Make your big day special without the huge expense

It’s no secret, weddings are notoriously expensive and brides are infamously frivolous. Most women dream of their perfect wedding for years. Though pockets may be tight as couples look for ways to make smart, long-term financial decisions, it doesn’t mean the happy bride and groom-to-be have to sacrifice on their big day. It’s easier than ever to have a budget-friendly dream wedding.

Follow these five simple ways to keep it frugal and fabulous:

Be thoughtful and unique.

Apply the simple law of supply and demand to your advantage. Seasons, times and locations that are “hot” for weddings will inevitably break the bank because they can. Avoid paying a premium for your "day" by considering options like a cozy mid-winter Sunday brunch or an outdoor Thursday evening cocktail reception in early fall. Think about choosing a time of year or location that is unique and special to you for an unforgettable wedding that gives an extra boost to your budget. You will find that it pays to be different.

Be crafty and do it yourself.

They say time is money, but that is not always true, as small investments of your time can save hundreds of dollars in wedding planning. From invitations to seating cards, programs and ceremony or reception decorations, an abundance of beautiful do-it-yourself wedding project kits are available on-line and at popular retailers. Also consider saving money by purchasing flowers from an online wholesaler and then assembling bouquets yourself. If you’re not set on floral centerpieces, try buying ornate glass bowls from an antique shop to fill with beautiful items (rose petals, sea shells, floating candles, etc.) that coincide with your theme.

Not the craftiest of sorts? Tap into the creativity of close friends or family members and recruit them for a wine and cheese night accompanied by invitation, favor or centerpiece assembly.

Be beauty conscious, early on.

When it comes to bridal beauty, timing is everything. It’s an easy element to put off until last minute, but recognizing your beauty needs at the beginning of your planning can save you a lot of money. If a bright white smile is on your checklist, prep a couple months before your wedding and take advantage of less expensive tools versus more expensive, last minute teeth whitening. Celebrity dentist Dr. Debra Glassman recommends brushing with Starbrite toothpaste and chewing two pieces of sugar-free Orbit White gum after meals and drinks like coffee or red wine as an affordable way to keep smiles white and wedding ready.

Also, a few months before the big day, consider consulting a make-up specialist about your wedding day make-up and then keep an eye out for major department stores sales to stock-up on the necessary beauty essentials.

Be your own DJ

Bands and DJs can be expensive. Instead, use your MP3 player. Handle your wedding day music needs the "no hassle" way by loading your player with everyone’s favorite tunes and renting speakers from a local party store.

Choose your music-obsessed teen cousin or a juke box-loving friend to be in charge of the music during the reception in case the system freezes or you need to accommodate a special song request. Keep your mix upbeat and include classics as well as modern songs, so you’re sure to appeal to all crowds.

Be thrifty and do your research -- online.

It pays to be tech savvy when you’re planning on a dime. Virtually everything found in stores can be bought online and often for less. Coupon Web sites provide discount codes to online merchants and can be easily found by typing the retailer's name and "coupon code" in your search engine. Deals range from major price cuts to free shipping, so think beyond the ceremony — a rehearsal dinner dress, bridesmaids gifts, even centerpieces can all be found online.

Using the Internet also allows you to research wedding vendors from the convenience of your laptop. Free online resources like www.OneWed.com, the Web site with the largest searchable online database of local wedding vendors, let you easily browse thousands of vendor profiles, with ratings and reviews from brides across the country. Save time and money by taking advantage of previous brides’ feedback when choosing your preferred vendors.

Cheers to your big (affordable) day.

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