It's no secret that getting married is an expensive prospect, but you may be surprised to learn that last year the average U.S. wedding cost a whopping $33,931, according to wedding planning website The Knot. If your total tab ends up hovering around that range, it could lead to some serious debt—and a very rocky start to your marriage. Rather than run that risk, try the following tactics to lower your costs.
1. Keep Your Guest List to a Minimum
It's standard practice to charge a per-head price for wedding guests, so the fewer you have, the less your big day will cost. In fact, the $33,931 figure above assumes an affair that consists of 100 to 150 guests, but if you're able to keep your head count fairly low, you could save thousands. You might start by limiting attendees to close friends and family members only. Or, limit plus-ones, especially when you've never met the would-be guests.
2. Get Married at Off-Peak Times
Late spring and summer are notoriously popular times to get married, followed closely by early to mid-fall. If you're looking to lower your wedding costs, choose a less popular month, like January, February, March or November. Similarly, you might score a discount for hosting your event on a Sunday instead of a Saturday, and you can bet on saving money if you're willing to get married on a weeknight. Finally, avoid holiday weekends, because that's when prices are almost guaranteed to be inflated.
3. Find a Nontraditional Venue
There's no rule stating that you must get married at a country club or wedding hall. If your tastes aren't particularly fancy, rent out a rec center or covered area at a local park instead. Doing so could lower your costs significantly, especially as you're also less likely to be locked into working with a pricey caterer.
4. Skip the Paper Invites
Everyone checks email these days, so why pay hundreds of dollars for paper invites and postage when you can send an electronic wedding invitation for free? Not only will you save money, but you may also have an easier time tracking RSVPs, since you won't need to worry about response cards getting lost in the mail.
5. Do as Much as You Can Yourself
Just because you're the one getting married doesn't mean you can't contribute to the big day. If you're the crafty type, make your own table centerpieces rather than springing for expensive floral displays.
Good at makeup? Do your own rather than pay a professional. And if you're an avid baker, there's nothing wrong with serving up a homemade cake instead of spending hundreds on a fancy bakery concoction.
6. Don't Hire a Videographer
Many couples watch their wedding video once after getting married and then never look at it again. Instead of spending extra to have your event taped, ask one friend to take a video of the ceremony itself, ask another to capture some fun dance moments, and have a third film you cutting your cake. Chances are, those highlights will be more than enough to make you feel like you have a way to remember your special day.
The less money you spend on your wedding, the more you'll have left over for important goals like emergency savings, retirement, or a down payment on a home. These tips could shave thousands off the cost of your big day, thereby helping you reduce or even avoid debt and the stress that inevitably goes with it.