How to Get a Big-Bucks Vibe on a Bare-Bones Wedding Budget

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If you still want a seriously upscale event, there’s no need to let down-sized finances put a damper on your big day. It just takes a little number crunching and some creativity. Here are some tips from the top for how to make your wedding look high end without having to spend a ton.

Keep the Guest List Small

“The best way to keep costs down is to limit your guest-list,” says Minoo Hersini, creative director for New York-based Au Ciel Design Studio. Downsize the number of people and you downsize everything else — from the scope of your venue to the catering and bar bill, to the number of centerpieces. Not only does limiting the attendees to your close family and friends allow you to have a fancier wedding for less money, it provides ample time to talk to each guest and focus on what’s most important. And if sophistication is what you strive for, the intimate nature of a 50 person wedding lends an automatic elegance, says Cori Ready, co-founder of The Adventure School, a Seattle-based event planning company.

Go Local

Picking a venue in the town you live in means you won’t have to pay travel fees for quality wedding planners, caterers, cake bakers, photographers and bands. These vendors also are likely to charge less if they are in a city that provides competition, or isn’t your typical wedding hotspot.

Get Back to Basics

According to Ready, the key to a wedding that looks like a million bucks is simplicity. “Trying to do something that you can’t will always look cheap,” she says. “Luckily, Mother Nature has created the easiest and most beautiful décor in the world.” Think vintage vases filled with fresh-from-the-garden flowers and homemade wooden signs to direct guests. Hersini suggests using striking alternatives to flowers, such as colorful leaves, grasses or even picturesque vegetables like purple cabbage. Ready recommends using baskets of just-picked lavender as centerpieces or collecting unusual materials like rocks, sticks and dirt and building terrariums out of old jars. Nothing is more eye-catching than every-day elements used in new ways.

Get Personal

Personalization is the “it” word in today’s high-end weddings. But you don’t have to spring for a seven-flavor cake or hand out rhinestone-studded invitations to make it work for you. Dance down the aisle with your dad, carry a bouquet of fabric flowers made from your grandmother’s wedding dress, or serve a simple selection of wines from the year when you met. “Having an elegant wedding isn’t a matter of money or magic,” says Hersini. “It’s the thoughtfulness and attention to detail that will truly make it memorable.”

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