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December 2007

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A Luxe Wedding for Less?

One Charleston couple saved tens of thousands by thinking creatively


When it comes to a once-in-a-lifetime wedding, settling on the celebration sure does smart.

So don’t. To get the feel of a luxurious, six-figure Charleston fête for less than $20,000, Beth Markham and her husband, Sean, put their heads together to think outside the box. Here’s what the two did earlier this year to get their dream look for way less.

Limit Your Guest List
First, Beth and Sean invited 75 people. This ensured the budget could stretch far and allowed the couple to spend quality time with each guest.

Host a Weekday Wedding
Since there is less demand for wedding and reception locations on weekdays, holding the ceremony late on a Friday morning meant costs were considerably below what they would have been had the Markhams wed during prime time: Saturday. Also, thanks to their weekday date, the couple was easily able to hire an in-demand team of wedding professionals, many of whom were otherwise booked as much as two years in advance.

Pick a Two-in-One
By saying their vows and raising their glasses at the same location, Beth and Sean saved money because they didn’t have to book two venues (a church and an alternative reception space). Plus, keeping their guests in the same spot meant the Markhams didn’t have to arrange for guest transportation from one place to another. Last, because their wedding and reception location came with tables and chairs, there was no need to rent such supplies from a vendor.

Munch on Brunch
Beth and Sean opted for a post-ceremony brunch buffet rather than the traditional evening dinner reception—another money saver, as breakfast foods and buffets are typically less expensive than seated dinners and open bars. Their caterer worked with them to plan the event and set up stations for custom-made crêpes, omelets, and more so guests could create their own menu. As for beverages? Guests helped themselves to Bloody Marys, mimosas, and a create-your-own coffee bar with whipped cream, cinnamon, chocolate, and Bailey’s Irish cream.

Have a Sweet Finish
Beth and Sean chose a smaller cake that served 50, and supplemented it with trays of petite sweets, because they knew not everyone would opt for slices.

Rehearse Early
The ripple effect of a Friday wedding meant the rehearsal dinner was a less-than-average hassle to plan and less costly, too. Sean’s parents hosted a barbecue and oyster roast that Thursday, again taking advantage of a less busy weeknight to book a highly sought-after location on a few month’s notice.

Try an Inviting Idea
Beth designed and printed save-the-date cards and rehearsal cookout invitations herself with the help of a local stationery store, and she worked with the pros there on a more formal wedding invitation.

Dress for Less
Playing bargain-hunting bride, Beth lucked onto a designer who was getting out of the bridal gown market. By purchasing a sample dress directly off the rack, she got a custom creation at half its original price.

Give Cents-ible Gifts
When it came to welcome “baskets,” Beth hit the paper stores for plain white paper craft bags, then tagged each with a custom sticker bearing the wedding’s date. She and Sean filled the bags with their own self-written guide to Charleston, maps of the area (free from the Convention and Visitors Bureau), and goodies from Boone Hall Farms (discounted because she bought in bulk) before giving them to out-of-towners. For wedding favors, Beth worked with a local manufacturer to festoon a wedding design on mugs and filled those with saltwater taffy from the Market downtown—bought in bulk at a discount, of course.




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Illustration by George Matherson Horn

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