Couples preparing to say "I Do" are also giving the big "I Don't" to super-sized wedding budgets.

According to figures from the The Wedding Report, an industry research company, the average cost of a wedding dipped 6% to $ 20,398 in the first months of 2009. Some regions are seeing cuts of more than 40%.

“Wedding budgets have dropped from $35,000 in the South Bay, last year, to $20,000 this year,” says Nicole Lisanne, a wedding consultant based in Campbell, Calif. “Now people are trying to do more with less.”

One popular way to keep the tab lower? Trimming the guest list. According to Lisanne, many clients are winnowing their invitees down to 100.

A smaller budget doesn’t necessarily mean the wedding will look or feel cheap. You just have to get creative. If you’re planning a special celebration on a limited budget, here are a few ways that you can cut back on the price without sacrificing (savings based on a 100-person wedding celebration):

1. Choose a dress for less. You don’t have to wear a $5,000 Vera Wang gown to be a princess on your wedding day.In fact, if you’re Sunny Sue Gold, a 29-year-old editor from New York, you can do it for a few hundred.

“I looked at a La Sposa floofy thing and ended up with a Pronovias mermaid-style strapless little number,” says Gold. “My dress sells for $2,200 in the Pronovias flagship store on 5th Avenue. But instead of spending the $1,500 the shop wanted, I searched for it online and found it for $900.”

Sites such as offer gown samples and overstocks from designers such as Melissa Sweet, Elie Saab and Carolina Herrera for as much as 75% off the retail price. Other sites such as and allow you to search for used dresses by the lowest price.

While part of the fun is definitely in the search, there is one huge downside to buying online according to fashion writer Megan Nicolay: You can’t try it on to make sure that it fits, so be prepared to budget for a seamstress.

Potential Savings: $1,300 for a designer label

2. Consider cupcakes. According to (Stock Quote: KNOT), the average wedding cake will run you a little more than $500. But Susan O’Donnell, owner of Harvey’s Bakery and Coffee Shop in Dover, Del., says you can shave $100 off the price of your cake by downsizing from three tiers to two. Or order a decorative Styrofoam cake from Ultimate Fake Cakes for $100 and serve slices from a discretely hidden (and cheaper) sheet cake.

Nicolay, author of Generation T: Beyond Fashion, got married two years ago. Instead of spending hundreds on a tiered cake, she got 224 cupcakes in four flavors for 150 guests for $336.

Cupcakes may be tasty but, Gold warns, if they’re catered, they can be more expensive than a cake. If you really want to downsize, try homemade cupcakes. You can indulge in your sweet moment for the cost of a few boxes of Barefoot Contessa Cupcake Mix ($10.95 for enough mix for a dozen).

Potential Savings: $164 for the cupcake way.

3. Be the DJ. According to, a professional DJ is going to cost you up to $300 per hour plus time and a half for every hour over. A live band will be even more expensive. Instead, plug your iPod into the PA system and design your own playlist.

Of course some brides, such as Gold, draw the line at DIY DJ-ing. “Using an iPod to DJ is a little irritating in that you have to ask a friend to monitor it,” says Gold “And if you don't load enough music, it'll loop and repeat songs.”

Potential Savings: $2,000 or more, to dance to your music.

Now that you know where to save, go out and tie the knot!


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