Your wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event, hopefully, that deserves to be celebrated no holds barred. However, the venue, flowers, catering, music, photography, and all the other expenses can add up if you’re not careful. The Knot 2018 Real Weddings Study discovered the average cost for a wedding in the United States is $33,931. That doesn’t include the honeymoon. 

You and your partner don’t need to begin your new life together in debt. Here are 6 tips for planning an unforgettable — and affordable — wedding:

 

Limit the Guest List

Your guest list is going to affect almost all the other aspects of your wedding. Before you plan anything else, decide on the total number of people you want to invite with your partner. Stick to it, and don’t feel obligated to invite acquaintances.

 

Find a Unique Venue

Once you have an idea of how many guests you will have, you can start researching venues. If you or someone you know has a beautiful home or backyard, consider getting married there. An art gallery or museum is another option that might have an event space available to rent. Don’t be afraid to stray from the obvious venues.

 

Make Your Own Invitations

After you’ve secured the venue, you can send out the invitations. If you’re creative or know someone who is, save money by designing and printing your own invitations. Instead of paying for postage for guests to RSVP, set up a wedding website or email address for them to send their responses. To save even more money and the environment, go completely digital. You can find several email wedding invitation services online from which to choose.

 

Hire a Budding Photographer

The Knot’s study found that the average cost of a wedding photographer is more than $2,500. Remember, that price is usually for the photographer’s services only and does not include the cost for prints. If you live in or near a town with a community college or university, find out if it has a photography program. Professors can often recommend talented students who would be more than willing to photograph your special day at a nominal cost to add in exchange for the professional experience to add to their resume and portfolio.

 

Be Creative with Flowers and Décor

Flowers and décor are frivolous expenses that can be limited. Rather than having large, lavish bouquets for the bride and attendants, carry single flowers. Or forego fresh flowers altogether and make a bouquet out of brooches, fabric flowers, or origami flowers.

For centerpieces and other décor, visit your local dollar store to find vases and candles that can be dressed up with ribbon and other notions. Depending on what you use for centerpieces, they can also double as wedding party gifts or favors for special guests.

 

Keep the Reception Simple

In reality, the actual wedding isn’t the bulk of the cost. The reception venue, catering, bar, and cake make up more than half of the wedding budget according to The Knot study. When reserving the wedding venue, see if it can double as the reception venue.

By scheduling your wedding for early afternoon, you can serve a variety of hors d’oeuvres instead of a full buffet or sit-down dinner. Also, rather than having an open bar, serve a signature cocktail or buy cases of wine and beer to serve your guests.

As an alternative to a tiered wedding cake, serve cupcakes, doughnuts, or other bite-sized desserts. Another trick is to have a faux wedding cake made from Styrofoam for display with a real top layer that you and your spouse can cut for photo ops. Then, serve your guests slices of a more affordable sheet cake.

 

Happily Ever After

These are just a few ideas on how to cut back on wedding expenses. By limiting non-essentials, you can splurge on your rings and your honeymoon. Remember, your marriage is the most important part of your wedding day, and your relationship should be your greatest investment.