Guest list: Invite 100 guests instead of 150 (save on everything). Do the math: If your wedding comes to $100 per person for food and drink, cutting your list from 150 to 100 saves $5,000.
Wedding style: The less formal the affair, the more affordable. Instead of a sit-down dinner, go for a casual brunch or barbecue. Get rental cars in lieu of limos.
Wedding invitations: Keep the wedding invitations simple. Remember, top-quality paper, fancy typography techniques and custom-colored inks increase the price, as do decorative envelope linings and multiple enclosures. Choose one fabulous element and keep all the rest simple. Use response postcards or make save-the-date cards yourself. To keep postage costs down, stay away from oversize or overweight styles.
The dress: Got your heart set on couture? Save big bucks (as much as 15 to 35 percent) by simply swapping out the fabric. For example, a dress made of poly satin instead of silk satin will cost hundreds less.
Formalwear: Wear basic black non-designer tuxes. Encourage all the groomsmen to rent from the same place - often that means the groom's tux will be free. If your wedding is semiformal, wear a nice suit that you already own.
Wedding transportation: Choose a Lincoln over a limousine. If you really want the limo, don't stretch it: stick with an average-size car, use it for only the bride and/or wedding couple, leave out the amenities, and have the wedding party carpool.
Wedding flowers: Swap an expensive flower for a less expensive one. Even little substitutions add up: If you exchange Black Magic roses for more reasonably priced deeply colored dahlias in all your bouquets and table arrangements, you'll save about $4 a stem. If you were planning on having five roses per bouquet and 10 per centerpiece - with a wedding party of five gals and guest list of 150 people, you've just saved $520. (Your florist should be able to recommend other easy ways to save.)
Wedding ceremony: Exchange vows in a naturally beautiful place. Pick a public park, a flower garden, or an ornate house of worship so you don't have to spend a dime on decorations.
Reception site: Skip the at-home wedding. You may think you'll be saving money by having your wedding chez-vous, but that's not always the case. Between tents, chairs, catering, and portable potties, home weddings are more stressful and inevitably more costly than a "we've-got-everything-you-need" reception hall.
Wedding food: Reduce the number of overall dinner courses (making each of three courses fabulous costs less than serving five courses) and keep your menu simple. Stick with the specialties of the season and region. Buy your own alcohol. Have the caterers bring out the fancy Dom Perignon for the toast, but then switch to a less expensive champagne for the rest of the night.
Wedding cake: Order a small, fabulous cake that's exactly what you want and, in the kitchen, have several sheet cakes of the same flavor cut for your guests. Stay away from tiers and handmade sugar flowers and special molded shapes. Have your caterer decorate each plate with a flavored sauce, instead. Forego fondant: buttercream frosting is tastier and less expensive.
Reception music: Keep the band small. If their equipment is modern and up-to-date, a small combo band shouldn't sound like it's that small. Or have the band do double-duty, playing at your ceremony and then at your reception. Alternatively, opt for a DJ. The best DJs and bands are in highest demand on Saturday nights, so try Friday or Sunday for a slightly discounted rate.
Video: Consider having only the ceremony filmed. Forgo complicated editing. (You'll want at least minimal editing done, however - otherwise you'll end up with four to eight hours of video, some of which is not so interesting.) Whatever you do, don't skip videography altogether - you'll regret it if you do. Consider this: Wouldn't you love to watch your grandparents' wedding video?
Wedding photos: Hire your photographer for the ceremony plus a limited time at the reception. Keep prints simple, and stay away from special treatments like sepia tones, multiple exposures, and split frames, which add to the cost. Select a package carefully.
Honeymoon: Use the mileage/frequent-flyer miles you earned when using your trusty credit card to pay for your flight. Avoid traveling during high season, the peak tourist time when things are most crowded and in demand.
Check airfares for departures out of nearby, smaller cities - Milwaukee instead of Chicago, Baltimore instead of D.C. Or get a package instead of purchasing plane tickets, hotel, and food separately.
Source: Joyce Scardina Becker of Events of Distinction, San Francisco. For wedding planning advice, tools, photos, and more, visit WeddingChannel.com.