When it comes to weddings, people usually spare no expense for what in theory is supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime event. That's changing in the current economic slowdown.

According to an unscientific yet enlightening survey done by the National Association of Catering Executives, people are starting to keep a closer eye on their spending for the big day. Roughly half of caterers saw a decline in overall wedding spending, 51% saw an increase in Friday and Sunday bookings to avoid pricey Saturday night affairs. and more than 60% noticed people cutting back on luxury items. Most caterers haven't seen an increase in outright cancellations, though, which isn't surprising given the social stigma that would create.

Consumers, though, will watch costs in other ways such as reducing the number of guests they invite, cutting back on the hors d'oeuvres, or having a lower-priced bar, according to Daniel Briones, the group's president. Caterers also are also responding to increasing numbers of consumers that drive harder bargains to get the party they want at the price they want, he said.

"There is a greater competitiveness among those who sell wedding events," he said, adding that people can save 30% by scheduling their affair during off-peak times. "(Consumers) are pushing for greater flexibility."

So the lesson here for people planning the big day is to ask lots of questions, because you might like some of the answers you get.

Freelance writer Jonathan Berr edits the blog Ketchup and Eggs

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