bride and groomI know firsthand the excitement when your son or daughter announces his or her engagement – and the work that goes into planning a wedding, not to mention the money!

With my daughter’s wedding just behind us, the price of all things wedding has been on my and my husband’s mind for quite some time. The cost of an average wedding seems to continue to grow, which is no surprise with so much décor inspiration found on Pinterest!

If you don’t have loads of cash to work with, you can stay within budget and still have the wedding of your dreams. After helping plan both my son’s and my daughter’s weddings, I recommend your first step is to prioritize what is most important about the Big Day. For some, that may be the dress, and for others, the photographer or the venue. Regardless of what your main priority is, spend money on that, and try to save everywhere else!

Here are some simple ways I would suggest to cut down on your wedding expenses:

1. If possible, keep the guest list small. More guests mean a bigger church, a bigger venue with more decor, and a lot more food and drinks, which adds up! (However, if you have a large family, paring down the guest list may not be a feasible option, so then you might need to prioritize this over other areas.)

2. Do it yourself. There are so many things you can DIY, and it can be a fun experience to create some of your wedding items with your bridesmaids or family members. You could make your own wedding programs, invitations, jewelry, décor, bridal party gifts, and much more.

3. Compare wedding vendors. Particularly pay attention to packages and what you will actually need. Perhaps you don’t need that full day from your photographer if you’ll have friends snapping pictures of the bridal party getting ready, or of everyone dancing at the reception. Choosing a smaller, more basic wedding cake can save a lot of money. Choosing in-season or local flowers could shave a lot off your florist bill.

4. Skip it altogether. Truly, Save the Date cards may not be a necessity, unless you are expecting a lot of out-of-town guests. You don’t need elaborate chair coverings or a photo booth. And no one will notice if you don’t leave favors on everyone’s place settings (which usually either get forgotten or thrown away, anyway).  There are many aspects of weddings that can be skipped completely while not taking away from the beauty of the day.

5. Cut down the amount of flowers. Flowers can really add up, especially if you choose larger arrangements as centerpieces at your reception. My daughter-in-law did price comparisons between florists and was amazed at the differences in pricing. While many brides want beautiful flowers, she had other wedding priorities, so she selected one of the least expensive florists, but she was not disappointed — her flowers were absolutely gorgeous.

6. Shop sales. If you keep an eye on when certain stores are holding sales, or wait for a season when dress shops have sales, you can get things like décor, jewelry, accessories and even your dress, for less.

7. Weigh options associated with food and alcohol. For starters, finalize exactly how the caterer charges, and discuss whether you’ll want a buffet meal, sit-down dinner or heavy appetizers. Weigh the options of open bar or select drinks. As I found out firsthand, the food and drink can easily be the biggest expense if you’re having a large wedding!

Every bride has different priorities; for some, the wedding cake is a huge deal, and to others, it’s just a cake! In my family, we first decided what type of wedding it would be — specifically the venue we had in mind — because that dictates much of the cost. Then we went over everything we wanted for the wedding, and if we didn’t need it, we didn’t do it.

Wedding planning can be a wonderful time of dreaming and excitement, and staying within budget helps alleviate a lot of the stress involved with planning such a momentous affair!