One of the toughest parts of planning a wedding is figuring out how to allocate your money, especially if you are on a tight budget. It is easy to spend huge amounts of money on things that are not that important in the grand scheme of things, especially if you have people telling you that you simply “must” have this or that pricey wedding item. The truth is, however, that not all wedding expenses are created equal, and there are certain things worth putting your money into, and others that really are not. These tips for budget brides will help you figure out which parts of your wedding are worth splurging on, and when you can save your money.

Splurge: Wedding Photography. This is the number one thing that recently married couples report they are glad they spent money on. A high quality professional wedding photographer will capture images that an amateur or less talented individual will miss. The quality of the prints can also be highly variable. Given that your wedding photos are the one lasting memento of your special day, they are definitely a good investment.

Save: Wedding Transportation. Is it really worth paying hundreds of dollars for the privilege of riding in a limo for 20 minutes from your reception to your hotel room? In most cases, the answer is no. There are plenty of inexpensive or free forms of wedding transportation that will still be stylish. Rent a bicycle built for two and decorate it with flowers. Or borrow a chic convertible from a family member. If you are going a short distance between the ceremony and reception sites, you could have everyone walk together in a European style processional, which would be great fun.

Save and Splurge: Wedding Jewelry. For your engagement ring and wedding bands, it is worth investing in high quality pieces that will stand the test of time. Heavy die-struck settings and bands will not wear thin like lighter weight rings. However, for the necklace, earrings, and bracelet you wear with your wedding dress, you can definitely save. Sparkling Swarovski crystal or cz pieces will give you a fabulous look without breaking your budget.

Save: Wedding Invitations. Given how inexpensive high quality home printers are these days, you can easily make professional looking wedding invitations at home. You don’t have to be a graphic designer to create very nice stationery. My favorite trick is to order imprintable stationery from fine stationers. You can get paper that comes with an engraved, embossed, or letterpress motif, and run it through your home printer to add the words. It is a really easy way to cut costs while still getting a quality product.

Splurge: The Bar. There is no way around it: guests resent being forced to pay for their own drinks at a cash bar. Trim away the less essential things like wedding favors and live entertainment for the cocktail hour to find room in your budget for an open bar. If a full open bar is beyond your means, serve wine, beer, and a signature cocktail. Graciously host what you can afford; it is better to have a limited selection of free drinks than a wider selection of drinks for which guests have to pay. A wedding reception, above all, should be a hospitable and welcoming celebration.

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