These days the average cost of a wedding in the United States is between $18,000 and $21,000. $21,000 is more money than I made my first year out of college!

Fortunately for those who don’t want to spend the cost of a new car on their wedding, there are options. When my husband and I got married almost 13 years ago, we spent less than $5000, and we have no regrets about our wedding. Here’s what we did to trim the costs.

Utilize People You Know

People love to help out for a wedding. We enlisted the help of a lot of people. We found that when we hired people we knew, they would often give us a discount or provide their services free of charge as a wedding gift to us. To be clear, we didn’t ask for or expect discounts, but we accepted services that were offered as wedding gifts.

A friend’s aunt made the bridesmaid dresses from fabric I found on sale. The bridesmaid dresses cost much less than they would have, if I’d used a bridal shop. That saved my bridesmaids a good deal of money.

A woman from our church made our wedding cake. It was absolutely gorgeous, and it was less expensive than the store-bought counterpart.

A friend of my husband’s took our wedding pictures. We got tons of pictures for a minimal price, and we got to keep the negatives. Most professional photographers won’t let you keep the negatives, so you’re stuck paying exorbitant prices if you want to order more pictures.

Friends and family donated their services in running the sound board for the ceremony and videotaping our wedding.

Saving On Decorations

Consider making your own decorations. That’s what I did, and I’m not even that crafty. They turned out great, and it saved a lot of money. I did splurge on flowers, because they were important to me (and my mom).

We also used balloons for the reception. Balloons are inexpensive, fun, and festive. They’re also easy to put up and take down. And kids love them too, so any children at your reception will be easily entertained.

We made our own wedding favors by wrapping Jordan Almonds in tulle and tying them with a pretty bow. And the birdseed that was thrown (in lieu of rice) was also wrapped in tulle by my friends and me.

We have friends who saved on decorations by holding their wedding in December. In December most churches are beautifully decorated with lights and red poinsettias. No other decorations are needed.

Saving on Food

Timing is important here. We held an afternoon wedding, so we didn’t have to provide dinner. If I remember correctly, we had some snack food for the guests and plenty of wedding cake and punch. And that’s all. Our reception was short and informal. We knew we’d want to move on to the honeymoon after the wedding was over. :)

For our rehearsal dinner, we had a barbeque in our church’s fellowship hall. It was my dad’s idea, and I was skeptical, but it turned out great. Some distant relatives ran the grill, friends of mine brought side dishes, and the meal was delicious. We also had room for everyone we wanted to invite to the rehearsal dinner, and we were in a relaxed atmosphere. My husband and I got to visit with every person at the rehearsal dinner without feeling rushed.

After the rehearsal dinner, friends and family pitched in to decorate the fellowship hall for our reception the next day.

Our wedding definitely wasn’t the high society event of the year, but that was OK with us. We wanted a relaxed time to celebrate with family and friends, and we didn’t want to begin our marriage deeply in debt. And we accomplished both of our goals.

The important thing to remember is that a wedding should be about marriage, and you don’t want to put your marriage in jeopardy by starting off in debt from your wedding. Stick to your budget, don’t go into debt, and have a great time.

Do you have any money-saving wedding tips? I’d love to hear them!