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First, congratulations! You already answered the biggest question you'll face: "Will you marry me?" That was the easy part - you knew in your heart what you wanted.  Deciding how and where you answer that same question in the presence of you respective families and friends, however, is likely to involve both your heart and your wallet.

What Kind of Wedding Do You Want to Afford?

The average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is currently $26,645.  That's an amount that can compete with other goals you might have, including buying a home, a car, or even attending graduate school.  For many couples, deciding how much to spend is their first joint financial decision.

Once you do decide, however, here are some tips that can help keep you on budget - both for the big day and for other goals you may have as you start your life together.

8 Tips For Bringing Your Wedding in on Budget

  1. Save the date online.  Consider emailing a video engagement announcement that leads your friends and family to an online wedding website.  This eliminates the need for printing and postage.  You can use that site as a hub for all things wedding related, from registry information to shower dates and driving directions.
  2. Invite guests for less.  Go the DIY route, designing and printing invitations at home, for a more personal and unique approach.  Then, save on postage and printing expenses by again directing guests to your wedding website for RSVP's and details for lodging arrangements, the ceremony, and reception.
  3. Hire emerging talent.  Contact local design students or individuals trained in visual merchandising or set design to create unique, budget-friendly decorations.  Similarly, college students studying music, fashion design, or photography are all likely to charge less than professionals but bring a fresh, creative vibe to your day.
  4. Don't let them eat cake.  Dessert buffets have emerged as cost-saving alternatives to large cakes.  Another option is to challenge your friends and relatives to a bakeoff, asking them for personal favorites to fill your buffet.  You can still get a small ready-made cake for the photo-op, but save it for yourselves.
  5. Put your guests to work.  Face it, they're going to be taking pictures and videos anyway.  Provide them with a link to a wedding photo-gathering app and ask them to upload what they capture.  You can also go old school by leaving disposable cameras around and invite candid snapping.  This way, you need only pay for an hour or so of a professional photographer's time to snap you and your wedding party's formal portraits.
  6. Do good instead of goody bags.  Thank guests for coming by donating to a charitable cause in each of their names.  Making a $500 donation to fight hunger, for instance, could be a more meaningful gesture.
  7. Forgo cut flowers.  Buy or rent potted plants.  Any you decide to keep can be replanted in your own garden or those of family and friends afterwards as a living reminder of your big day.
  8. Get rewarded.  Make sure you use a credit card with a generous reward program when making purchases for the wedding.  You'll be able to redeem those reqards later to help offset your honeymoon travels or some of the expense of starting your new life together.

Remember, whatever you ultimately spend, your big day will still be among your most treasured memories as you move through life together.