Cassi Serena and Nick Dermody got engaged a year an a half ago. They had already locked in on the big items like the reception site and the DJ by the time the bottom fell out of the economy. They both feel cautiously optimistic about their jobs -- she's a media buyer at an ad agency, he's an engineer -- so they're going ahead with their June wedding.
However, they're spending their nest egg on it and Cassi estimates it will cost over $35,000.
"Nick, being the engineer that he is, one day he sent me an email with the subject of 'wedding matrix,'" Serena said. "I was intrigued and it was this beautiful spreadsheet with graphs and pie charts. I went around to my co-workers and said, 'I love him so much! Look what he did.' Everyone's like 'oh, wow (deadpan tone) a spreadsheet.'"
Whether you think it's romantic or not, Nick and Cassi's Wedding Matrix helps them stay on budget. Some items they've discovered are sacrosanct. You can't skip wedding cake. Friends and family howled at that idea. And there were other things they thought were too important to skimp on.
"I bought a really expensive dress," Serena said.
The dress and photographs will last forever, so Cassi and Nick were willing to shell out for them.
Nick said they found some more discreet trims.
"A lot of our friends have been married in the last two years and it's kind of been a running joke, '...you'd better have an open bar,'" Dermody said. "And the reality is, those are pretty expensive so that was one of the things we had to look at and try to find a balance."
The economy has Nick and Cassi making very careful decisions about how to spend their wedding dollars. But Cassi said in some cases, the recession is actually working in their favor.
Cassi said that when they're talking with florists they're they offer to lower the price, for example.
"I mean I wish we would have started planning it this year instead of last year," she said. "We could have gotten stuff cheaper. Hopefully we can strike some more deals."
Cassi's not alone in her wheeling and dealing with wedding vendors. David Bornowski, at Richfield Flowers and Events says brides are spending about 20 percent less than they did in 2007.
"I think with their portfolios not feeling as flush as they were in years past, they're not doing the extra special thing on the table," Bornowski said. "Instead of doing a $50 arrangement on the table, they're going to want to do a $30 arrangement."
And all those trims are adding up.
"Literally 80 percent of the vendors I talk to say that all their brides are cutting back or spending less money," said Shayne McMurray, founder of The Wedding Report Inc.
The report tracks market trends in the wedding industry. McMurray said the average cost of a wedding fell by a quarter in 2008, a drop of almost $7,000 per couple.
"Many of the sectors are down so even engagement rings are down, invitations are down across the board, but probably the reception piece is down more than any of the other pieces that I've seen," McMurray said.
The industry probably hasn't hit bottom yet, but McMurray thinks wedding spending will drop another 6 to 8 percent this year.
Then there are the couples who are putting it off altogether.
Woody Olson and Linda Tuma have been engaged for a year. Linda's a web producer and Woody's an artist who's gone back to school for engineering and drafting. Woody said he wants to hold off on the wedding until he's got a steady income.
"I think if I was working and I had a steady job and had better prospects for a future, I'd be more gung-ho about it," Olson said. "But I don't feel I'm contributing enough financially into the relationship to do things like that. I don't know if it's a guy-thing or what."
Linda said she's fine waiting to get married, a feeling that was reassuring to Woody.
"I guess I felt a lot more comfortable that she actually wants to marry me even though I'm unemployed," he said.
Woody and Linda say they'll tie the knot when times get better and they're telling everyone to keep their calendars open...next year.