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Cheap Wedding Challenge

How to have a beautiful city celebration that doesn’t break the bank.


DRESS
Look for a discounted designer gown at sample sales (save up to 80 percent; see upcoming sales on page 140); at high-end consignment shops like Michael’s, The Consignment Shop for Women (1041 Madison Ave.; 212-737-7273) and Ina’s (several locations; inanyc.com). Or, get a lovely, re-wearable dress off the rack (Abaeté dress, $475 by special order; 212-334-4755).


STATIONERY
Send ready-made invitations. Choose a brand like b.t.elements (at Kate's Paperie, 72 Spring St.; 212-941-9816). Or hire a designer to create a save-the-date, invite, and RSVP, and print them yourself (try Justin van Deursen at Sketchbook Design Solutions, from $500; sketchbookdesign.net).


PHOTOGRAPHY
Find a fledgling photographer looking to beef up his portfolio on Craigslist. If that’s too risky, ask a known wedding photographer if he’ll accept an hourly rate, or if one of his assistants will shoot for less. Otherwise, negotiate a flat half-day rate. Michael Kirby charges $750 for four hours, including a high-resolution DVD of un-retouched images; 512-468-3107; mikirby.com).

CEREMONY
Skip the officiant fees (up to $1,500) and house of worship costs (up to $3,000). Get married at City Hall (marriage license, $35), and later create a ceremony of your own design.


CEREMONY AND COCKTAIL HOUR MUSIC
Hire conservatory gradsópreferably a group that’s performed together before. Contact the Juilliard School (212-799-5000 ext. 313, ensemblerequests@juilliard.edu), Manhattan School of Music (917-493-4486; careers@msmnyc.edu), and Mannes College of Music at the New School (212-580-0210 ext.4811; newschool.edu/mannes).


FLOWERS
Choose seasonal blooms, obviously. TaraSimone Powell of Barbara's Flowers charges $3,200 for two bouquets, a boutonniere, a few ceremony arrangements, and fifteen centerpieces for the reception (2522 Frederick Douglass Blvd.; 212-234-3211; harlemflowers.com).

CATERING
At $65 per person (well below the city’s $350 average), Spoonbread Catering offers a full buffet, plus hors d’oeuvre, dessert, and staff (364 Cathedral Parkway; 212-865-0700; spoonbreadinc.com). Baked customizes tiered, buttercream confections from $6 per serving (359 Van Brunt St., Red Hook; 718-222-0345; bakednyc.com).


RECEPTION MUSIC
Hire a D.J.: They start at $1,500 while most bands start at $5,000. Planner Ellen Kostman likes The Rhythm Dogs ($1,500 for four hours; 212-206-7924; therhythmdogs.com).

RECEPTION: OPTION 1
Have a daytime wedding. Planner Xochitl Gonzalez suggests booking the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture on a Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Serve cocktails in the garden and a light buffet in the parlor ($650 an hour, includes tables and chairs; 53 Prospect Park West, Prospect Heights; 718-768-2972; bsec.org).


RECEPTION: OPTION 2
A Saturday night party can be affordable; just keep it short and sweet. Kostman recommends a 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. cocktail soirée at the Cue Art Foundation. The low rental fee for the glass-front, all-white gallery includes built-in décor (art!), but you have to bring your own caterer ($3,000 for six hours, includes some tables and chairs; 511 W. 25th St.; 212-206-3583; cueartfoundation.org).
NB: If you’re willing to celebrate on Friday or Sunday instead, you’ll save 30 percent.

The Average Cost of a Wedding
Nationwide: $28,704
Here: $46,229

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