With wedding costs on the rise, it can be harder than ever to keep your wedding budget on the right track. Rather than stressing over every little detail, we recommend focusing on the aspects that your guests will really notice — and that'll improve their experience at your wedding. Here, check out the top seven areas worth the splurge.
Nothing transforms a room quite like lighting. "As guests arrive to the reception, lighting gives them the wow factor," said Jennifer Taylor of Taylor'd Events by Jennifer 
All You Need is Love Events  recommends using lighting to play up key features of the room and draw attention away from less desirable aspects. "So many ballrooms have terrible carpeting — by using uplights around the room, you draw the eye up and guests will barely even notice it. And by pinspotting your flowers, they shine brilliantly and make a bigger statement then they would without lighting."
With an intelligent lighting package, you can actually transform the mood of the party throughout the night simply by changing the colors. "The lighting can make you feel like you are at different parties all in the same night," said Personal Touch by Covesa .
Photo Credit: Embrace Life Photography 
Photo Credit: Guy Heart Studio 
Photo courtesy of Dreammakers Weddings & Events 
Photo Credit: Aaron Delesie 
A Fun Activity
Throw in a little something extra — a photo booth, a stop-motion video booth, a cigar-rolling station, yard games to play during the cocktail hour, ice-breaker games for the tables, dancers to liven up the dance floor, a magician or tarot card reader... the options are endless, and they'll give your guests something to talk about for years to come.
Photo Credit: Young Hearts Photography 
Photo Credit: Captured by Aimee 
Not only is a cash bar poor etiquette (your guests should not have to open their wallets at your wedding), but an open bar will keep the party going. "Asking your guests to pay is just not cool and is the fastest way to end your reception early," said photographer Thomas Robert Clarke . If a full open bar is beyond your budget, consider at least offering unlimited wine, beer, and a signature drink or two.
Nothing kills a party quite like a terrible DJ or band. You need someone who can read the crowd; an experienced DJ will notice that no one is dancing to the '80s party jams and will switch it up to something more contemporary to see if that gets the crowd moving.
If you can afford it, go for a live band: "A live band creates an incredible party atmosphere and elevates the reception to the next level," said The Graceful Host . "Everyone will walk away wanting more — and isn't that the goal?!"
Marta Segal Block, wedding specialist for GigMasters.com , recalled, "My husband really wanted to invest in a good band, and I'm glad we did. Twelve years later, people still talk about how much fun they had at our wedding and how much they danced. I really believe that great entertainment adds to the wedding and makes it memorable."
Consider splurging on a unique and unexpected musical act that fits your wedding location or your culture. For Shannon Leahy of Shannon Leahy Events ' own wedding in New Orleans, she chose a New Orleans-style brass band to lead the guests from the ceremony to the cocktail hour playing "When the Saints Go Marching In."
Photo courtesy of Bobby Borg
Photo courtesy of Shannon Leahy Events 
Give your guests one less thing to worry about by arranging transportation. "You don't want your guests trapped at the end of the evening or slightly tipsy trying to find their way back from a remote wedding venue," said Lauren Randolph of MyHotelWedding.com . Provide a shuttle to and from the hotel where your out-of-towners are staying, give your VIPs a lift home in a limo, and have taxis on stand-by for guests who planned on driving but took a little too much advantage of your open bar.
“Sometimes, guests don’t notice the little details that a wedding couple may spend months planning (and hundreds of dollars) on, but when it comes to guests comfort and the ease of getting to and from the wedding, guests notice," said First Pick Planning . "Transportation for wedding guests is not only becoming a norm, but it's something that can add a unique element of surprise to any wedding and make for fun photo opportunities. From trolleys to stretch limos to horse and carriages and even segways, getting your guests to and fro in a unique way has definitely become something to splurge on!”
Photo Credit: Azelle Photography 
Late Night Snacks
You've likely put plenty of thought into your cocktail hour, dinner, and desserts, but after dancing all night, your guest will probably get hungry again before your reception ends. Go for something fun here, like a food truck or bite-size comfort food.
Photo Credit: Mel Barlow 
Photo courtesy of Elegant Affairs, Inc.
When all is said and done, your photos are the only tangible memories that you have. You'll regret it if you choose to cut costs in this area. "My family has a horrible history of skimping on professional photography and then being disappointed and not having decent photos of events," said Block. "So for my wedding, photography was one of the places I was willing to pay big money. I'm glad I did. The photos are one of the few things that really last from a wedding." If your dream photographer is above your budget, see if you can customize the package — perhaps get only a disk with high-resolution images, and plan on making an album and prints at a later date when you have a little more money.
Photo Credit: BTW Photography 
Photo Credit: Hoffer Photography 
Tell us: Which splurges do you think are worth the cost? Where are you trimming your wedding budget?