded.

TM: So, the shift has taken place mainly via the online collaboration through sites like Pinterest and Etsy?

KA: I think it’s been two-fold. I think that sites like Pinterest and Etsy saw an opportunity with the explosion of DIY culture, and that culture then has propelled Pinterest and Etsy into simple crafting and inspiration sites to wedding planning staples. All my brides use them for either planning or decor purposes.

TM: Very interesting! And would you say that has enabled your brides to be more hands through the designing process?

Beau Tied Events at Laguna Gloria

KA: I think that brides, since forever, have secretly or quietly done DIY projects themselves because it’s more affordable–not everybody has the money to buy the most expensive invitations, for example, but you can certainly fake it–but it’s now become “cool” to DIY your own wedding. I think with the recession, a lot of brides knew that they were going to have to do a lot themselves, and did so proudly. That’s why I love DIY brides, it’s a very can-do tough attitude, with a whole lot of love, and they’re a joy to work with. I was–and am– a DIY bride so I get it.

TM: So this shift in trends to more of a DIY approach as allowed brides to feel more empowered to do what they have always done, due to economic reasons?

KA: Yeah, I think so.

TM: As a result, what has been some of the strangest requests you have been asked by brides, mothers or second cousins?

KA: Haha! This will be tough, I certainly don’t want to offend anyone.

TM: We are all friends here.

KA: Oh! I have a good one– and this bride is totally lovely and it ended up being one of my favorite (albeit strangest) requests. I had a bride who wanted to do her wedding backwards! She had cocktail hour, and greeted guests in her dress as they came in, and then they ate dinner, did toasts, and then got married at sunset, around 8:15 PM. Then they had their first dance. It was so cool; casual, and relaxed. There was no pressure, no jitters… it was fun!

TM: Considering the way you just described it, maybe you’ll set a trend of weddings performed backwards.

KA: I hope so, I’d love to do it again!

TM: So we are reaching the end of our time, but I want to ask you one final question regarding your experience thus far with event planning. In hindsight, what would you have loved to know as a planner setting out on her first wedding?

KA: Bring more safety pins? Haha. No, true, but I’m kidding. I think I would want to relax a bit more. I think I was so stiff the first wedding I did, I was so laser-focused on making sure everything was perfect, that when things did go wrong, I let it bother me more than it should have. Now, I expect the unexpected as part of the job. I’ve realized it’s not my fault, but that it’s my opportunity to make things right. Knowing that things are going to go wrong that are out of your control is a huge part of this industry, but I’ve learned to trust my instincts and ability to fix problems that come up, so I don’t fear it anymore. Oh, and to LAUGH and enjoy yourself in the midst of it!

TM: So you have developed a sense of fearlessness founded on the knowledge that anything can happen and it’s up to you to turn the debacle into a opportunity for success?

KA: More or less. I take a lot of pride in solving problems, and have solved a LOT of problems, but I also know that some things may be completely out of my control. Essentially, it’s taking pride in knowing that I do my best every wedding, and I try to make the best out of every situation. If I can save the day, I will!

TM: That perspective is refreshing, as many might disintegrate under stress.

BONUS

TM: As a bonus, tell us your plans for the future!

KA: I’m taking a more one-on-one creative approach with brides in the next year. I no longer plan on doing month-ofs, I really feel a huge benefit from working with a bride over the course of the entire engagement, both for creative and technical purposes.

TM: Would you consider that a unique approach in the planning space?

KA: I’m not sure, there are a lot of planning companies that do

Courtesy of Kimberly Chau Photography

design, but the main focus of their business is to do many weddings over the course of a year, and work out logistics, make sure everything’s on track, etc. I’ve never really had that approach– I really enjoy working one-on-one with fewer clients over the course of a year, with more of a design focus. I, of course, would work out details and logistics too, but I really enjoy helping brides find vendors, choose florals, pick out invites, I just feel the event is more cohesive and flows more smoothly.

TM: Well, I can speak freely when I say just like your approach to stress is refreshing, so is your approach to client service. It seems that you are services oriented, detailed and creative-focused, with an open mind to requests(even if it means doing a wedding in reverse) of each bride per their individually unique styles?

KA: Yes, that’s right.

TM: I want to thank you for taking time to speak with me today!

KA: Thanks!

5 clever ways to save massively on your wedding

By Sara Eckel

When it comes to wedding spending, bridal couples are tightening their sashes and cummerbunds. Since it peaked in 2007, the cost of the average American wedding has fallen by nearly a third, from $29,000 to $20,000, according to the Wedding Report.

Fortunately, couples are discovering that it’s easy to cut wedding costs without skimping on food or subjecting guests to cash bars. Here are their top strategies:

Don’t Say ‘Wedding’ 

When getting quotes from reception venues, bakeries, florists and other vendors, tell the manager that you’re planning a party or an event, but leave out the “w” word. “If you don’t mention the word ‘wedding,’ the price is often 25 (percent) to 30 percent cheaper,” says Alan Fields, co-author of “Bridal Bargains: Secrets to Planning a Fantastic Wedding on a Realistic Budget.”

He notes that one Boston television station had reporters call 11 venues and get quotes for a wedding reception. Later, they asked for the price for a retirement party on the same date. Eight out of 11 had a “marriage markup” — in one case from $65 to $90 per person. “In their defense, catering managers say that people don’t drink as much at corporate parties, but I’m not so sure that accounts for all the difference,” says Fields. Fields notes that many reception halls have several different menu packages, so he recommends requesting all of them to get the range.

Florists and bakeries also have discretion with pricing. “We have had florists admit that when they see people wearing a large engagement ring and driving a BMW, they start suggesting the exotic orchids that need to be flown in from Hawaii. But if you don’t look like you’re having a wedding, they won’t go over the top,” says Fields.

Have your reception in a restaurant 

When you have dinner at your favorite restaurant, the bill doesn’t come with a rental fee for the table, chairs, napkins and wine glasses. There is no surcharge for the candlelight and flowers on the table. It’s all covered in the price of the meal. The same principle applies when you’re buying dinner for 200 — the price of all those soup spoons and salad forks is included, and there is no fee for transportation and setup — everything is already there. Plus, free parking!

“During the recession, many restaurants have tried to focus on special events, and many will hold private functions and do it very affordably — even if you rent the entire restaurant,” says Fields.

Lynn Truong, managing editor of the frugal-living blog Wise Bread, treated her 200 wedding guests to a 10-course meal at a Chinese restaurant. The cost: $55 per person — with no extra charges like cake-cutting or corkage fees. “There’s no beating the price for a Chinese wedding banquet, and the food is delicious,” she says.

BYO Music

If you can’t afford a band or disc jockey — or simply want to spend the money on your honeymoon — make a playlist on your MP3 player and rock the house for free!

Event planner Sara Gaum, owner of vendorbar.com in Boston, recommends appointing a friend or relative to monitor the music and cue up the first dance and other highlights. The playlist should have a good mix of music that will appeal to all generations, and the music should be timed properly, with lower-key cocktail music during the first couple of hours. “No one will want to hear Lady Gaga while you’re still eating dinner,” says Gaum.

Time it Right

If you get married during the off season — from Nov. 1 to March 31 — you’ll be able to get better rates for venues, photographers, officiates, bands and the like. You’ll also pay less if you steer clear of Saturday night.

Mariesa Stokes of Birmingham, Ala., cut her costs by a third by getting married on a Sunday. “Since it was a holiday weekend, our guests had Monday to travel,” she says.

Use nontraditional retailers 

Buy your wedding rings at Costco? Fields says that warehouse stores sell more than just pallets of canned tuna and paper towels; they are also a great source for rings, cakes, favors and flowers. “It doesn’t sound very romantic to buy an engagement ring at Costco, but who cares? It’s a diamond engagement ring. It looks very nice, and it’s 30 percent less than it would be a retail jewelry store,” he says.

On the opposite side of the spectrum are micro-vendors, artisans and craftspeople who sell their rings, headpieces and invitations directly to couples through sites like Etsy, often at a fraction of what major retailers charge.

Once again, the key is to avoid stores that cater to bridal couples. Many brides have discovered that buying their wedding dress from everyday retailers like Ann Taylor and J.Crew means paying hundreds, rather than thousands, for the garment. One Seattle bride bought an ivory dress at a shop that catered to bridesmaids and mothers — it was across the street from a high-end bridal shop — and paid less than $200. “Add a veil and you’d never know it was not a wedding gown!” she says.