Saving

6 Ways to Slash Your Wedding Budget with Social Media and Online Tools

photo: epSos.de

Planning a wedding? Congratulations!

Now, let’s get practical: how are you paying those bills? Weddings are expensive, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to afford the big day of your dreams without falling in debt, no matter what your budget.

These days, brides- and grooms-to-be have more — and more easily accessible than ever — tools to help them cut expenses, including social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. The best part? They’re all free.

Rebecca Dolgin, the executive editor at wedding website TheKnot.com, says that 32% of brides use a social network to communicate information about their wedding. That figure that has increased nearly 40% since 2008.

Here are six ways you can use online and social media tools to save both your money and your mind while planning your wedding day.

Groupon-style Deals Just for Weddings

Dolgin advises brides to take advantage of exclusive online savings at WeddingChannel.com Deals. Structured like “Groupon” for weddings, two new deals are posted on the site each week, offered from top national brands and local vendors. Brides can share the deal with fellow brides-to-be using Facebook, Twitter and Buzz. The more brides who sign up, the sooner each gets to take advantage of the savings.

Dolgin also recommends Twitter as a simple way to locate free finds. “Wedding bloggers love to give prizes away,” she says.  To find these deals, Dolgin recommends that couples in the midst of wedding planning do a daily scan of favorite wedding “Tweeters.”

Bye, Bye Wedding Planner. Hello, Google?

No, it won’t micromanage the caterer or kindly tell your mother-in-law that her choice of white attire isn’t appropriate. But Google Weddings can handle just about everything else a traditional planner can handle, for free!

Thanks to templates, Google Weddings automates processes that were once the bane of every bride’s existence. Email a contact information form to guests to automatically create an Excel address book, and even seating charts that count the guests per table.

There are also customized templates for creating a reception menu, organized play lists to keep the deejay on course, and an all-encompassing wedding planner tool with a budget page where you can track the totals for big-ticket items, along with many different sheets for essentials like the guest list, cake, favors and so forth.

It even creates a sample wedding day schedule that you can share with vendors, friends and family.

Save Your Postage For Save the Date Cards

Save money on the traditional mailed “save the date” magnet or paper card by creating a Save-the-Date video. Dolgin says it’s a fun way for couples to incorporate their personalities and “tell their love story or proposal by being the star in their own short film.” The video can be shot for free on your handheld mobile device and easily edited in a program like Final Cut. Or, for less than $20, a site like Storymix Media will create a professional, password-protected video using your choice of photos, theme and transitions.

Create Buzz to Communicate Important Details

Couples used to have no choice but to mail paper instructions with location and event information (and pay to mail and receive the returned RSVP cards). Then, they’d have to field last-minute calls to and from confused guests, adding to the stress of the big day.

Now, WeddingBuzz, a Facebook app offered by The Knot, has taken the cost and pain out of staying in contact with guests about all your wedding events. Add a wedding countdown to your Facebook profile, and create a separate Wedding Buzz profile with all the important details of the day. You can also share photos and get advice from experts and other brides-to-be.

Pictures for All

If you’re hiring a photographer because you want to capture beautiful images of yourselves and not so much of other guests (it’s okay to admit it!), hire them for the pre-wedding and ceremony images only. Releasing your photographer before the reception can save you hundreds of dollars, and there’s an easy way to capture memorable, candid images for free.

Set up a shared Flickr account so that guests can upload the photos and videos they captured at your event. If you like the popular reception photo booth, create the same experience (for free) by streaming the Flickr images live onto the wall during the reception, using a projector. Guests will get a kick out of the “real-time” nature of the photo show, and your army of shutterbugs will stay motivated to keep snapping images.

Honeymoon on a Dime (Someone Else’s)

While you may appreciate parts of a traditional bridal registry, a mixer and baking set really don’t address what you truly need when planning a wedding: more incoming cash, and less outflow. That’s why online honeymoon registry sites are great for whittling down your wedding budget. Nancy Williams, founder of HoneyLuna, estimates that “on average, couples using HoneyLuna’s honeymoon registry receive $2,500 in registry gifts toward their honeymoon.”

The shopping experience from the gift-givers standpoint is the same as a traditional registry, but as Williams puts it, “couples opting for a honeymoon registry save money because they receive pieces of their honeymoon as wedding gifts, rather than serving platters or crock pots that will just sit in a closet.”  Such sites allow couples to not only pre-plan honeymoon activities, but know in advance how much of the getaway is covered by gifts.