how to save on wedding costs

The average American wedding costs $30,000... Necessary?

Spring is wedding season, so lots of brides and grooms (and their families) are preparing to shell out big bucks for that trip down the aisle. It shouldn’t cost so much to get married, but according to a recent survey from TheKnot.com, the average price of a wedding in the U.S. has reached $30,000.

Depending on your budget, your personal tastes and your views about spending money, dropping 30 grand on a one-day celebration—albeit a very important one—can either seem like a reckless waste of cash or a bargain for a memorable life event.

No matter what your philosophy, no one has unlimited funds. So if you plan to get married anytime soon, you’d be wise to look for money-saving strategies as you prepare for the Big Day. Here are seven ideas to cut wedding costs, save money, and still have a wonderful wedding you’ll look back on sans regret.

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1. Pick the right date—preferably off-peak season

If you’re already committed to getting hitched and have set the date, you may be locked into multiple contracts and unable to easily change your wedding date. But if you haven’t yet set the date, think carefully about this aspect of wedding planning, because it can make a huge difference in the prices you pay for everything.

In a nutshell, May through October is typically the peak wedding season, and you’ll find that prices for services, hotels, and other wedding-related items are at their highest during these times.

It’s also harder to find banquet space and catering services at a reasonable price during peak season. On the other hand, if you plan your wedding during January or March, you’ll be able to get more reasonable prices from wedding service providers. Ditto for various dates in November, December, and even April.

2. Trim the guest list

Sometimes couples start off a wedding planning to invite almost everybody they know. That’s a big mistake—especially if you have relatives such as parents or grandparents who want to add sizeable numbers of people to the guest list.

Instead, take a strong position on the guest list and try to keep it to a manageable figure. Err on the side of caution and use a low number or conservative range when you come up with how many is the “right” or “perfect” number of people to invite to your wedding.

You’re only going to be wearing that dress for a few hours, so why spend thousands of dollars on something that probably won’t make an appearance again?

3. Limit the extras

Costs of small items such as party favors, wedding invitations, save the date cards, place cards, and even centerpieces can really add up. Remember that you’re buying in bulk and will probably end up purchasing several hundred of a single item. Calculate how much you are spending and choose lower-priced alternatives whenever possible. And remember: sometimes less is more.

4. Rent the wedding dress

You’re only going to be wearing that dress for a few hours, so why spend thousands of dollars on something that probably won’t make an appearance again?

Instead of splurging on a wedding gown, consider renting one that fits you perfectly and still makes you feel beautiful and special. Make sure you take plenty of pictures to capture those special moments in your dress and you’ll still have a lifetime of great memories.

5. Buy a wedding cake with a faux-bottom

It’s way too easy to overspend on the dessert table and end up spending hundreds, even thousands, of dollars on the wedding cake. Remember that many guests will pass up dessert after a big meal and a long night of dancing, socializing and drinking. So look into buying a faux-bottom wedding cake so you are only paying for cake that will actually get eaten.

6. Explore the option of a having a relative or friend cater

Are there any chefs, caterers, or gourmet cooks in your social circle? If possible, consider having a friend or family member manage all aspects of catering for the wedding and you’ll be able to save a significant amount on food and décor. Spend a day with them to create a menu and pick out table settings. Just make sure everything is well done. Think: nice but low-cost, not tacky.

7. Choose the right décor

Roses, orchids, and other exotic flowers are going to eat away your wedding budget. Peonies and other less-popular flowers can still create the beautiful backdrop and setting you want, especially at guest tables, but at a fraction of the price. Even better, consider alternatives to traditional flower arrangements and have something else as a centerpiece. Simple glass dishes or vases with candles can make for good, less expensive centerpieces.

By being flexible and creative, you can have an amazing wedding at a price you can afford, and that won’t leave you and your honey with debt.

Lynnette Khalfani-Cox is a personal finance expert and co-founder of the free financial advice site, AskTheMoneyCoach.com. Follow Lynnette on Twitter @themoneycoach and Google Plus.