Your wedding should be the happiest day of your life. Unfortunately, it can also easily be the most expensive day of your life—but it doesn’t have to be!

Weddings are as unique as the couples getting married; however, most have the same elements in common. To throw a successful wedding you will need a place for the ceremony and reception; food, drink, decorations, and music; and someone to conduct the ceremony. Additionally, you will need wedding apparel, flowers, a photographer, a wedding cake, and invitations. You can either spend a fortune on all of these things, or you can be smart about your wedding by being frugal and cutting costs where you can.

Here are some suggestions on how to get hitched without breaking the bank:

1. Make a Guest List and Stick to It

It’s simple math: the smaller the guest list, the less money you will have to spend on your wedding.

Decide early on who will be invited and where you’ll draw the line. The basic guest list includes immediate family of the bride and groom; their closest friends; then extended family and friends. Think carefully before sending an invitation to distant relatives, co-workers, or business associates.

2. Create a Budget

While an engagement ring should cost around one month’s salary (the classic rule of thumb), if you are creative, you can throw a decent wedding for as little as $50 per person. This includes the costs of everything, not just the food. Keep this figure in mind to keep the costs down.

Not having a budget in place will mean there is an open cheque book and, thus, costs will be left unchecked.

3. Plan Your Wedding for the Off-Season

Lower costs can be realized in the off-season and even the off-days (that is, not on a weekend). Everyone wants to get married in the summer but early summer weddings on Saturdays are the most expensive (September and October are also very popular times for weddings and therefore can also be pricey months). Why not hold your wedding in the winter and embrace the beauty of the season as the theme?

However, don’t forget that outdoor weddings require decent weather, so if you’re shooting for an off-season event, it’s best to plan an indoor ceremony and reception so your guests don’t freeze or get drenched.

4. Invest Time in Choosing the Best Location

The best locations are the ones that can do double-duty: a church with a reception area in the basement or recreation area; a temple with a gathering hall; or a private home with room in the yard for the ceremony and enough space inside for the celebration.

When considering a location, remember you will need seating areas, dancing areas, bathrooms and dressing rooms, and handicap accessibility.

5. Be Cost-Conscious About Food and Alcohol

Using a caterer should be based on your budget, the guest list, and what additional services they offer. Many caterers will provide dinnerware. glassware, utensils, and so on, and they will handle set up before the reception and clean up afterwards, so this should be figured into your cost comparisons.

A truly budget-conscious couple could rely instead on prepared food from a grocery store or restaurant. Grocery stores are also an excellent place to buy wedding cakes, which are normally lower in cost than those from specialty bakeries.

6. Shop Around for Music

The music played at a wedding should reflect the tastes of the couple and it’s definitely something that every wedding requires (or else it’s not a party!). There are a variety of ways to provide music, from hiring a professional, experienced DJ to hiring a band. Ask around to see if your family and friends have any personal recommendations. Cheap vs. reasonable is the key here. If the price is “too good to be true” then there’s always a reason for that!

7. Say Yes to (Renting) the Dress

We’ve all heard horror stories about those ugly bridesmaid dresses forced on unhappy bridesmaids. A good way to save money (and maybe some friendships) is to choose the colors and the basic style but then let your bridesmaids buy a unique dress they like (and that they would wear again for other events).

 As for the bridal gown, renting is always cheaper than buying unless you find something you really love in a low-cost bridal shop. Ebay may also provide options for purchasing a lower-cost or vintage dress; it all depends on the bride’s individual taste.

8. Make Your Own Invitations and Decorations

Decorations and invitations can be purchased for next-to-nothing at party supply stores. If you feel you need personalized invites, most word processing programs offer sophisticated invitation templates that can be customized, and most modern printers can now produce excellent full-colour invitations and personalized envelopes.

9. Comparison Shop for Flowers

Just as a perfectly acceptable wedding cake can be found in the grocery store, so too can flowers for your wedding. Choose a colour scheme and buy affordable flowers in bulk – ask a creative friend to help arrange them on your big day!

10. Find a Photographer Who Won’t Break the Bank

Don’t choose a photographer by price alone. Getting references from friends or family members is the first step; seeing the photographer’s past work is the second.

Keep in mind that even if you get a great deal on a photographer, it doesn’t mean much if you don’t like their work or if they are rushed because they have more than one wedding to work that day. This is one area of your wedding planning that might be best to spend a little bit more money on. The wedding ceremony will last one day but your photos are meant to capture those memories forever.

Good luck!