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20 Ways to Avoid the Wedding Industrial Complex

Why do so many brides strive for perfect weddings when it’s the imperfections that make the day truly special?

Forget the meringue wedding dress, matching tuxes or monogrammed aisle liners: It’s the bored ring bearer; clumsy best man, and “Thriller” dancing groomsmen that end up in our memories and on YouTube for all time.

Yet stressed-out American brides each continue to spend an average of $32,641 trying to create flawless weddings. A fair portion of that figure goes towards the following 20 items of unnecessary accoutrements -- all pushed on these stressed-out women by an insidious Wedding Industrial Complex.

Don't say we didn’t warn you!

20 Ways to Avoid the #Wedding Industrial Complex | Coupon Sherpa

1. Formal Engagement Photos
Engagment portraits published in the newspaper are a thing of the past, thanks to social media. It's more common to see a photo of the proposal on social media than it is to find someone you know smiling from the black-and-white pages of your local newspaper. Unless you and/or your fiance are VIPs in your city or there is some benefit to broadcasting your engagement beyond that of your friends and family, skip the expense of a formal engagement photo and save your money for professional wedding photos.

2. Over-Budget Rings
Engagement and wedding rings are a personal choice, so far be it from us to advise you on what to select. However, we can all agree it’s unwise to take out a personal loan, sell your car or otherwise incur a massive amount of debt to cover the cost of ring. If you can’t afford the exact style your fiancee covets, try an interim style which he or she can wear until you have the funds for what’s desired. 

3. Cake Server Sets
Your manicured hands are going to cover those curvaceous and be-ribboned handles throughout the 10 seconds you’ll actually put the implements to use. It all comes down to whether you want to pay a couple hundred for engraved silver you'll never use again.

4. Classy Guestbook and Pen Set
The traditional guest book has given way to an official wedding hashtag which guests use when posting personal photos of the wedding to social media. Other modern alternatives range from wall art signed by guests to game pieces featuring guest signatures and sentiments. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s memorable and something you’ll actually display or thumb through regularly.

5. Bride and Groom Exchange Gifts
Really? You’re giving each other the gift of yourselves by getting married. Adding anything on top of that infers the original gift is insufficient, which is no way to start your wedding day. Skip this unnecessary expenses and write each other letters instead. You’ll likely keep and cherish these notes forever and best of all, they don’t cost a thing!

6. Monogrammed Aisle Runner
A free-floating runner is just another obstacle to trip on as you trip your way down the aisle. And really, what are you going to do with this product after the wedding? Skip this weird purchase and focus your funds on aisle embellishments that won't be trampled by you and your wedding party.

7. Groom's Cakes
Weddings are all about two people being united as one, so a groom’s cake seems a bit counteractive to that universal theme, agreed? If you and your partner’s flavor preferences are at odds, you can always request different cake and filling flavors for each tier, or opt for a variety cupcakes to suit everyone’s palates.

8. Padded Guest Lists
Sure it took a village to raise you, but does the entire village need to attend your wedding? The number-one tip for reducing the overall cost of a wedding is to reduce your guest list. Don’t allow family to sabotage your nuptials by turning it into a business opportunity and avoid sending invites to anyone you or your partner don’t know personally.

9. Wedding Planners
Some venues require brides hire wedding planners, which suggests they’re getting a huge kick-back. Some planners are worth their weight in gold, but others create more headaches and chaos. (Remember semi-hysterical Anthony Marantino from "Sex in the City?") Consider your event and your capacity to plan the details, keeping in mind family and friends may be more than happy to share the burden by taking on tasks here in there to help you build the day of your dreams.

10. Wedding Programs
Unless your event features little-known cultural elements, there’s no need for a printed rundown of the ceremony. This is especially true since most modern couples have a wedding website detailing all pertinent information related to ceremony structure and the reception location.

11. Chair Covers
Some reception table supplies are are an absolute must: linens, plates and utensils, for example. It can even be argued that some kind of decorative centerpiece is necessary to keep your event from looking like a business conference. However, reception “extras” like chair covers, plate charges, flower petals and custom place cards are not exactly what the average guest would consider a requirement. Save these unnecessary accessories for stylized wedding photo shoots created to make you swoon over individual potted succulents and chalkboard table cards.

12. Elaborate Invitations
Hang the expense. Collating all that paper is exhausting. There’s the engraved wedding invite; the totally unnecessary tissue paper; the engraved reception invite; the engraved RSVP card; and possibly a SASE RSVP envelope. All are stuffed in a spiffy envelope that you then have to stamp and hand address.

Unless they have a vested interest, people look at all that paper for a few seconds, send back the response card -- if you’re lucky -- and toss out the rest.

13. Full Menu
A full menu of food, from appetizers to starters to dessert options other than the wedding cake, is completely unnecessary at your wedding. In fact, depending on your preferences and the time of day you’re getting married, you can get by offering champagne, appetizers and wedding cake. Experts agree buffets are more cost-effective than plated meals requiring guest selection. While cash bars are considered gauche, crafting a signature cocktail along with a few wine and beer selections is an inexpensive alternative to the full-service open-bar platform.

14. Personalized Matches
Unless you hang out with a lot of smokers, tokers and/or candle freaks, these suckers are going in the trash.

15. Matching “Getting Ready” Outfits
There is some debate about forcing your bridal party to pony up $120 for a taffeta number they’ll never have cause to wear again. However, it’s absolutely essential to avoid the trend of forcing your bridesmaids to purchase matching “getting ready” outfits. If you’re buying these garments as part of their gift for being in your bridal party, fine; otherwise, do what you can to limit their expenses as much as possible. After all, you want to stay friends after your wedding.

16. Make-Up Professionals

  • Rule number one: The skin on your face should match the skin on your arms and back.
  • Rule number two: Your fiance is marrying you, not the make-up artist.
  • Rule number three: Fake eyelashes and layers of eye shadow can look great in photographs but are downright scary up close. Do your own makeup or ask a trusted friend to apply it for you, keeping in mind that your face should be recognizable to your betrothed.

17. Save the Dates
This pre-invite trend is strong in the wedding industry, but ultimately redundant with the official announcement you send six weeks before your event.

18. Tiara
Just don’t.

19. Wedding Favors
Personalized tote bags; soy candles in cute little bags; sterling-silver bubble tubes; monogrammed M&Ms, lip balm and water bottles. These make for great table accents during wedding style suits but are a total waste of money IRL. Trust us, all the money you spend on food and entertainment for your guests is thanks enough for their attendance.

20. Cake Toppers
Those tacky plastic cake toppers can cost $50 or more depending on how kitschy and customized you want to get. Keep it simple with whatever cake decorations you decide on with your baker and fiancee, and consider embracing the “naked cake” trend for even more money (and calorie) savings.

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