According to theweddingreport.com, the average cost for a wedding in the United States in 2011 was $25,631. Spending that kind of cash on a one-day event may be reasonable for some, but there are many of us who hope to tie the knot without going into debt or wiping out our savings. (For related reading, see Hidden Cost Of Weddings.)

SEE: Budgeting Basics

Set a Budget that Works for You
Picking a number you can afford is really only half of the battle when setting a wedding budget. Saying you're going to spend $15,000 is only realistic if you know what wedding services cost in your area. Do some preliminary research to find out the average cost of your big ticket items, such as reception, food, alcohol, attire, flowers, photography and any other service you'd really like to include. Don't forget to consider smaller costs, right down to your manicure and shoes, so that every cost is accounted for in your total spending plan.

Prioritize Your Spending
You need to have an honest conversation with your spouse-to-be about what is most important to you - while it may not matter to your fiancé what kind of venue your reception takes place in, it may be something that is very important to you. Create a list of every expense you can think of for your wedding, then sit down and decide what's most important and allocate your budget accordingly. This will not be the same for every couple, but you may find that it's more important to have fewer guests and include all of the luxuries you were hoping for, or that a simpler wedding with all of your extended friends and family will be what works for you.

Skip (or Alter) Certain "Must-Haves"
It is very easy to get caught up in what your wedding "must-haves" should be. For example, you may spend hundreds of dollars on wedding invitations. These works of art may be exactly what you wanted and something you want to prioritize. But if not, there are many ways you can reduce this cost. Consider creating your own, printing them online for a low cost or using a website for your RSVPs, thus cutting the cost of RSVP cards and their postage.

Having a large, white wedding cake is traditional but if it's not important to you, consider skipping it altogether. Many catering or reception dinners include a dessert or you could downsize to a smaller cake just for the couple to cut. Other options include cupcakes, cake pops or other treats, but having these professionally done can be almost as expensive as the original cake. Keep in mind that many of your guests will not have a piece of cake or cupcake, especially if they have already had dessert as part of their meal. (For more information, check out Have A Princess Wedding On A Pauper Budget.)

DIY – but be Careful
It has been a trend for a while now to do it yourself when it comes to your wedding. It's a great idea, but it is important to be honest about how much time and effort you will have to dedicate to these details in the days or weeks before your wedding. Make sure you're honest about how much time it will cost, and how much money you'll actually be saving – if you end up frustrated or out of time and have to pay a professional to make your invitations at the last minute, you'll end up spending more than if you had gone that route in the first place.

Enlist your friends and family in projects, if they are willing to help out. Have your wedding party over for a night of wine and making guest favors, or ask your aunts to each supply a dozen cupcakes the day of your wedding in lieu of a gift. Just make sure to give plenty of notice and that you're OK if the end result is more homemade than professional.

The Bottom Line
The truth of the matter is that while this is a momentous occasion worth celebrating, it's the marriage that will last, not the wedding day. Think about what you remember from weddings you've attended; chances are you won't recall what the centerpieces even were. What you hopefully do remember, and what you will hopefully remember from your own special day, is the love between the newly married couple and being surrounded by the people who are important to you, and that's not something you purchase. (To learn more, read Revealing The Hidden Costs Of Weddings.)

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