Getting married at home by the backyard pool is cool, cheap

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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.

Joanne Sgro-Killworth always wanted to get married on the beach. Or at a desert resort.

So when she got engaged, Joanne realized she had the perfect — and much less expensive — place for the ceremony and reception.

Joanne and Scott Killworth were married on June 25, 2011, by the pool in the backyard of their home in Chandler, Ariz.

"This was a fun, economical way to include more people," Joanne says of the 80 guests who joined in the celebration.

Indeed, by the time they were done, the couple wound up having not one but two receptions, all for less than $6,000, including the cost of rings and attire.

The Wedding Report, a research company that tracks such expenses, says the average cost of a wedding with a single reception reached $25,656 last year.

How did the Killworths do it?

Taking advantage of their lovely suburban Phoenix home and its 7,000-square-foot lot was a great start.

The Wedding Report says the typical bride spends $1,194 renting a place for the ceremony and $3,226 on a reception location.

But Joanne, 40, is a lifestyle fitness expert and publicist. Scott, 42, works as a financial adviser.

The real savings came by tapping all of their buddies and professional contacts for assistance.

"You would be surprised how much wedding-related talent friends and family actually have and are willing to help," Joanne says.

One talented helper made the couple's wedding cake and did Joanne's makeup. Another became a certified officiant just to perform the ceremony. And they did it all for free.

The Killworths also opted for an iPod and playlist instead of a DJ. Joanne's brother, who is an event MC, did the announcements.

The Wedding Report says the average bride who hires a DJ pays $1,368 for those services.

They borrowed tents from a friend who does trade shows and rented chairs for $100.

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

Sample dresses can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

Many cities have a store that sells past-season samples, and designers also hold their own sample sales once or twice a year — the major ones are in New York City, Los Angeles and Atlanta, depending on where the designer is based.

If your dream dress is from an A-list designer, contact the showroom or do an online search to find sale dates. With typical savings of 40% to 90% off retail, some brides find it’s worth it, even if they have to travel to the sale.

"We made most of our own food and did homemade monogrammed truffles for favors," Joanne says, adding that she grew up throwing parties, so doing this for her wedding came naturally.

The couple bought all of the alcohol for the reception for about $500 at Sam's Club and hired acquaintances to serve and tend bar for about $200.

That's a major savings. Bar service runs $2,456 at the average wedding.

Their photographer was a student who charged $100, and a friend recorded the ceremony for free.

Joanne's dress came from a sample rack and cost her $204, including alterations.

The couple saved the bridal party money too.

"I had each bridesmaid wear a black dress of their choice," Joanne says. "The guys wore khaki pants and a white shirt."

The groom opted for the same type of outfit, only he wore white pants and a khaki shirt.

The couple rolled over gifts from previous events to pay for two big ticket items.

"We received so many gracious gift cards for shower and engagement that we were able to use some of those towards our rings," Joanne says.

The couple held a second reception at Anthony's in Drexel Hill, Pa., because of Joanne's large Philadelphia-based family.

They paid no rental fee for space in the restaurant/banquet center and booked the event as a standard reception to avoid any wedding-related markups.

They opted for a Sunday night event, which cost less than if they'd held a Saturday event, though they did pay for an open bar.

Family helped with the second reception too.

"My crafty mother made all of the centerpieces and splurged on a cake. Tons of Italian cookies were made by relatives," Joanne says. Her cousin is a florist and did the cake flowers and made her a bouquet.

And Joanne wore her dress and veil again.

"My relatives back East would have killed me if they could not see me in my wedding dress," she says.

The couple has no regrets about the way it all turned out.

Before they relocated to Arizona, Joanne says, "I was checking out expensive ballrooms in Philadelphia and $4,000 dresses. My focus changed when we moved here, and I could not figure out which coast to get married on.

"So I did both."

Joanne and Scott had their first child, Robert, in April 2012.

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