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Chic on the cheap: Long Island brides cut costs for their dream weddings

Jennifer Roddy, an art teacher from Dix Hills,

Jennifer Roddy, an art teacher from Dix Hills, is currently planning her August 2009 wedding to Frank Moreno. To save money, she's gotten creative, adding DIY touches. Here she models a Moonlight gown, $700-$1,300, loaned from Elena Bridal Couture, Merrick, and a Boutique De Voile veil, $150. Credit: Photo by Karen Wiles Stabile

As Jennifer Roddy and Frank Moreno, both 28, plan their August wedding, they know they have to watch their pennies. But Roddy has not been discouraged, she's gotten creative.

The art teacher from Dix Hills approached vendors she knew she couldn't afford and started negotiating.

"I played up the economy and everyone seemed to work with us," says Roddy. And that's a good thing. Long Island is among the top 10 costliest places in the nation to get married, according to a 2008 survey by TheKnot.com. Many weddings here cost $50,000 and up, experts say. But thousands can be saved with a bit of ingenuity.

"People are still trying to be economical," says wedding planner Fran Koltun, owner of Cordially Yours in Islip. "We're not out of the recession yet."

Some helpful hints? Wedding halls are among the biggest costs, Koltun says. Alternatives are smaller, private mansions or garden weddings.

Darcy Miller, editorial director of Martha Stewart Weddings, suggests brides marry off-season, such as in January rather than June, and on Thursday, Friday or Sunday rather than Saturday, because it's cheaper.

Long Island brides shared what they did to economize.

LAUREN MERZBACHER

Lauren Plunkett, 27, from Hicksville married Mark Merzbacher, 28, a year ago and says she had a "platinum-looking wedding on a budget."

Indeed, Lauren, a kindergarten teacher, saved thousands when she bought a gently used strapless Melissa Sweet designer wedding gown, valued at about $3,600, for $1,500 from a recent bride. She found a pair of expensive Manolo Blahnik shoes for only $200 on eBay. And instead of pricey floral centerpieces, she bought five-arm candelabras and saved $1,000.

She also "saved a bundle" when she addressed her own invitations with the help of her computer and a fancy script that she got online for $20. Her biggest coup was when she booked the Inn at New Hyde Park, which at the time was under construction, saving her thousands of dollars. -- Tania Padgett

JENNIFER RODDY

Jennifer didn't stop at negotiating with vendors. To stay within her $40,000 budget, she is shaving costs by using her mother's veil as her blusher and a relative's center stone in her engagement ring.

She also channeled her inner DIY bride. For her bridal shower, she created her own centerpieces, using Mason jars, rocks, raffia ties and filling them with sunflowers and Gerbera daisies. Instead of expensive party favors, she made her own by buying Chinese takeout boxes and filling them with personalized fortune cookies and $1 scratch-off Lottery tickets. She created a banner out of an inexpensive pillowcase and dowels, painted "Here Comes the Bride" for her ring bearer and created her own church programs, using her computer and recycled paper. Her handmade monogram is appearing on everything from menus to the dance floor, projected by a light.

"You really need to keep track of everything and know where your budget stands at all times," says Jennifer. "Look for things you can easily make yourself, get on sale or use coupons for."

CHERYL BOEHME

Cheryl, 30, who is getting married in August, is sticking to a budget of $30,000. She and fiance Anthony Perischilli, 29, are saving money for a house.

"Maybe I'm different from other brides, but it's four hours, and how much does that come out per hour when you divide the amount you spend?" Cheryl says.

Cheryl is making her own chocolate bars as party favors; a handmade scroll will explain that their primary party favor is a charitable donation. They are using their church's regular, less expensive, florist - and leaving the flowers for Sunday Mass. Cheryl also was not shy about asking vendors to throw in extras. "If you go in there and have set in your mind what you want to spend, they usually work with you. Don't be shy to ask," Cheryl advises.

NICCOLE SALZONE

Niccole, 21, and Joseph Foster, 24, are planning a backyard wedding on July 13 in Centerport. With 100 guests, the wedding and reception are coming in at less than $5,000.

"They have planned and calculated everything to a strict budget and are making it happen," says Niccole's sister Alexandria, who is helping out.

Niccole Salzone saved money by buying her white, strapless gown off the rack for less than $100 and is planning to get her makeup done at MAC cosmetics the day of the wedding. The DIY bride made her own invitations and scoured the Internet for deals on favors.

Niccole and her fiance also networked: Their photography, wedding cake and DJ are all no charge, thanks to family, friends and acquaintances. "We saved on a lot of stuff because we knew people," Niccole says.

MELODY-ANN BROCKNER

Melody-Ann, 57, had 80 people at her wedding, took five weeks to plan it and spent $4,500 for the entire affair. The result? It was "fabulous," says Melody-Ann, who married Charles Brockner, 66, in August 2008 in their Dix Hills backyard. She saved money by making her own invitations and asking guests to RSVP by e-mail. She bought her dress off the rack and her bouquet flowers were picked from her garden. For backyard decorations, she used potted plants and statuary from friends' yards.

A local butcher helped with the catering and the couple bought Costco sheet cakes for dessert. They reaped major savings when a neighbor's son acted as bartender, serving wine, beer and soft drinks and when a neighbor whose hobby is photography took pictures. The Brockners also had a live band - friends of her daughter's.

"If you have friends and family that want to help - and they always do - let them," she says.

LOURDES VENARD

When my fiance and I started discussing marriage, we were on our second trip to Hawaii. So it was not a big stretch to decide to hold the wedding in our favorite place, Maui.

While that might sound extravagantly expensive, we spent only $14,000 on our April wedding, which included four airplane tickets, a two-room condo for a week and a wedding dinner at an upscale French restaurant. Couples who marry elsewhere typically do save, at least $20,000, according to DestinationWeddings.com.

We kept our guest list simple: immediate family and close friends. Thirteen people joined us, which allowed for a special ceremony. The wedding party consisted of all six children on the trip, my husband's oldest son sang "The Wedding Song," and we wed with the beach as a backdrop.

One of our biggest expenses was the wedding planners, but they provided the minister, guitarist and photographer - at about $1,000, still a bargain package. My mother and sister made my bridal bouquet, using roses, orchids, starfish and a charm from my late grandmother's bracelet. I also asked my sister-in-law to do my makeup and my mother did my hair. My brother, a professional photographer, shot two videos.

Best of all, I found that saving money also made for a very personal, beautiful ceremony. -- Lourdes Venard

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