The following is a guest post by Izzy Woods.

Apparently US couples spend an average $26,542 on their wedding – and that’s not including engagement rings or honeymoon. Scary stuff!

The good news is that splashy, no-costs-spared statement weddings are out; low-key and simple are in. Partly this is due to the economic situation, but there’s also just a trend towards more pared-down, intimate celebrations. People are realizing (like I did) that the most important things on your big day are having your nearest and dearest there (which doesn’t include all those third cousins you’ve only just found out about).

Be ruthless with the guest list

The first thing you can do to bring your costs down is to decide who you really want to be there. You may feel compelled to invite everyone you’ve ever met and every single member of your extended family tree. But it’s not worth crippling yourself financially just to avoid possibly hurting some distance relative’s feelings. Most people nowadays will be understanding about this, and you can always send out a sweetly worded letter explaining to people why you’ve decided to keep it small.

Sit down meal or buffet?

Obviously you may decide that you do want a big celebration – after all it’s a great excuse to catch up with everyone all in one go, and really kick off married life with a proper party. If this is the case, one of the biggest costs you have to worry about is food. Deciding to have a buffet instead of a formal meal can dramatically decrease this. It also means you don’t need to worry about seating plans or hiring a venue with suitable tables and waiting staff.

Find a friend with a big lens

Nowadays almost everyone’s a budding photographer, and you’ve almost definitely got at least one friend with a real knack for it. Chances are he or she would be really touched if you asked them to take your wedding photos, and willing to do it either free or for a nominal fee. It also feels really fun and intimate having guests do the photos – keep it all in the family, so to speak!

Do it yourself

Homemade is really in right now, so rope in your friends and family to help you get crafting. You’re bound to know someone who’s great at homemade cards – they’d probably love to help you out with the invitations!

Don’t forget the cake either. This might seem ambitious, but remember you can keep it simple. I was at a wedding recently where the bride proudly pointed at the cake and said, ‘We made that’. It wasn’t as fancy as one they could have bought, but it obviously meant a lot more to her. Another popular option is to go for lots of individual cupcakes. Why not ask several friends to help out with this, instead of getting you a gift?

You can even make your own confetti, by collecting flower petals (roses if possible) and allowing them to dry out (if necessary you can hurry the process along by popping them in the microwave and turning every few minutes). This is a really lovely touch – guests will love showering you in handfuls of sweet-smelling petals, and as an added bonus it’s totally environmentally friendly.

Get the most out of your venue

The venue can be a big cost, so it’s worth spending time on this one. Make sure you ask lots of questions, to avoid any sneaky hidden costs – such as furniture hire, cleaning up and corkage if you’re bringing your own wine. In addition, the more questions you ask, the less likely you are to get stung.

If you’re going really low budget, try thinking outside the box. Are there any suitable places you or your partner spend a lot of time in that would be willing to host your reception free or at a low charge? Think workplaces, church halls, community centers, favorite restaurants and bars. Of course you could also be brave and go for an outdoor reception – maybe you or a friend has a large garden or piece of land. But do check out all the additional costs before making up your mind. Will you need extra bathroom facilities? Need to hire or buy a marquee? Are there enough refrigerators to keep food fresh and drinks chilled?

Something borrowed…

Speak to friends who’ve got married recently – they’ll probably have some good advice, and they may even have a few bits and bobs they’re happy to lend you. For example, you probably won’t want to borrow someone else’s dress (mainly due to the stress of potential rips or spills!), but you can certainly get away with borrowing jewelry, veils and shoes.

Phew, there we go – wedding planned without even a mention of saying pretty-please to your parents (or future in-laws), or visiting your bank to discuss zero interest credit cards. Both of these are still options of course! But before you go down the big-budget route, make sure it’s really what you want – a smaller budget wedding really can be more fun, intimate and personal.