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The average couple will spend between $20,000 and $50,000 on their wedding, a figure that does not include additional expenses such as an engagement ring or honeymoon. For many, that is 50 percent more than they have actually budgeted for the occasion. Underestimating wedding expenses can lead to financial distress even before the marriage has begun. In the not-so-distant past, weddings were largely financed by the bride and her parents. Things are much different now.

Most weddings now are paid for by the bride and groom with little contribution from the family. Young couples just starting out in life may find that weddings are more of a financial commitment than originally anticipated. Planning for the expected — and unexpected — can help couples survive wedding expenses.

Savings Plan With most couples paying for the majority of the wedding themselves, it will be up to them to come up with the bulk of the wedding finances. Starting to save early is essential. Once you have set the date, begin saving immediately. Even if the wedding won’t be a lavish affair, every wedding has some expenses.

• To save, consider curbing recreational spending. Cut dinners out, trips to the movies, or non-essential purchases. Place the money you would’ve spent on a wedding account.

• Consider having automatic transfers or deposits into an account for forced savings. Many employers can deposit a portion of your paycheck into a separate account. Instead of a Christmas Club savings plan, you can have a Wedding Club.

• Eliminate debt right away. It may seem counterproductive, but sometimes you have to spend money to save money. Instead of racking up high-interest rate charges on credit card balances, pay down credit cards or other bills you have. Once you are in the clear, you can focus more on saving for the wedding.

• If need be, have a long engagement so that you have ample time to save.

Setting a Budget Many couples want a dream wedding but do not have the finances to afford a platinum event. But that doesn’t mean they still can’t have a lavish, beautiful wedding. Setting a budget means you can prioritize what you want and what you will pass up. It also provides a savings goal and a firm deadline.

• Shop around for the average rates of vendors in your area. Work on the big-ticket items first before focusing on the smaller details. Once you have average prices, you can base your budget as such.

• Add up the average costs of all of the items on your wish list. If it seems out of range, start removing things you can do without. For example, can you have a brunch reception instead of an evening sit-down dinner to scale back costs?

• Always set aside a little extra for those incidental expenses, such as tips for the waitstaff and donation to the church — items you may not think to factor in.

• Don’t expect wedding gifts to cover the cost of your wedding. While some guests are quite generous, others may not even cover the cost of their meal.

Prioritize A dream wedding is a marriage between desires and reality. Today it is possible to recreate the look of designer gowns and other details with less-expensive options. Figure out your priorities and work from there. Consider these cost-saving options.

• Think about where you will be living after you are married. A residence takes priority over a lavish wedding.

• Have the wedding party carry fresh-flower bouquets, but use less-expensive silk flowers or even fruit as centerpieces.

• Ask your baker to create a small wedding display cake you can use for your photos and serve guests from a much cheaper sheet cake that is hidden in the kitchen.

• Get married on a weekday or at an earlier time of day.

• Limit the bar to wine, beer and soda to save on the expense of top-shelf liquors.

• Register for unconventional gifts, such as contributing to the honeymoon.

• Handle some items yourself, such as favors or catering, to keep costs down.