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Wedding planning can be a fun, blissful time in a couple’s lives. Selecting a venue, picking décor, planning a menu and, of course, shopping for the dress are all very exciting activities. Unfortunately, it can also be stressful, especially when couples start considering the costs. The average cost of a wedding has skyrocketed over the years, to a national all-time high of almost $33,000 in 2015, according to TheKnot.com.

When I got married in 2015 I was lucky to have financial help from my parents, but my fiancé and I still had to foot half of the bill for a wedding of 150 guests — not cheap! Luckily, I found ways to cut costs almost effortlessly, without feeling like we were sacrificing what we really wanted on our big day. Read on to find out how you can have the wedding of your dreams without breaking the bank. You can put the money you save toward other things like your honeymoon or a down payment on a new house!

1. Avoid alcohol overload

The food and alcohol bills are usually the biggest expenses on the wedding bill, and oftentimes account for 50 percent of a couple’s budget. While a completely open bar with top-shelf liquor might sound nice in theory, it’s not really necessary and will come with a hefty price tag. Consider supplying the alcohol yourself if the venue allows it, and if you can’t do that, think about restricting the bar to beer and wine plus a signature cocktail. As long as you provide an open bar, guests will be happy and won’t notice if the champagne is Veuve Clicquot or La Marca.

2. Look for “twofers”

Put your creative cap on and think about ways to multi-purpose at the wedding. At my wedding, we had a photo booth and gave every guest a frame they could take home with them. The frame also doubled as a seating card — we printed the guest’s name and table number on a piece of paper and inserted it into the frame along with instructions about the photo booth. I’ve also seen table arrangements double as guest favors — a friend of mine decorated her reception tables with beautiful little pots of succulents and allowed each couple to take one home. The key here is to get inventive and think about ways to multi-purpose what you already have to buy.

3. Use discount codes

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Don’t buy anything for your wedding online without searching for a discount code first, otherwise you could lose out on potentially huge savings. I ordered my save the dates, wedding invitations and return stamps all from the same company online and saved up to 40 percent of the original cost, all by searching the web for discount codes! If the company you want to order from doesn’t seem to have any promo codes, try signing up for their newsletter or email list — this will often get you a discount of at least 10 percent, and might end up alerting you to future deals.

4. Save on the dress

Many brides feel they have to splurge on their wedding dress because it’s so important, but the truth is you can get a fabulous dress without breaking the bank. Most dress shops will have a sale section that includes samples and dresses you can buy off-the-rack. This is how I found my dress — it was a sample from the previous season, and was marked down to less than $500! The dress shop where I purchased it — Michele’s Bridal in Westbrook — did in-house alterations and customized the dress perfectly for me. And before you spend money on clothes for the rehearsal dinner and day-after brunch, look in your own closet at what you have, or think about borrowing a dress from a friend. If you just have to get a new dress, make sure it’s one you will wear again.

5. Avoid the unnecessary

The wedding industry is a booming business, and many vendors will try to upsell you on things you don’t actually need. Say no when the florist suggests ribbons on every vase — they’ll upcharge you for them when you could buy the same ribbon at a yarn store and tie them on yourself for a fraction of the cost. And really think about if you truly need things like printed menus for your guests or programs for the ceremony — while the individual costs might seem small, they add up quickly. Consider writing the menu on a chalkboard instead or skip it altogether — your guests won’t care, but you’ll like the extra cash to spend however you wish.

This article originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2017 edition of The Connecticut Bride.