By KAYLEIGH GADDOR
Whether you're recently engaged or a bit further along in the planning process, you've probably encountered a little bit of wedding-related sticker shock already. To say weddings are expensive is an understatement. The average cost of a wedding hit nearly $30,000 in 2013, according to CNN. If that number scares you, you're not alone. Many engaged couples opt to plan their nuptials for a fraction of the cost. Who wants to start off their marriage in debt anyway? Here are a few strategies that may help you plan your big day without breaking the bank.
1. Make a budget ahead of time.
Sit down with your fiancé and figure out what a reasonable budget looks like for your finances. If you start spending without looking at the full picture, you might spend more than expected. Costs can vary wildly between different states, so you'll have to find out what kind of rates vendors from your area charge. Whether you're planning on a shoestring budget, or you've got a little more cash to work with, it's a good idea to keep tabs on your spending and try to prevent costs from spiraling out of control. Figure out what aspects of the wedding are most important to you as a couple, and allocate accordingly.
2. Choose an off-peak time.
A Saturday evening reception at an upscale hotel ballroom is very desirable, and the prices reflect this. Consider getting married on a Friday night with a cocktail reception or a Sunday morning with a brunch reception. By taking advantage of less sought-after times, you'll likely have a wider selection of vendors to choose from too. Similarly, consider months that are typically less popular for weddings. A winter wedding could save you a bundle compared to a summer affair, and there are plenty of beautiful winter themes for your décor.
3. Pick a fun or funky venue.
Consider renting a pavilion in an outdoor space if the weather allows. Or try local attractions like museums, art galleries or even a brewery - non-traditional venues may save you money on decorations, and are less likely to limit you to a pricey list of "preferred" vendors. You'll also be able to choose a locale that better reflects your personality as a couple, or highlights the local charm of the city.
4. Trim the guest list.
While it's important to be surrounded by your loved ones on your special day, an inflated guest list is an easy way to blow your budget. Having a low guest count saves on food, invitations, favors and party rental costs. Having a smaller bridal party is another way to keep your expenses in check; you'll save big on floral bouquets and gifts. By keeping the guest list short, you'll also be surrounded by your closest friends and family - not distant relatives or colleagues - on your special day, giving the affair a more intimate feeling.
5. Get creative.
Find certain elements that you can do yourself. Maybe you're not too crafty, but you know how to make a mean playlist that'll keep your guests dancing all night long - forgo the DJ and set up an iPod stereo! Of course, you don't have to make it all happen yourself. Enlisting the help of your wedding party, family members and friends can also enrich and personalize the wedding day. From putting together table settings to scouting out local thrift stores for vases, there are many creative ways to save a buck and create memories with loved ones at the same time.
Did you plan your wedding on a tight budget? Whether you held your nuptials at a friend or relative's home, skipped the fancy sit-down meal, or made your own floral arrangements, we'd love to hear how you did it! Reply in the comments to share your experiences.
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