Your wedding. It’s meant to be the happiest day of your life.

That doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be the most expensive.

Given the fact that weddings cost an average of $34,000, many people are looking for ways to save on this big event. The good news is, with a few intelligent financial decisions, you can still have a wonderful, heart-filled celebration, without draining your savings account.

We’ve put together a few tips for planning a wedding that won’t break the bank.

Invest in your venue.

The price tags for different Instagram-worthy wedding venues can be eye-wateringly expensive. However, a beautiful site that’s tailored to weddings may actually save you money.

Choosing a location that’s a blank slate can mean additional investments to rent decor and tables, or high price tags on floral arrangements to brighten up the area. If you find a venue that’s already attractive, whether it’s beautiful outdoor scenery, a rustic chapel or a rooftop garden, you may be able to cut some of the expenses associated with sprucing up a cheaper but less photogenic location.

Pass hors d’oeuvres.

Having suited waiters pass trays of hors d’oeuvres can give your event an extra level of elegance. Everyone loves the opportunity to chat and mingle, rather than standing in a buffet line, and it’s fun to experience the different items on offer as the waiters work the crowds.

Fortunately, passed hors d’oeuvres can also be quite budget-friendly. While you may pay a bit extra for the service, you’re also eliminating the excess expense and waste that comes with a full appetizer spread; we’ve all seen those trays and trays of crudites that never seem to get eaten when there are more mouth-watering options like miniature grilled cheeses, beef tenderloin bites and bruschetta available.

Monogram everything.

Reese Witherspoon says, “If it’s not moving, monogram it.” Monograms aren’t just a Southern tradition anymore, and combining yours and your partner’s new initials on your decor can add an additional layer of elegance to your event.

Consider spending a little money to purchase a custom monogram design, then use it as a motif throughout your celebration. Tying together your invitations, programs, cocktail napkins, favors and more can give you a polished look without an exorbitant increase in price.

Quality over quantity.

You’ve been dreaming of your wedding for a long time, so it can be easy to think that everyone else is just as excited about the big day as you are. Before you start mailing hundreds of invitations, think about who you really want there as part of your special day.

Do you envision a giant crowd, or are you interested in a more relaxed, close-knit vibe? If you want the big wedding, by all means, go for it. But, if you decide the smaller option is a better fit, you can upgrade your catering, floral and entertainment options and still stay within your budget.

Styrofoam the cake.

One of the best-kept secrets of the wedding baking industry? Styrofoam cakes.

Instead of paying for five jaw dropping layers of creamy, fluffy, airy goodness, you can get all that beauty with a fraction of the flour (and the cost).

Ask your baker whether they can replace a couple of bottom cake tiers with frosting-covered styrofoam to give you a bigger visual impact but keep your cake budget friendly.

Put it on your credit card.

If you use a credit card with a rewards program, it can make sense to purchase some of your wedding items and earn rewards points on the purchases (that you could use to pay for your honeymoon!).

However, there’s a caveat to this piece of advice. If you don’t have the willpower to pay off your card quickly, or if you see yourself using the card to circumvent your budget, you should look for other options, like paying in cash, using your debit card or using another low-interest loan option.

Offer a signature cocktail.

If you and your guests are planning to drink alcohol, a signature cocktail is another one of those thoughtful details that can really personalize your wedding. Did you know that it can also potentially save you money?

Instead of hosting a full open bar, you can offer beer, wine and your special cocktail. You’ll save money by making fewer drink options available, but won’t make guests feel obligated to pay for their own beverages with a cash bar.

Make your budget first and stick to it.

There’s no point in dreaming about the Plaza if your budget says your event’s better suited for a cookout at the local park. Before you start making a Pinterest board or buying bridal magazines, determine what you want to spend.

Weddings are almost always more expensive than you might anticipate, so falling in love with a theme or a look or a location before you know how much money you have available to spend can often end in heartbreak.

Have open communication with everyone involved.

When it comes to your wedding, you’re not the only one who has dreams. From your partner to your parents to your future in-laws, everyone has probably put some thought into the day and how they’d like it to go. You don’t have to take everyone’s advice, but you should be willing to have respectful, open conversations with these important people in your life.

These conversations can include discussions on who’s funding the wedding. Because of the skyrocketing costs associated with weddings, and because many people are getting married later in life after establishing homes and careers, it’s no longer as common for the bride’s parents to pay for the entire wedding festivities (although many still cover about 45% of the cost).

Instead of asking for a handout or coming to either set of parents with expectations, talk with everyone about whether they have the means and the desire to contribute financially. Be sure to express gratitude for their willingness to make any level of financial contribution to your festivities.

Making your wedding special doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money. However, knowing how you want to spend your money and purposefully making the most of it can help you start your married life on a positive note.

If you’re preparing to get married soon, congratulations and best wishes; and if you are interested in learning how your credit union can support you through your wedding and beyond, reach out. Just like your special someone, we’re here to be your financial partner for life.