Finding wedding bliss at a trendy Atlantic City hotel

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We’re celebrating the month of June by sharing the success stories of a dozen savvy brides who threw the wedding of their dreams on a surprising budget.

When Jill Ivey and Ross Currie decided to get married, their first thought was to elope.

They knew exactly where they wanted to be wed — Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, Ore.

It spoke to their love of the Pacific Northwest and, well, doughnuts.

"That didn't happen because we are poor planners," Jill jokes.

So the Philadelphia couple turned to The Chelsea, a boutique hotel on the Boardwalk in America's original playground, Atlantic City, N.J.

"We both saw the library area in the lobby and said, 'This would be a great place for wedding photos,' " Jill says.

The price was right too.

The ceremony and reception for 100 guests would cost about $11,000, which the couple paid for themselves.

The Wedding Report, a research company that tracks such expenses, says the average couple spends more than twice that much getting married.

"We were able to have the sort of wedding we wanted," Jill says, "and do it without going into debt."

Ross, 31, is an attorney. Jill, 29, works in public relations.

Holding everything in one spot was their first big money saver, and the layout and style of The Chelsea made that possible.


Photo Credit: Peggy Baud Woolsey

The current hotel was created by renovating two old motels — a Holiday Inn and a Howard Johnson — into a swank chrome-and-pink-tile celebration of 1950s style.

Sure, the game room has a pool table, but it's also a gorgeous, upscale space that can accommodate events like a wedding.

That’s where the couple was married. Guests then moved to the lobby library for post-ceremony cocktails before hitting the ballroom for the reception.

They also chose to get married in November, which is not exactly the height of tourist season in Atlantic City.

"When you do that in a seasonally dependent location, you save loads more," Jill says.

The Chelsea gave the couple a free wedding cake, saving them about $421, according to The Wedding Report.

Lisbeth Levine is co-author of
“The Wedding Book: The Big
Book for Your Big Day.”

WeddingSnap worked out great for Jill and Ross, but there are now a variety of ways that couples can involve their guests in crowd-sourcing wedding photos.

The simplest way is to create a hashtag on Instagram and post photos to the mobile app, but you can also open an account with WedPics, which has a similar format to Instagram but lets you keep your album private.

Couples will still want to hire a photographer, but in the case of a large wedding where you might have needed a second photographer in the past, you can probably get by with one of these photo-sharing applications instead.

Technology has also made inroads into the ceremony, with cutting-edge couples live-streaming their service to guests who couldn't attend.

They found a graphic designer on Etsy.com to create their invitations and printed them themselves.

Instead of adding in an RSVP card, which would cost money for the card, envelope and stamp to mail them back, they had guests RSVP through their wedding website, which they set up through Glosite.com.

Jill didn't wear a traditional wedding gown but what she describes as an "ivory party dress."

She initially bought one for $200 on Modcloth.com, but then returned it when she found the exact same dress for $100 at Nordstrom. Adding in alterations and accessories, the entire look cost just $300.

That's a far cry from what the average bridal gown cost last year — almost $1,200, according to The Wedding Report.

Instead of renting or buying a tuxedo, Ross was married in a custom-made suit that he now wears for work.

The couple went with real flowers for bouquets and boutonnieres and a handful of arrangements at the ceremony, but everything else was fake from Silksareforever.com.

"We used orchids, which kind of look fake to begin with," Jill says. "When they were submerged in water with floating candles, nobody could tell."

They saved a bundle on everything at the reception too.

First, they paid $599 for a DJ they found through Groupon. The average cost for a DJ is right at $700, according The Wedding Report.

They chose a basic sit-down meal, because it was actually less expensive than having stations, Jill says. While the couple did provide an open bar, they didn't upgrade any of the booze.

They thought about renting a photo booth, which could have cost hundreds of dollars, but instead subscribed to WeddingSnap.com "so guests with smartphones could post all their photos, which were visible immediately," Jill says.

The couple didn't spring for wedding insurance, a decision they almost came to regret.

Superstorm Sandy slammed into Atlantic City just two weeks before their nuptials.

"Relatives were calling and asking if they should cancel their travel," Jill says. "We did actually start researching emergency Plan B options. There were a few places in Philly with availability if we'd had to relocate at the last minute."

But it would take more than a natural disaster to stop Jill and Ross. Their wedding went off without a hitch.

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