Wedding season is upon us as winter gives way to spring and summer. One thing about weddings in Egypt, though, is that their lavishness and glamour is only matched by how expensive they are. By the time you’ve decided on venues, decorations, themes, menus and guest lists, you’re handed receipts with astronomical figures.

As things continue to get more and more expensive, many couples are now looking to save money from their weddings and pool them towards their honeymoons or future lives together. A key element to save on when planning your wedding is the location. Weddings have become late night affairs at the ballrooms of five-star hotels, but below are some fresher ideas for options that are cheaper, more intimate and just plain different.

These venues are becoming more and more popular, especially as the options become more diverse. Most gated compounds have clubhouses overlooking expansive greenery and water that are available to book for events. Whether it’s Arabella, Kattameya Heights, Seasons, Palm Hills, Uptown Cairo or JW Marriott, their clubhouses offer you a range of prices that are below the average for wedding venues in Egypt and give you the chance for a nice morning or sunset wedding. They don’t go that far from traditional weddings, but offer more flexibility in the number of guests you want to invite, how big of a wedding you want it to be and who you want to cater. They also make for beautiful wedding portraits!

Plein Air
Plein Air is a villa at Orabi that has been organizing weddings and events for a while now. Fully equipped, it gives you the option of an indoor, outdoor or mixed wedding at whatever time of the day you choose. Similar to the clubhouses, Plein Air plan everything for you, including the food, wedding cake and couple’s kosha if you want them to. Significantly cheaper than most mainstream wedding venues, Plein Air also gives you a private and cozy place for your event. Check their list of options and prices on their website.

Get Out of Town
With the weather getting warmer, we’re all itching to get out of the city for even a weekend. Plan for an out-of-town wedding that’ll give you and all your guests a weekend (or just day) away from the tension and hassle of the ever-bustling city as well as a lovely view. Take your pick from hotels like Movenpick in Sokhna and a wide variety of first class hotels in Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada, Castle Zaman in Sinai, or book your favorite party location in Gouna for a special night. They cost significantly less than most venues in the city and, with tourism waning in the past few months, they’re offering a lot of special deals. As the summer approaches, you could also consider a beach wedding at one of Sahel’s spectacular locations.

Private Restaurant/Bar
These are perfect for couples who’d rather have a small, cozy reception than a big fancy wedding, or couples who are getting remarried and want to celebrate with a limited number of their nearest and dearest. Booking a restaurant or bar for the night will always be a lot cheaper than investing in a hotel ballroom or renting a fancy location. You save money on the rent, on the decorations and the additional catering. Suggestions include Le Pacha boat in Zamalek or Cairo Capital Club in Garden City, but always pick your favorites to keep it authentically you!

Nile Cruise
Another option for an intimate gathering is to book a cruise on the Nile and enjoy the majestic view. Most of these cruises have their own menus and set prices. You can decide how long you want it to be and what time of day. Although there will be a maximum amount of guests that varies according to the cruise in question, there’s the added benefit of guaranteeing that your guests will have to be on time to get on before it sets sail!

Your Own Backyard
This is probably one of the more convenient options for a smaller and cheaper wedding. If your house has a garden or backyard, have your wedding there! There’ll be a lot of things to do, like setting up a tent and tables, decorating the space, setting up a dance area if you want and arranging for catering. You do save  a lot from not having to pay rent, though, and you get to choose everything from A to Z. You could also have your zaffa on the house’s staircase for a much more personal and intimate celebration. At the end of the day, you call all the shots – about choices, prices and everything – and that’s the most important thing of all.