By Michelle Rostamian featuring Julia K. Pham, CFP®, AIF®, CDFA®, Wealth Advisor in PopSugar

Getting married is an exciting time — until you start wedding planning on a budget and crunching all those big scary numbers. Suddenly, that gorgeous floral arrangement you envisioned as a centerpiece looks like nothing but huge dollar signs. The photographer may feel like a big ticket item, and even those generic chairs and linens are starting to feel like a huge financial burden.

If you’re worried about overspending when it comes to the big day, first just take a minute to breathe and recognize that your wedding day is meant to symbolize a special life moment for you and your partner. If you’re on a tight budget, it may take some clever planning, but that doesn’t mean you have to necessarily knock the notion of your dream wedding out for good.

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Below, we spoke with a financial advisor to learn how to budget for a wedding and plan a memorable yet cost-effective event.

Wedding Planning on a Budget? Here’s How

Set a Clear Budget

According to financial advisor Julia K. Pham, determining a wedding budget is crucial because it’ll affect every decision and purchase you make thereafter.

“Start by considering whether you want a large or a more intimate wedding, and whether you want to go the more traditional route with a ceremony and reception, or if you prefer something like an elopement,” she says. “Those factors will largely influence how much you will spend.”

You should also take into account your overall life budget. What can you afford to stock away without jeopardizing other long-term goals, like retirement and debt repayment? “Consider creating a separate high-yield savings account and automating any savings directly from your paycheck so you aren’t tempted to spend the money elsewhere,” recommends Pham. “The best savings plans are ones that happen automatically, so you don’t have to think twice about it.”

Prioritize What’s Important To You

“Wedding costs can snowball very quickly, so it’s important for you and your partner to sit down and prioritize what is important to each person,” says Pham. Maybe you both prefer a formal sit-down dinner versus a more relaxed buffet. In this case, Pham says you can consider trimming down in other areas like skipping a photo booth or cutting down the flower budget.

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Limit the Guest List

A smaller guest list can help cut costs on several areas of your wedding. Yes, that may mean cutting your long distance, once-removed Aunt Mary from the guest list, but ultimately, less people means less spending on food, beverages, invitations, tables (and thus, centerpieces), and possibly a smaller, more budget-friendly venue. It’ll also make for a more intimate gathering, which can enhance the emotional experience for you, your partner, and your guests.

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