Wedding planning on a budget

How much does a wedding cost these days? When you include the engagement ring, photography, dress, honeymoon and flowers, the total can really add up…fast. On average, couples spend about $22,000 to make their wedding dreams come true.

Of course, you can spend as little or as much as you want—what you're really looking for is a memorable occasion that will carry you into a happy marriage. Financial planner Jean Chatzky teams up with wedding planners and recent brides to share money-saving secrets and splurge-worthy purchases.
Overbudget for your wedding.

Celebrity wedding planner David Tutera and Carley Roney, co-founder and editor in chief of online wedding resource The Knot, recommend that every engaged couple overbudget for a wedding.

When you're allocating the money, make sure to reserve about 10 percent in case you go over—it is very likely that you will.
Use computerized calligraphy on invitations.

Don't blow your budget on custom invitations. Rather than hiring someone to address the envelopes by hand, save a bundle by using computerized calligraphy. Splurge on good paper instead.
Use a wedding budget calculator.

Use a wedding budget calculator (you can find them online) to figure out how much should be spent on each expense. Then, start saving for the big day.

Twelve to 18 months in advance of the wedding day, figure out as accurately as you can what it's going to cost you. Divide the total by the number of paychecks you'll get before then and start automatically shuttling that much money into savings. You can even open a separate savings account if it'll help you keep your fingers off!
Save money with low floral centerpieces.

Flower costs can add up quickly. Lower your florist bill by opting for low centerpieces, which are half the price as tall flower arrangements. Plus, guests actually prefer this less expensive option! Low centerpieces allow talking across the table with no trouble.
Consider a destination wedding.

Consider a destination wedding. These are often mistakenly pegged as the more expensive option, says Katie Dunsworth, a recent bride and member of Jean's Smart Cookies Money Group. The truth is, if you pick an all-inclusive location, as she did, it can actually be cheaper because you save on food and drinks.
Serve a signature cocktail.

Save big on your bar bill by serving signature cocktails rather than offering a full bar. Splurge on keeping the bar open for the whole party.
Bargain at the bridal boutique.

Bargain, bargain, bargain! You can negotiate for everything…from flowers to the band to the reception venue. Katie says she got a deal on her dress and the bridesmaid dresses by purchasing them from the same shop.
Cut a small wedding cake in photos.

If the cost of a big, beautiful wedding cake leaves you sugar-shocked, opt for a not-so-fancy sheet cake big enough to serve all your guests. Then, splurge on a smaller, stylish cake to cut for photos.
Cut back on dinner courses.

Cut back on things that guests won't notice. Carley, The Knot's editor, suggests eliminating a couple of courses from the dinner or only buying flowers that are in season.

Also, don't be afraid to put on the brakes. If a voice in the back of your head is starting to tell you the spending is getting out of control, listen carefully. You don't want to end up resenting the money you spend. Nor do you want to overindulge so much that you, the guest of honor, and all the participants forget the real meaning of the milestone you're celebrating.
Celebrate your love.

Don't lose sight of the purpose. The wedding is to celebrate your relationship, so focus on creating a memorable time as opposed to simply a lavish one. "If a guest can go to a wedding and walk away knowing more about the bride and groom, that's what makes a wedding much more unique," says wedding planner David.