How I'm cutting costs, not guests

According to Reuters, the average cost of a U.S. wedding is $27,021. That's a steal for New Yorkers as the average cost to wed in the Big Apple is $65,824.

But my wedding budget is several thousands less than the average wedding. So what's a girl to do who wants everything and a has a guest list of 200? Find unique ways to save money.

Here are some ways I've saved money thus far.

Ceremony Venue:
I wanted to spend $500 on my ceremony rental because it's another $500 for chair rental. I got the property manager to reduce our rental cost and include chairs.

Ceremony Music:
Use referrals. Thanks to a friend, our ceremony musician is $300 less than the average live wedding musician.

Reception Venue:
The most common places to have your reception are oftentimes the most expensive. I requested nearly 40 RFPs from venues before I found a place within my budget that Jeff and I both loved. And our venue is gorgeous and holds 350 people, so no one will feel cramped.

My good friend offered, as her wedding gift, to make our wedding cake. I couldn't think of a sweeter gesture. And my venue doesn't charge to cut the cake. Some place charge up to $6 per slice, so do your best to have that fee waived or have cupcakes!

Another friend offered to DJ our wedding as his wedding gift. Not only a savings, but he's phenomenal and will make our reception that much more personable as he is a good friend and knows our personality. He's going to make our reception one heck of a dance party!

My fiancee has a business which enables him to trade service for service, so ask business owners to trade taking advantage of your own talents as well as theirs.

I designed our own wedding invitations in Photoshop. All we had to do is submit them to our printer.

Save the Dates:
Instead of sending out a save the date and then a formal wedding invitation, we're sending one invitation. The front of our invitations is our save the date. Flip over the photo, and you'll find our formal wedding invitation, which also includes the URL to our wedding Web site, on the back. The Web site is a free service provided by "The Knot". This way, we don't have to include another piece of paper with airport, hotel, registry information.

Rehearsal Dinner:
Most of our wedding party members are coming in from out of town, so time spent with them is precious. We decided we did not want to have a formal dinner where it would be hard to catch up with everyone. So we're having a BBQ on the beach. Fire up the grills, cook up some burgers and prepare to party.

Most of my mom's friends' daughters are married, so they have all kinds of fun stuff sitting around. My mom collected enough vases for our center pieces and bells for guests to ring instead of throwing birdseed or rice (ouch). And since we are having a beach theme wedding, seashells and sand are easy to come by and will be a big part of our decorations.

I wouldn't necessarily call this a savings because I only wanted to wear my mom's veil. But that's one less thing to buy. She preserved hers beautifully, and it goes with my dress perfectly. Her veil may be my favorite part about my whole outfit. And it's my 'something old'.

My 'something borrowed' is my sister's slip and bodice. Why buy something no one will see and wear it once?

I'm carrying on my prom tradition of wearing tennis shoes to my wedding. No one will see my shoes anyway plus who can do the Limbo and Cha-Cha Slide well in high heals? Plus, I'm a runner, so it just fits my personality.

Jeff owns a HD video camera, so a family member has agreed to film us, and I can edit the piece myself. A little extra time saves a lot of dough.

Bridesmaid Jewelry:
No offense to the brides who I was a bridesmaid at their wedding, but the jewelry I received as a gift to wear at the wedding doesn't get worn very often. Instead, I'm asking the girls to wear pearl earrings. I'm applying the money saved towards paying for their hair updos.

My savings list isn't over yet. I'll update you as I learn more ways to save. In the meantime, tell me ways you saved money while planning your wedding below!

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