They meet, fall in love, and then get engaged. All of these events are leading up to the big day…the wedding day. While many couples see this as a natural progression of their relationship, many don’t consider the financial aspects of their union until it’s too late. Planning a wedding can be incredibly costly, time-consuming and complicated. Many couples and their families maxed out their credit cards for this one day, which is important; however, it shouldn’t put you deeply in debt.

For an average wedding with 125 guests, Consolidated Credit’s Wedding Planner estimates that couples will spend more than $17,500 on their wedding. That’s approximately $140 per person. More than half of the costs are going to go towards:

  • Food & Service
  • Reception Venue/Rentals
  • Beverage & Bartender
  • Wedding Dress & Alterations

However, with a little planning and frugal know-how you can cut your costs and save hundreds of dollars on your wedding.

Food & Service

Cut down your guest list. During the planning process, you need to take a hard look at your guest list and decide if you really need 125, 100 or 75 guests. The more guests you have, the more your wedding is ultimately going to cost. For example, if you cut down your guest list from 125 to 75, you could save $2,300 on food and service for your wedding.

Be selective on your menu choices. Seafood and filet tend to be more expensive than pasta, chicken or vegetarian dishes. If you display the food in an unusual way or opt for more exotic choices, i.e. mushroom ravioli, spring greens or apricot chicken, you can still have the look of an expensive reception without paying the price.

Beware of banquets. Many wedding planners push banquets as a way to save on service costs. However, it’s been shown that your guests tend to eat more and the food costs might end up being more expensive then the extra servers at a sit down dinner. It’s always best to compare your options. Instead of a banquet, consider going with family-style dishes for each table. It will limit the grazing and still cut down on the servers.

Reception Venue/Rentals

Have your ceremony and reception at the same place. Some venues can hold both your wedding and reception at the same place. During the scheduling, see if they’ll offer a discount for doing everything with their venue. In addition, you can save on transportation costs because you don’t have to move the wedding party from one venue to another. Also, some venues provide food and service packages in addition to renting their location. You may be able to save money by bundling everything together.

Be time conscious when scheduling the venue. Typically, a reception will be scheduled for four to five hours. However, if you rent it for three hours, you can save time and money. Don’t worry, three hours is plenty of time to eat, dance and give speeches. Also, you can escape that must sooner to your honeymoon.

Beware of an outdoor reception. While many public parks and local gardens can help you save on venue costs, you also have to consider the additional rentals needed. You might need tents, tables and chairs. Your caterers might have to bring additional equipment for food and service. Your DJ or band might need to make some adjustments depending on the electrical outlets available.

Beverage & Bartender

Be frugal when opening the bar. Stocking a complete bar will significantly raise your beverage costs, even if you don’t use top shelf liquor or choose to do it yourself. Instead serve beer and wine at your event. Make sure that your choices complement the food being served, and consider closing the bar an hour before everyone is scheduled to leave. It will give them time to sober up and save you money on the liquor.

Not everyone likes to drink. Make sure that you have two or three inexpensive, non-alcoholic drinks available at your wedding reception. Lemonade, ice tea and sparkling water with fruit wedges make nice additions to your beverage selection. Try to avoid serving soda. It dehydrates your guests and gets them to drink more.

Wedding Dress & Alterations

Go for a classic look. Buying a simple dress is oftentimes less expensive than buying a dress with lots of beading, bows or other decorations. You’ll have a timeless look that isn’t outdated 20 years from now when you look at your photos. Also, you’ll save on alterations because the tailor won’t have to worry about disrupting the flow of the gown when hemlines or seams need to be brought in.

Don’t buy your dress now; wait for the sales in October, November or December. Usually bridal shops will see a reduction in foot traffic as the holidays get closer. During this time, they’ll oftentimes hold end of the year sales to clear inventory. If you find the dress that you love at a price that’s out of your budget, don’t be afraid to ask questions like: Do you have any upcoming sales? If I buy the display model, can I get a discount?

Make sure to give yourself enough time to comparison shop, and find the best prices. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Enlist a few close friends and relatives to help you shop; however, make sure that they don’t take over the process. Your wedding helpers should know your tastes and respect your budget. This is your day but remember, it’s just a day. Stick within your budget and start your life together debt free, not saddled with wedding debts.