wedding expensesThe price tag for weddings is rising. In fact, according to The Knot’s 2014 Real Weddings Study, the average wedding cost in the US is up to $29,858!

But what exactly is all that money paying for? And how much is necessary for a beautiful wedding and a good party?

When my husband and I got married, we quickly discovered that not all wedding expenses were created equal. Some things that last forever, like our wedding rings, were worth the money. Others were easy to cut out of the budget, and we didn’t miss them. We still managed to have our dream wedding on a budget.

Wondering what expenses you can nix for your own wedding plans? Below are five expenses that we reduced or eliminated entirely to save thousands of dollars.

Save the Dates

For our save-the-date cards, we bought a 200 pack of colorful notecards from Target and printed them ourselves at home. The total was about $10.50 for 150 save-the-dates.

It could have been a lot more. The average cost* for 150 save-the-dates is about $450. Add in shipping, and sometimes an extra charge for envelopes, and you can spend up to $600 on something that your guests will throw out once the wedding invitation arrives.

You could save even more money by skipping the save-the-dates entirely and sending an email with the important information. Or, if your guest list is small, give everyone a call and let them know. Either way, the date will end up on their calendar.

Our savings: $580+
Your potential savings: $600+

Invitation Inserts

Invitations these days have a lot of extras in them. Reply cards, menu options, directions, and hotel information can all be sent along with the invitation. The average cost of these inserts is about $4 per invitation. For 150 invitations, that’s a whopping $600 extra.

For our wedding, we didn’t include anything except the invitation itself. Things like directions and hotel information went on our wedding website, which we shared by email.

And what about the reply cards? My old fashioned streak came out, and we included our address in the R.S.V.P. section. Instead of getting back dozens of little pre-printed cards, we got sweet notes from our guests letting us know whether or not they would be coming. By skipping all the inserts, we saved money and got priceless, personal keepsakes.

Our savings: $600
Your potential savings: $600+

Elaborate Floral Arrangements

Anyone who has ever visited a florist knows how expensive flowers can be. In 2013, the average cost for bouquets, boutonnieres, and corsages was about $700 per wedding. Depending on the location of the wedding and size of the bridal party, it can get much higher!

When we planned our wedding, we picked up $100 worth of roses and hydrangeas at a wholesale flower market. With that, we were able to make four bouquets, four corsages, and eight boutonnieres.

If you want to save more, you can go even simpler with your flowers: $30 worth of baby’s breath tied up with ribbons will make all the bouquets and corsages you need. Or skip flowers entirely – they aren’t, after all, required.

Our savings: $600
Your potential savings: $700+

Calligraphy

Paying for professional calligraphy can add up quickly. The average cost of having invitations addressed by hand is about $3.50, or $525 for 150 invitations. Handwritten place cards will cost about $2 each, or $400 for 200 guests. That’s a total of $925 just for pretty handwriting!

I’m the first to admit that handwriting adds charm to anything, especially a wedding. I even decided to have handwritten invitations. But instead of paying a professional, my mother, sister and I wrote everything ourselves. Was our handwriting perfect? Nope. But everything was sweet, personal and, best of all, completely free.

If having things handwritten is important to you, embrace imperfection and try it yourself! But remember that no one notice if your envelopes and place cards came from a printer instead of a fountain pen.

Our savings: $925
Your potential savings: $925+

Open Liquor Bar

Which brings us to the big one: the open bar.

You may assume that an open bar is going to be the same price, no matter what drinks are offered. However, the kind of alcohol you have available makes a big difference. The cost will vary depending on where you live, but the average is about $55 per head for an open bar with liquor.

Instead of offering liquor, we limited our open bar to a selection of beer and wine bought from a local wholesaler. That ran about $5 per person. The catering company charged $2 a head for serving, which brought the total up to just over $1000 for 150 guests.

Limiting yourself to beer and wine is a great way to cut costs, but of course there’s no rule that says you have to provide an open bar at your wedding. Most catering companies will include a selection of sodas or sparkling juices with your food order at no extra cost.

Our savings: $7200
Your potential savings: $8200+

The Total Savings

My husband and I knew that we were saving ourselves money by cutting out some things entirely and limiting others. When we finally tallied everything up, though, we were amazed to discover that our total savings was almost $10,000. That was nearly the cost of our entire wedding all over again!

The important thing to remember when planning your own wedding is that, no matter what anyone tells you, you can cut out any cost that seems unnecessary and save a bundle doing it. There is no such thing as a mandatory wedding expense… except for your marriage license.

* All prices and averages calculated using Cost Helper Weddings