You don’t need to skimp on the wedding of your dreams or go deeply into debt to pay for it. By planning ahead, choosing wisely and prioritizing what’s truly important, you can say “I Do” without stressing over wedding costs. Here’s how:

Trim the guest list. When it comes to saving money on your overall wedding costs, one area where you have the most control is the size of your guest list. Remember, the number of people you invite impacts not just food and beverage costs, but also the amount you’ll spend on invitations, favors, tables, centerpieces, wedding cake, and so on.

Time it right. Think off-season and mid-week, and you’ll save a bundle!

You can shave thousands of dollars off the venue price by choosing an unusual time of year to get married. Second, think beyond Saturdays. If you can find a church with a vacancy on a Sunday, grab it! Venue prices drop dramatically with just a one-day switch.

You can also opt for a mid-week wedding that precedes a national holiday date, like July 4th. This way, your guests will still be able to enjoy the evening without rushing home.

Skip the cake. A slice of dessert for $2.50 that doesn’t even taste good? Meh, who needs it? Here are some other ideas:

  • Fake your cake. If you can’t stomach the idea of a cake-less wedding, ask your baker to fake it for you by creating a false cardboard bottom for your cake and only baking a genuine top layer or two. You’ll get the same look without the huge cost.
  • Set up a dessert bar. You can serve hot waffles, brownies or chocolate chip cookies with ice cream, caramel sauce and a selection of other fun toppings. You’ll pamper your guests at a fraction of the cost!
  • Serve a sheet cake instead. Your guests will be happy to savor a slice – even without all that fondant and frosting.

Save on your gown. Look for a pre-owned gown on eBay, OnceWed.com or PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com. You can often find a beautiful gown for under $100! Or consider renting your gown at online shops like Rent the Runway

Vary your venue. Save by choosing a venue that has no outside contracts. This way, you can shop around for the cheapest caterer, photographer and DJ.

Another tip – consider having your wedding at a budget-friendly venue like the courthouse, a park, or at home. Other ideas include:

  • College campus. You might even be able to snag a student discount!
  • Vacation home.  Rent a vacation home and let it serve as your wedding venue, lodging for out-of-town guests and a honeymoon destination for after the wedding.