The average American couple spent $28,400 on their wedding expenses in 2012, not including the honeymoon.

According to, the average American couple spent $28,400 on their wedding expenses in 2012, not including the honeymoon. With wedding season on the horizon and many families still struggling in our troubled economy, many brides- and grooms-to-be are wondering how they can afford the kind of day they’ve always dreamed of.

However, you don’t have to break the bank or go into debt to throw your perfect wedding. There are lots of wedding expenses that can be easily downsized, or avoided altogether.

1. Go for a pre-owned dress. By buying a wedding dress pre-owned, brides can save up to thousands of dollars that can then go toward other expenses, like an unforgettable honeymoon. My wife is a big fan of watching wedding shows on TLC, and the show "I Found The Gown" is a perfect example of how much a bride can save by getting a secondhand dress or by shopping at a budget retailer. These dresses are often just as beautiful as new ones, and can easily be altered. An option for a bride who wants a brand new gown is to then resell it after the event.

2. Hire a DJ. It’s traditional to have a band play at the reception, but unless you’re hiring your cousin’s son’s garage band, they can really eat into your wedding budget. A DJ, however, won’t cost more than a few hundred an hour (and that’s on the steep end). Although they’re not exactly cheap, hiring a DJ can really cut costs, and it also means you can play whatever songs you want on your special night. In fact, I’ve always preferred attending receptions that had DJs instead of live bands — hearing your favorites is always better than cover versions of Elton John songs.

3. Don’t go overboard with the catering. Many caterers will convince you that you need a plethora of different hors d’oeuvres for your guests, along with the three-course meal. In reality, no one needs this much food, and your guests probably aren’t going to be eating everything. So instead of listening to your caterer’s lavish recommendations, limit the hors d’oeuvres to three options, or skip them entirely and opt instead for self-serve bites piled on the cocktail tables, such as spreads of cheeses, breads, fruits and dips. Your guests can help themselves, and who doesn’t love a good selection of artisan cheese? To save on the main course, limit the entrée choices to one or two options that are sure to please everyone.

4. Find a nontraditional (and economical) venue. Instead of traditional reception venues such as hotels and country clubs, which are always expensive, save money by throwing your reception somewhere unique and off-beat. Places like parks, gardens, zoos, the beach, or even your parents' backyard can make wonderful memories and save you thousands of dollars.

5. Consider your guest list. Who do you really need to be there? Between invitations, catering costs, etc., each additional guest can cost upwards of $100. So maybe rethink the mass Facebook invites, or skip inviting that girl who sat next to you in 11th grade math. By just inviting the people you and your partner really care about, you can save a lot on your big day.

6. Consider scheduling your wedding for another time of year. May through October is the high season for weddings, which means that everything from venues, limos, photographers, catering and more will be more expensive than at other times of year. If you can, schedule your wedding off-season so you can have the kind of event you want and save some money doing it! This may not be the ideal scenario for some couples, especially considering that locations like Utah can get pretty cold during the winter and much of spring, but a March or April wedding might be just the ticket for some who are looking to save. And for anyone on a budget, don’t even think about a Saturday wedding! Go for Thursday, Friday or Sunday instead.

Weddings can get expensive, but they don’t have to take you into debt. With some clever and painless adjustments, you can save money and still have the perfect night.

Matthew Becker is a Deseret Connect contributor and an independent consultant for