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There are no two ways about it: Weddings are expensive. And nomatter what, budgeting will be a major part of your wedding plans.That doesn’t mean that you can’t have the wedding of your dreams,though. It simply means that you need to be smart about where yourdollars are going, weighing the value of each element of thebudget.

Start big and pare down or keep it small from the start -there’s no wrong way to create a wedding budget. Just go with whatfeels most comfortable to you and your fiance. If your parents willbe helping, they should definitely be involved with ironing out thedetails, but it’s likely that you’ve already got an image in yourmind of what the day will be like.

Make a list of all the elements of your wedding, leaving spaceto add notes about sample prices and options. It will be helpful tohave all of the information in one place when decisions need to befinalized.

Consider these ways to trim your wedding budget while stillplanning the day of your dreams.

* Save on stationery: It’s a non-negotiable item – you need tolet your guests know about the wedding, and the further in advanceyou can give them notice, the better. Save the dates have become an essential part of weddingstationery, so don’t be tempted to cut them out of the budget.Consider online printing options for invitations, response cards,and creative ways to tell people when the big event is, likesave the date postcards. They’re a quick and easy way to letpeople know about your big day – the added bonus is that they cutout the cost of envelopes and postage is less expensive.

* Refine the guest list: Few events in life are more excitingthan your wedding, so it’s easy to be tempted to invite hundredsupon hundreds of people to share in the joy. As the headcount goesup, however, so do prices. Consider keeping it slightly smaller byinviting your families and closest friends, rather than all of yourcoworkers and high school classmates.

* Ask about price matching: Not everyone will do it, but it’scertainly worthwhile to ask. This is why it’s so important to shoparound before making any decisions – you’ll have a better grasp ofwhat vendors are charging for the same service. Don’t be afraid totry and negotiate a better deal.

* Skip Saturday. It’s the most popular day of the week forweddings, and prices increase with demand. You might be surprisedhow much you can save by holding a Friday evening wedding, oneverything from the venues to photography. Keep in mind, though,that this is often a better option when most of your guests live inthe same city where you’ll be getting married.

* Look for bridesmaid dress alternatives. Depending on the themeand feel you have in mind for your wedding, you can save a lot byexpanding your ideas about how your bridesmaids will be dressed.Consider selecting a single color and then asking all of yourattendants to pick out their own dress in the hue of choice. Notonly can you give your bridesmaids a better way to expressthemselves, but you can also pass along your cost-savvy mentalityby letting them find dresses that are right for their budgets,too.

Keeping your wedding within a budget doesn’t mean curtailingyour dreams. In fact, finding ways to make your day perfect withoutspending too much can feel incredibly rewarding. What’s more, thereare plenty of ways to be unique while keeping costs low, likesending out save the date magnets. They can be a great way to set the moodof your event and get your guests excited to join you on the bigday. When you know that you’ll be throwing the party of a lifetimewhile still saving a lot, you’ll feel like the savviest bride onthe block.