wedding reception plansThe reception is traditionally one of the most expensive aspects of a wedding.
However, by combining personal creativity and ingenuity — the foundation of lifestylist Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade(R) philosophy — with inexpensive, ready-made items available at discount retailers, brides-to-be and cash-strapped parents can host a beautiful wedding reception without blowing through the entire bridal budget.

“Creating a beautiful wedding environment on a budget is simple,” says Sandra Lee, entertaining expert and author.
“By putting a personal touch on everything from table centerpieces to wedding favors, brides and grooms can save while creating memories for years to come.”

While June is still the most popular month for weddings, according to a recent study by, September and October are quickly gaining in popularity. Sandra Lee offers some great last-minute planning tips this fall for brides and grooms-to-be:

* If renting a reception tent, create a romantic environment by purchasing sheering fabric and 2-inch ribbon from a local discount retailer to drape around the canopy. Create billows of fabric and hang from the ceiling, wrap around poles, and swag in the entryway.

* Whether throwing an indoor or outdoor reception, flowers help set the tone but can quickly add up. A typical flower budget is 15 percent of the overall cost of a wedding. Consider using some of the beautiful and realistic-looking silk flowers available today intermingled with arrangements of fresh flowers to keep the romance high and the costs low. The bride and groom can use the silk flowers in the home for years to come.

* Every bride wants to do something unique at her wedding. Create a dramatic, sweet-smelling entrance for guests by lining a walkway to the reception venue or reception tent with fresh rose petals. Also consider renting a bubble machine, available at retailers such as Wal-Mart, for some added ambiance and fun.

* Renting both table settings and white linen tablecloths can get expensive. Instead, consider purchasing clear glass plates from a discount retailer. Stack the salad plate on top of the dinner plate and place a large leaf between the two for a very pretty place setting. Buying plates is often less expensive than renting and the bride and groom can keep them for the years (and dinner parties) ahead.

* Remember to keep centerpieces either low enough or high enough so guests can see each other from across the table. A simple cake pedestal adorned with sugared fruits and a candle makes a beautiful and an inexpensive centerpiece. Add to the sugary sparkle by placing candles in votive candle holders to illuminate the centerpieces from underneath. Remember to place approximately half an inch of water in each candle holder or glass for easy removal of melted wax.

* For more formal wedding receptions, assigning guests to tables is considered proper etiquette but that doesn’t mean it has to be stuffy. Purchase large sugar cookies and pipe romantic words like “joy,” “hope,” “love,” and “forever” on each cookie. Place one cookie in each centerpiece to replace traditional numbered tables and have your place cards direct your guests to these romantically identified tables.

* Wedding favors that double as place cards can be made by purchasing sugar cookies from a local bakery that are iced in white. Pipe each guest’s names on the cookies in colored icing a day or two before the wedding. Place in cellophane bags, tied with a ribbon, and set at each guest’s place setting so guests know where to sit.

* Handmade keepsakes given out during the wedding reception are an easy and thoughtful way to thank the wedding party. Create beautiful, unique cards for the bridesmaids by purchasing simple white note cards, decorated with the wedding’s theme colors embellished with different fabrics or small trinkets purchased from a craft department. Write a cherished memory or personal note inside the card, which bridesmaids can keep for the years to come.

* And don’t forget the wedding cake, which can be very expensive, depending on the number of guests attending. Consider purchasing a decorated sheet cake from a local bakery in addition to a smaller tiered cake. Then marry them together as one elaborate cake with piping and rose petals. Brides and grooms may find that bakeries like those at a Wal-Mart Supercenter can make unique and cost-conscious tiered wedding cakes that are beautiful as well as delicious. Remember, all cakes are created equal — flour, sugar, and butter — so there’s no need to spend a fortune on one.