6. Shop around

When you’re choosing a vendor, it helps to have context. The more websites that you visit, calls you make and meetings that you set up, the better sense you’ll have of what prices are “low,” “average” and “high.”

I visited two florists before making a decision. I liked Florist A a lot more than Florist B. The only problem: Florist A gave me an estimate that was $1,100 higher!

I decided to email Florist A and say, “I’d really love to work with your company, but I got an estimate from another florist that’s $1,100 less.” Guess what? Florist A matched that exact price, so I got the quality that I wanted at a much more reasonable cost. A win-win!

7. Wait for sales

The earlier you start to plan, the more deals you’re likely to snag -- because you’ll have more time to wait for sales.

My fiancé and I knew which gifts we wanted to buy for our bridal party members on TheKnot.com within a month of getting engaged. We knew that we had about a year to buy the items, so we held off on purchasing them—and signed up for The Knot’s online newsletter. When December rolled around, we got an email that read: “Year-end clearance sale!” That savings: $120.

I was also patient when searching for a pair of bridal shoes. I eventually found a gorgeous, sparkly Badgley Mischka pair on sale at Bloomingdale’s—marked down to $150 from $215. If you can, hold out for big holiday sales around Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day. And ask wedding gown salons for a list of their upcoming trunk shows or sample sales.

8. Pay attention to the fine print

When you’re planning a wedding, you have to read and keep track of dozens of contracts—many of which are long and detailed. So it’s all too easy to skim them quickly without fully focusing on what you’re signing. Resist that urge and carefully analyze what you’re agreeing to—and make sure to bring home a photocopy of the agreement, in case you need to refer to it later.

While tweaking invitation proofs, my vendor told me that it would cost an additional $180 to use two colors. I thought that sounded different from what the vendor had told me originally, and sure enough, the contract clearly stated that since my invitations were digital, I could use as many colors as I wanted at no additional charge. I pointed that out to the salesperson, who corrected the error. But if I hadn’t spoken up, odds are that I would have been charged extra.

9. Use rewards points

My fiancé is a Hilton HHonors member, thanks to business travel. So we were able to use 160,000 of his rewards points to get a free hotel room for two nights during our Hawaiian honeymoon. That saved us a total of $800. You should also think about using frequent flyer miles and credit card rewards points—you can also rack up a lot of the latter if you pay for all of your wedding-related stuff with your credit card.

10. DIY it

Instead of asking a professional company to print out my ceremony programs and reception place cards, I saved money by printing them myself. The place cards would have cost about $175, and the programs would have been about $400.

And you can use other D.I.Y. skills to save money, like making your own bouquet out of antique jewelry or artificial flowers. Or design your own party favors by baking your famous chocolate chip cookies or growing your own mini potted plants.

It’s easy to get sucked into a wedding spending vortex, especially when vendors prey on your emotions by saying things like, “We want to help you create memories that you’ll carry with you for a lifetime.” I had to keep reminding myself that how much I spent wasn’t a reflection of how in love I was nor how strong my marriage would be. These were business transactions, and at the end of the day, all the vendors really wanted was my cash.

When I reflect on every wedding purchase I made over the past year, I can’t believe that all of the small cuts add up to over $21,000. Crazy! And I’m thrilled that I can put that chunk of change toward something a lot less romantic but a lot more practical—a future mortgage.

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