You can have the wedding of your dreams without gutting the guest list, serving hot dogs, or choosing a Tuesday afternoon in January. The trick is knowing where to cut corners.
Step 1: Don't be a slave to labels Consider regular gowns sold at department stores; a gown doesn't have to be labeled "bridal" to make it so. Check out the bargains on eBay and in upscale consignment shops, too. You can even rent a gown.
Step 2: Rethink the reception Consider having your reception at a restaurant; it can be less expensive than holding it in a catering hall. Or, have a cocktail party with tapas and other small bites rather than a sit-down dinner.
TIP: If you're having an evening reception, consider ending it at 10 p.m. instead of midnight. Most people begin to leave after the cake is served anyway.
Step 3: Bring your own booze If you're holding your wedding in a hall, negotiate with the caterer about bringing your own liquor. Just make sure you can return unopened bottles for a refund.
Step 4: Have your cake Order a square cake; it yields more portions than a round one. Or have a small, beautiful cake for show and serve guests from sheet cakes kept in the kitchen. You can even nix the cake altogether and ask friends to pitch in to create a cupcake tree.
Step 5: Be frugal with the flowers Use flowers that are in season. Have the bridal party carry ribbon-tied bouquets – they're less expensive than arrangements held together with wire. Skip the flower centerpieces in favor of bowls with floating tea candles from the dollar store.
TIP: If your reception venue has multiple event rooms, ask another couple about buying flowers in bulk with you.
Step 6: Don't stop the music Create a playlist and hook up your iPod to the sound system instead of hiring a band or a DJ. Or call local conservatories or colleges to find music students who might play for minimal compensation.
Step 7: Do everyone a favor Instead of providing wedding favors, make a donation to charity on your guests' behalf.
Step 8: All you need is love Surround yourself with the people you love. That's the most important wedding detail of all.
FACT: Between 2007 and 2009, the average cost of an American wedding decreased by 30 percent.