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The recession has left a lot of victims in its wake - investment banks, mortgage brokers, homeowners, weddings…wait, what? That's right. The Association for Wedding Professionals International calculates the average cost for a wedding in the U.S. at between $21,000 and $24,000.

However, according to Tucson, Arizona-based consulting firm The Wedding Report, Inc., couples planning their weddings are significantly scaling back spending on their day of bliss by at least 10% this year, on top of an already larger cutback in 2008.

If you're knee-deep in wedding planning and worried about your wallet, get with your soon-to-be-better half and decide on your wedding day priorities. Do you want to splurge on a band and spend less on your wardrobes? Knowing what's important will help make the wedding spending decisions easier. Next, make a budget and consider a few cost-cutting ideas:

  • Go Off-Peak
    The traditional "wedding season" is May through October. So it stands to reason by choosing a date between November and April you'll have a better chance of saving money on a wide range of services - photographers, hotel ballrooms, catering, etc.

  • Be a "Budget Bride"
    With wedding dresses running on average $1,075 (Brides.com American Wedding Study 2009), look around for less expensive alternatives to the high-price bridal boutiques. You may find a big bargain at a bridal outlet store, sample sale, upscale consignment store or even online through Craigslist.com, Encorebridal.com, or PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com.

    Other options include renting a bridal gown or looking for a dress made out of less-expensive fabrics.

  • Barter and Advertise
    Do you have items or skills you could offer one of your wedding vendors? In this economy, business owners are more open than ever to bartering for goods and services. Consider asking vendors if they would be willing to knock some money off the price tag in exchange for some tasteful advertising in your program or onsite at the ceremony or reception.

  • Markdown the Décor
    Replace expensive floral arrangements with much less expensive candles, photos, or similar centerpieces for reception tables. (To learn more about how to cut costs on your special day, read Have A Charming (And Cheap) Wedding.)

  • Cut Back on Booze
    Alcohol is one of the priciest items for any wedding reception. Opt to serve beer and wine (no hard liquor) instead.

    If you're comfortable with the notion, consider a cash bar so that guests are paying for their libations instead of sticking you with the tab. Check with the reception site to see if you can bring in your own alcoholic beverages - doing so can save you a bundle.

  • Watch the Clock
    According to TheKnot.com wedding reception-related charges count for an average 46% of a brides' total budget. One way to lower those costs is to change the time of your ceremony and reception to brunch or early afternoon so that you can serve appetizers or a less expensive meal rather than a full-course dinner. (For related reading, see Revealing The Hidden Costs Of Weddings.)

    Wonder if your guests will be put off? Not likely. According to the AP-Brides.com poll nearly 60% of those polled would rather be served chicken breast than caviar and a solid 20% prefer "pigs in a blanket."

  • Let Them Eat (Cup)cake
    According to the National Association of Catering Executives (NACE), cupcakes are one of the top wedding trends for this summer. Not only are they typically less expensive than a full-size wedding cake but you can get them made to order from grocery stores and warehouse clubs (such as Sam's Club, BJs or Costco).

  • "DIY"
    Make your own invitations, create your own bridesmaids' bouquets, do your own hair and makeup, or ask a relative to play the piano or sing at your service. Look for resources and relationships you already have to trim expenses.

  • Pass On the Wedding Favors
    Your wedding was gift enough for family and friends. Don't spend more money on candies or candles for them to take home.

And if all else fails take the ultimate wedding cost-cutting plunge and elope! (For more great tips, check out Have A Princess Wedding On A Pauper Budget.)

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