To the surprise of many—if not most—couples, wedding expenses can add up quickly. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to trim your costs and still have the big day that you've dreamed about. Here, money-saving strategies from experts and recent brides and grooms. (Now you just have to figure out what to do with all that leftover cash!)
1. Resist the temptation to stock up on "bargains," such as cheap candles or ribbon, before you've actually decided upon the look of your wedding. "Fifty dollars here and a hundred dollars there add up, and you may end up not using the stuff," says New Jersey-based wedding planner Samantha Goldberg of Gold Events.
2. If you get a chunk of cash early on—say, a contribution from your parents—invest in a three-month CD, so you can earn some money until it's time to pay your vendors, suggests Goldberg.
Consider a destination wedding. With reasonable packages, you can save and have your dream wedding.
3. If possible, keep your guest list small, advises recent groom Jeff Miller of Watertown, Massachusetts. "We invited fifty people to our wedding and forty attended." That turned out to be the perfect number.
4. Consider nonpeak dates and times. "We were married on a Friday evening in January—a time when not many weddings are held," says Aimee Bennett of Castle Rock, Colorado. "Vendors were willing to lower their prices by about forty percent."
5. Jessica Prunell of New York City set up a website containing ceremony and reception details. Instead of racking up hours on long-distance phone calls with friends and relatives, she directed them by e-mail to the site for information.
6. Do a little detective work to find the best rate on hotel rooms for your guests. Many people reserve a block of rooms thinking they're getting a special rate, but they're just ensuring that rooms will be available, says Goldberg. Check out several discount travel websites to score a deal.
7. Take advantage of seasonal sales to snag gifts. Bennett planned ahead and shopped post-Christmas sales for deals on crystal picture frames for attendants.
8. Stay on schedule on the big day. Running late can mean overtime fees for limousines, musicians and other vendors.
9. Consider a wedding away. Many popular destinations offer reasonable packages, plus you'll probably have a smaller guest list—a definite dollar-saver.