09/13/2017 16:20 EDT | Updated 09/13/2017 16:21 EDT

7 Tips To Not Blow All Your Money (And Then Some) On Your Wedding

The average Canadian's special day now costs more than $42,000.

Richelle Hunter Photography

When my daughter Victoria announced her engagement last fall, my first thought was how wonderful the news was. And my second was more related to recent numbers I had read about how much the average wedding costs today, which in Canada is now a whopping $42,400. The key word here is "average." For every high-priced wedding, there are many that come in below that number. How do you throw the wedding of your dreams but not have a huge amount of debt to deal with afterwards? This became our quest. My daughter and her fiancé Braden came up with some inventive ways to save money, and I reached out to some experts on saving money to see what we could do.

Here are some easy ways to help you stretch your dollar on your special day.

1) Decide what is important to you

Flowers? Dress? Music? Make a priority list and stick to it. "We decided that wedding favours were one thing we could easily eliminate," said Victoria. Her priorities did include the venue, a photographer, the dress, and a vegan gourmet meal. "We cut back on the flowers as well," she said, which really helped with budget planning. You also need to decide exactly who to invite before any planning can begin because the numbers drive most of the cost.

2) Leverage the second-hand economy

When it comes to wedding items, the possibilities and savings are even greater, given most items are used only once and buying new often comes with an inflated price tag for weddings in particular, from décor and dresses, to gifts and accessories and more. Wedding dresses are the most popular wedding-related search on Kijiji. So many Canadian brides are already seeing the value of tapping into the second-hand market. Other popular searches include wedding décor, wedding rings, bride accessories such as veils and shoes, and event equipment such as tents and arches.

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The best part is, with one-time-use items like wedding purchases, selling back into the second-hand market after the big day is a great way to save even more by earning back some of the money spent. If you're looking to make some extra cash off your wedding items, "wedding"-related searches are at their highest between May and August.

3) Find unique accessories to complete your look on budget

DIY and lifestyle expert Denise Wild is all about the accessory: "Save money by finding pre-owned accessories including vintage or costume jewelry, veils, and designer shoes," she says. "You can find unique and great quality items that are ready-to-wear, or think DIY when searching, remembering that you can modify, adorn, or customize. With some creativity and bit of glue or hand-sewing, it's easy to add bling and embellishment to a pair of shoes, a clutch, or your bridesmaids' bouquets by breaking apart costume jewelry."

4) D.I.Y.

Sarah Gunn is an interior stylist and a whiz at do-it-yourself, including weddings. But you don't have to be a pro to do it right. "Thanks to sites like Pinterest, wedding decor inspiration is literally at your fingertips," she says. "Creating some of the decorative elements for your big day can not only save money, it also adds a custom, personal touch. You can do everything from design your wedding invitations to style the centrepieces."

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Her favourite ideas include providing guests with a pretty spot at the wedding venue to capture photos by creating a backdrop using strings of white lights suspended from a lightweight wooden rod. "I also love the idea of filling inexpensive oversized glass jars with one type of flower, such as peonies or even baby's breath for each table. It's much less expensive than ordering arrangements," she says.

5) Go online

While Victoria had a graphic designer help her with the "save the date" cards, she used those design elements to design her own invitation and place cards online. There are a lot of options available. "It was really easy to do," says Victoria. "And I got just what I wanted at a really good price."

6) Timing is everything

If you are planning an outdoor wedding, as Victoria and Braden did, you need to consider seasons and while summer is always more expensive, if it is a priority, work to it. If you are considering an indoor wedding, look at getting married off season, when the weather doesn't matter, which is basically anytime outside of May through August, and on any other day than a Saturday, which is the most expensive day.

7) Help offset costs by helping your guests

The challenge can be, that even with a gift registry, some guests will feel they have the "perfect" gift for you and buy something that the couple just doesn't want or need. Victoria and Braden placed their honeymoon high on their priority list, and discovered Honeyfund, which allows couples to break up the individual costs of their honeymoon (a dinner out, boat ride, airfare, etc.) just as a traditional registry would do. Contributing to a couple's honeymoon directly reduces their costs and ultimately their debt.

"It's definitely a balance between having your perfect day, but not going into debt," says Victoria. "Making the priority list makes all the difference."

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