10 financial tips for planning your dream wedding

Want your dream wedding without wiping your bank account? Read this article to learn how you can.

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For many of us, our wedding to our best friend is the ultimate celebration and one we will cherish for the rest of our lives. However, make sure you stay mindful of your spending, so you'll have something more than pictures when you start to build your life together. You really can create a stylish, special, and memorable occasion without breaking the bank—read on, and we'll show you how.

Earlier, we learned that wedding spending was at an all-time high in 2015, reaching an average of over $32,000 which equates to over half the annual median household income in the U.S. Costs can add up quickly, and 45% of couples end up spending more than they had initially intended. While 6% of couples were able to come in under their budget (amazing!) and 26% stayed within budget, a scary 23% admitted that they had no budget at all!

Who foots the bill for the cost of a wedding? Well, a recent survey on The Knot found that the bride and groom typically pay for 43% of the total cost of the wedding day, with the bride's parents covering 43%, the groom's parent's paying 12%, and others contributing 2%. Yet, 12% of couples paid for the entire wedding themselves. Even with financial help from others, a recently-completed Bustle poll of over 2,000 adults indicated that a staggering 91% of couples regretted their wedding-day spending (even if they didn't go over their budget) and would rather have spent what they could actually afford, entering their new lives together debt-free. 34% of respondents said they would opt to save up what they needed before splashing out on their day, and a mere 4% of those polled indicated that they would go ahead and splurge, even if they couldn't afford it.

Fortunately, in this second part of my series, I'm here to offer my guidance so that you can make informed decisions and stay within (or even under) your budget. I'll give you a breakdown of costs by category and then offer some general tips on trimming costs across the board.

So, just what is all that wedding day money going to? Let's take a look.

The biggest wedding expense couples have is the wedding venue itself which comes in at an average of $14,006. This includes charges for use of the venue as well as venue decorations like flowers, ribbons, and candles. As discussed in the previous article, spending on receptions is also up, and the catering alone costs an average of $68 per person. Spending on wedding rings has increased from an average of $1126 in 2011 to $1417 in 2015. DJs and entertainment, photography, and dresses round out the list of the largest expenses.

As you can see from those figures, there are many categories of wedding-day spending that could benefit from cost-cutting. Now that we've crunched the numbers, let's start trimming them with the following tried-and-tested tips! Use them for inspiration, and try to incorporate as many as you can. Though I don't expect you to use them all, using a few of them may just help you be one of the lucky couples who comes in under-budget, too!

1. Stationery (Invitations, Save-the-date Cards, and "Thank You" Notes)

Often, stationery is one of the first things on a couple's list, and all those invitations can quickly add up. To help your budget, if you opt for paper invitations and other cards, shop around for the best prices online first. Keep your design simple and minimalist for the cheapest price, and opt for plain white envelopes instead of colored ones. To save even more, you can decide to print your own stationery at home. For additional savings, consider going eco-friendly and digital with your stationery. Many companies now offer wedding e-cards and online RSVPs, and you'll save on both time and postage!

2. Your Wedding Transport

While most people traditionally opt for a limo at their wedding, this can get pricey. Does a friend or family member have a nice vehicle you could use instead, or do you know anybody who could lend you a classic car for the day?

3. Dresses, Decorations, and Flowers

"Attending designer trunk shows is one of the best ways today's brides can save money and find the style they're looking for. Retailers often offer a discount during trunk shows and showcase the featured designer's entire collection—a win-win for the stylish, budget savvy bride. Brides who do their homework will come to find that many high-end designers also offer a more affordable collection, much like Mon Cheri's Enchanting line. Don't count these collections out! The designs from these collections are couture-inspired, on-trend and won't break the bank," shares Steve Lang, CEO of Mon Cheri Bridals.

It's all too easy to overspend on the wedding dress, but you really don't have to! Instead of going to a boutique for your dress shopping, try sites like Etsy first. You can get a truly original design (handmade just for you) and a perfectly tailored fit, all for a fraction of the cost at major shops. Mon Cheri, J.Crew, and Anthropologie also have dedicated online wedding boutiques which offer outfits for everyone in the wedding party in a choice of styles and extended sizes. All are color-coordinated, of course, and can cost much less than brick-and-mortar boutiques. As a bonus, select styles on these sites go on sale each month!

"We're living in a world that's always on-the-go. Today's couples want convenience, luxury, and affordability. Order your tuxedo via your smartphone, have it arrive at your doorstep, and just send it back when you're done!" Peter Abruzzo, CEO of Xedo.com.

For decorations, opting to have a wedding in December will save you lots. With most churches and other venues already decked out for the Christmas and winter holidays, you'll basically be getting decorations for free!

To save on floral arrangements, try to use flowers that are in-season and avoid using very pricey flowers like peonies, which can be five times the price of roses! Stick to one or two types of flowers, and use lots of greenery to fill in your arrangements. You could even incorporate non-floral elements like lanterns to add interest without hiking up the price.

4. Venue Scheduling Options

You can often save money at your chosen venue by changing the time of day and duration of stay that you book. The biggest way to make a dent in costs is to simply book in the off-season. If that's not possible, opting for a Friday afternoon or evening or a Saturday event around brunch will help you keep costs down. For timings, consider booking a 3-hour event instead of a 5-hour one to save even more.

5. Memories and Musical Moments

While most people hire a professional photographer and sometimes a videographer, too, you can keep costs down by choosing photography or videography students from your local university. Some couples even opt to give every wedding guest a disposable camera and have them all take pictures during and after the ceremony and at the reception. That way, since so many people are taking pictures, you'll likely end up with a higher proportion of good shots and have a choice of plenty of different angles, so that you can pick out "your best side." You can hire a local photography or video processing service to digitize your favorite snaps and create a wedding slideshow for you.

For music for your ceremony, consider hiring students or recent graduates of a local university music school. You'll be spoiled for choice with singers, string players, and pianists all at your disposal, and you can save money while getting a high-quality service. If you ask, sometimes these students are also available to play your reception, too. If you want non-classical music for your reception, a DJ will be much cheaper than hiring a whole band.

6. Catering and Cake

Drinks are often one of the most expensive parts of any wedding meal. Ask your venue if you can bring your own wine (some places will allow it!), or consider offering just wine, beer, and a signature cocktail instead of a full bar. Skipping the customary champagne toast can trim costs, too.

"If you're flexible on days, have a Sunday wedding and consider serving lunch. When it comes to menu selection, choose less expensive, but still delicious protein such as chicken instead of steaks. Give your guests a choice of 2 entrees instead of 3 or 4, and this will help you save on your wedding day," says Chef Shirley Chung, Top Chef finalist, and owner of TwentyEight Restaurant in Irvine, CA.

For the meal itself, given today's smaller guest lists, a sit-down dinner with a few courses can often work out cheaper than serving appetizers, especially if you're choosy about the set menu. Vegetarian selections usually cost less than meat, for example. As an alternative to a meal, some couples are opting for dessert buffets, which are a delicious, fun way to please your wedding party and guests while saving cash. After all, everybody can find something they love on a dessert buffet!

For your cake, try to avoid "exotic" (pricey!) fillings like mango or guava. You can opt to use fresh flowers on the cake instead of sugared ones, and purchasing a smaller cake with just one or two tiers will help, too—you can always supplement by having a hidden additional sheet cake waiting in the kitchen. You could even consider having a cake made up of individual cupcakes, which will give you substantial savings.

7. Reception and Favors

Having your wedding and reception at the same venue (for example, in the hotel or fellowship hall of the church) will save tons of cash, and it'll cut down on travel time for everybody, too. Having bigger tables will mean you'll need fewer tablecloths and centerpieces.

Wedding favors can be a real rip-off since most guests don't even end up taking them home. To make sure you don't throw away money in this area, consider using your cake as the favor, or at least try to keep it to one favor per couple. Generally, edible favors like chocolates or even flavored olive oils are well-received while remaining less expensive than other options.

And now, a few philosophical pieces of advice for keeping your (financial) cool while planning your day.

8. Don't Get Distracted

With all the wedding inspiration from magazines, Pinterest, and other internet sites, it's all too easy for the dream day you designed to morph into something beyond your financial control. Getting caught up in what everyone else is doing and having the "perfect" one of everything, down to the last wedding favor, will just make you miserable, and you'll end up with something you never even wanted in the first place! Try to stay grounded as a couple and focus on what you want, not on some idealized version of a wedding, which probably wasn't real to begin with. Use your creativity and imagination, and that way, your wedding will be a reflection of who you are as a couple—that's what you and your guests want in the end, anyway.

9. Accept Help from Friends and Family, and Plan Early

"If your budget doesn't allow for a start-to-finish full-service wedding planner, just hire someone for the last two months leading up to your date. This is someone who audits your contracts, checks over your planning, and who has the experience to coordinate your party the day of so every detail is remembered. We'll ensure the music starts on time, you cut your cake, your team is managed, and everything is handled so you can truly relax and just enjoy your party," shared Jeannie Savage, owner, and president of Details Details, the events planning company to celebrities such as Jessica Alba and sports athletes.

Additionally, if your friends and family members offer to help you out with part of your special day, take them up on it! Perhaps you have a friend who's a musician and wants to play for your ceremony for no fee or a family member who's a photographer and wants to take your wedding photos for free. If they've offered to help, it's because they want to. Not only will it make them feel special, it'll give extra meaning to your wedding-day memories, too.

10. Use Professional Budgeting Tools

In addition to the concierge service mentioned in our earlier article, The Knot offers a wedding budget tool called "My Budgeter." Through a series of questions, it identifies the wedding areas most important to you and provides customized, budget-friendly solutions tailored to your unique style and financial situation.

If you need even more personalized guidance, please come and see my team and I. Our office provides a Budget Worksheet for wedding planning. During a meeting with one of our financial advisors, we can help you set financial goals for your wedding day and offer advice about all your pre-wedding and post-wedding financial needs. Brides and grooms have commonly asked for our help with titling accounts, beneficiary designations, deciding whether or not to combine finances, and buying or selling real estate. We can answer all of these questions and any others you may have.

I hope these cost-cutting tips for your wedding day have been inspirational and useful for you. With any luck, you'll be able to save some cash on the day itself and use it for the lifetime of new memories that await you as a couple. Congratulations on your big day!

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This article was written by Winnie Sun from Forbes and was licensed as an article reprint from May 10, 2016. Article copyright 2016 by Forbes.
The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Fidelity Investments cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any statements or data.
This reprint is supplied by Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC.
The third-party provider of the reprint permission and Fidelity Investments are independent entities and not legally affiliated.
The images, graphs, tools, and videos are for illustrative purposes only.
Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC, 900 Salem Street, Smithfield, RI 02917.
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