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Royal treatment at a budget for the common bride

The day before the royal wedding, Katerina Fiserova felt like a princess while twirling in her own exquisite white dress during the final fitting at a discount bridal shop along Coral Gables Miracle Mile.

While there will be no horse-drawn carriage, flyover by the Royal Air Force or luxurious reception at Buckingham Palace, Fiserova has put together her own fairytale wedding albeit on a commoners budget. Saturday, the 31-year-old is marrying her prince, Gonzalo Armendariz, at Pinecrest Gardens.The reception is being held in the backyard of a cousin of the groom, with paella and roast pig and booze bought at the nearby liquor store. An engineer friend created lighting like a movie set with paper lanterns. And she searched the Internet to find inexpensive but good music, landing DJ Joe.Her gown is from Davids Bridal, known for its $99 wedding dresses. The one Fiserova chose had a higher price tag but fell far below designer dresses she saw elsewhere. She knew the gown with the sweetheart neckline was the one when she put it on and cried. It cost $799, but the national discount shop knocked off another $100.Royal wedding for 1,900: $30 million. Fiserova/Armendariz nuptials and reception for 80: $25,000.During these challenging economic times, most brides, even in pricey South Florida where the average wedding now costs about $33,000, are searching and finding many ways to have their dream day but for less.Brides can cut corners with everything from fake cakes to toasting with sparkling wine instead of champagne. Websites have made it easier than ever for do-it-yourselfers, with hundreds of ideas for centerpieces, invitations and favors.Other cost savers: cut the guest list, opt for a lunch or brunch instead of dinner, or offer beer, wine and a signature cocktail instead of a full bar.There also are many ways to save on flowers, which can run $200 for a brides bouquet at a floral shop. Buy flowers that are in season, use more greenery or try purchasing from a wholesalers and having friends and family help put them into bouquets and arrangements. Its also more cost effective to replace real flowers with silk ones or candles.If you cant afford the great but expensive photographer, longtime professional photographer David Rappoport suggests asking for an associate who is good but just starting out and will be far more economical.And for those who really want designer dresses for their bridesmaids, there are now websites that will rent them for as little as $49.Even for those with a generous budget, the brides are still budget conscious, Miami-based wedding planner Yadi Rose said. They dont want to throw away money like they used to. Those days are long gone.Bill Hansen, whose Miami catering company has served three U.S. Presidents and Pope John Paul II, recently gave this advice to a room full of engaged women at the Coconut Grove Womens Club during a daylong workshop called Bridal Confidential Miami.Never aim to impress your guests, Hansen said. Aim to delight them.One way, Davids Bridal consultant Candice Weigel plans to do just that during her own October wedding is with a discovery in the storage closet of her church.Covered in dust were old wrought iron candelabras. She asked the pastor if she could borrow them. Her friends are helping to clean and decorate the candelabras for the ceremony, saving hundreds of dollars on the cost of flowers.Rose said the most important thing for any bride to do when planning a wedding is to come up with a realistic budget and stick to it.To get the best bang for your buck, prioritize the importance of each aspect of the special day. For every bride and groom, its different.Weigel said she is making the centerpieces herself and got her invitations and save-the-date cards at Costco.com in order to splurge on a DJ, paying $700 extra for special lighting.Hansen agreed budgets are especially important because most brides at some point will suffer from sticker shock. In catering, for example, most people think of what it costs to have a nice meal at a restaurant $50 or $60 per person, he said.For an event like a wedding, the price can go up substantially per person for the same food because of service, glassware, bar, table rentals, etc.But you dont necessarily have to have filet mignon or something over the top to make your wedding memorable, Hansen said.He once served meatloaf for the main course of a wedding reception. The recipe came from the brides grandmother.It was absolutely a hit, Hansen said.Officiant Peggy Lewis of Florida Ceremonies says weddings can be made more memorable with sentimental touches that dont cost anything.In several nuptials she has conducted, the bride and groom put their rings in a beautiful box or bag and during the ceremony they are passed among the guests. Each guest is asked to make a blessing or wish for the couple and their future.Its just a simple way to make all the guests feel they are involved, Lewis said. They are not just sitting there, hearing the same things theyve heard before, and wondering when they are going to get their first martini.Wedding experts say wedding planners are worth the cost because they can save you money in the long run, much the way an accountant can for your taxes. But to save money, hire a wedding planner just for the day of the wedding to execute what you have planned so you can enjoy your day without worrying whether the caterer arrived on time or where to put extra guests who did not RSVP.Putting together a wedding is really hard work, said Susan Stipcianos, who does public relations for renttherunway.com, and is getting married in October. Thats why there are so many bridezillas.At Bridal Confidential Miami, wedding experts offered many tips to keep costs manageable and brides-to-be sane.A big choice that can cut thousands off the final price tag: the date. Fridays and Saturdays are almost always much more expensive for a wedding than other days of the week.For example, the Coconut Grove Womens Club rents out its beautiful facility for $1950 on Saturdays. Choose to get married the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and the cost is just $550.Choosing to get married in the offseason also can lead to big savings. For Florida, try August or September.Stipcianos said many brides-to-be also are conscious of how much their bridesmaids will have to spend.Im a regular girl and I refuse to pay $500 for a bridesmaid dress Im going to wear once, she said. I already have seven dresses in my closet that I know I will never wear again.Thats why, she says, renttherunway.com is wonderful because the bridesmaids can wear a designer dress on a paupers budget. But so far, thats not the case with the wedding gowns.Every bride wants their big day to be special, Lewis, the officiant said.Fiserova estimates her wedding is costing about $25,000, but what is making it priceless is all their family and friends who will be in attendance.She cried when thinking about her mother, who died when she was a teenager. But she beamed thinking about her dad who is coming from her native Czech Republic. Twirling in her gown, which she will wear with three veils while walking down the aisle with her dad, she said: Im so happy.

Resources to help cut wedding costs

 Flowers:

Buy your flowers wholesale on line at theflowerexchange.com and solicit help to put them into bouquets and arrangements. Other companies, such as bridesign.com, offer wedding bouquets already made, but at wholesale prices.

Invitations: Modern invitations do not have to include the many layers of traditional ones. Costco.com offers a variety of invitations at savings of 25 percent or more. Or you can create your own on websites, such as do-it-yourself-weddings.com.

Attire: Mother of the bride, bridesmaids and other guests looking for a designer dress but at affordable prices can try renting them at renttherunway.com. However, sizes go up to only 12. And for the bride, its hard to beat Davids Bridals $99 gowns.

Cake: If you want the beautiful cake without the cost, try ultimatefakecake.com. Also, most Publix bakeries do a nice wedding cake for less than most independent bakeries.

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