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6 tips to keep wedding costs down from expert Mindy Weiss

Simone & Martin/file 2010

The scene set by Mindy Weiss for Hilary Duff’s wedding.

Big name event and wedding planner Mindy Weiss has overseen the elegant and extravagant nuptials of stars Ellen DeGeneres, Gwen Stefani, and Hilary Duff. Brides-to-be will have the opportunity to meet Weiss (right) as she signs copies of her new book, “The Wedding Planner & Organizer,’’ at David’s Bridal in Danvers on Feb. 2. Until then, here’s a sample of her expert advice for keeping costs down on the big day.

Don’t rush into anything. “The first thing I always say is, take a deep breath as soon as you get engaged. What happens is brides get so excited that they start hiring people before looking at the whole cost. When they do realize how much money they have, they spend a big chunk of their budget on something expensive when they could have saved. Slow down and really know how much money you have for food and alcohol. Figure out a location, and then food and alcohol costs. That’s your biggest chunk.’’

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An open bar can be overrated, but a signature cocktail can be fun. “Some people just do a soft bar, which is wine, beer, sodas, and, if the budget allows, you can add champagne. . . . [Or] if you have a soft bar with a signature cocktail, I think it works. It was such a huge trend for a while there and it’s faded a little, but we’re still doing some martini bars. What’s huge now is tequila. . . . It’s not always a budget-friendly thing, but if you’re going to have one signature drink, do tequila.’’

Look at your linens. “You want to see what the venue offers - sometimes they already have good linens and napkins. Then look at their dishes, cloths, and whatever else the venue offers before you start renting. Sometimes it’s not expensive to rent a colored napkin if the venue only has white. What I like to do is go to flea markets and buy vintage napkins for 50 cents to $2. It’s a cool look to have all mismatched napkins.’’

Consider the food. “When you order wedding cake, they usually charge per piece. If you have 200 guests, you’ll have a lot of cake left over. Order for 25 people less than you have attending. Also, back East and probably in Boston, I know they still do a smorgasbord with a huge cocktail hour and so much food. You should still offer food during your cocktail hour because you don’t want people to get drunk. But it’s better to have just a few small foods and a nicer dinner. Apps pass by you, but dinner, you sit down and look at it.’’

Music to your ears. “If you have the choice, live music is best during the ceremony but now it’s very chic to have a DJ during your wedding. The bride and groom want to dance to the original songs, not bands covering. DJs tend to be a lot less money than a band, but you need to have a classy DJ. Ask for referrals and samples of weddings they’ve done. They have to know how to do announcements, you can’t have them there saying, ‘Hey, give it up for the salad!’ ’’

What were Weiss’s standout weddings of the year? “[Backstreet Boys’] A.J. McLean’s wedding because it was all goth. It was very unique and unusual for me. We had handpainted ‘blood’ going down some of the linens and cocktails. It was their concept and they were really into it. I don’t think there are any bad ideas out there, I like signature weddings, so people know who’s wedding they’re at. And then we did [actress] Tamera Mowry’s wedding. It was in Napa and her bridesmaids wore that mauvey-pink color. It was so beautiful and had a wine theme to it with a lot of wild flowers.’’

Meet Mindy Weiss at David’s Bridal at 8-10 Newbury St. in Danvers on Feb. 2 from 7-8:30 p.m. RSVP is optional at mindydanvers@dbi.com. Rachel Raczka can be reached at rraczka@boston.com.

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