Wedding season is just starting, and before you start hunting down pictures on Pinterest for inspiration, you need to start budgeting. American couples spend between $20,000 and $26,000 on their weddings. Between booking the wedding and reception venues, photographer, catering, decorations, wedding planner, flowers, invitations, it barely leaves the bride room to think about her wedding dress, and how she’d like to outfit her wedding party.

Budget Wisely

Brides and grooms who are determined to save money on their wedding, and put aside their savings for a larger investment, such as housing, kids, or retirement, would do well to create and stick to a budget. A wedding is a (we hope) once-in-a-lifetime event, so it doesn’t mean you need to cut corners everywhere. But you should be realistic about the kind of wedding you’re dreaming of, and the kind of wedding you can realistically attain.

Re-think, and re-assess your priorities. What’s more important to you? Is it more important to have a large wedding, or to have a smaller wedding and spend more on the food? Can you use the venue you want for both the wedding and the reception? Will the venue offer catering and cake as well? Does the venue also provide chairs, tables, and decor? List out everything you want in your wedding, from the biggest priorities such as your groomsmen and bridesmaids, to the littlest details such as your guestbook and thank you cards. Estimate, and add all the expenses up. Then whittle accordingly.

Find Deals Anywhere And Everywhere

Many venues can and do offer package deals for wedding events, that will take care of catering, decor, and furniture. Oftentimes, you can use the same venue for both the wedding ceremony and the reception. Get huge savings when you use sites like Wedding Paper Divas, which often run deals and promos on their most popular stock. You can request free samples as well.

Here’s a dirty little secret: you don’t actually have to go into a wedding store to buy a wedding dress, or bridesmaids’ gowns or tuxes. Fashion retailers like J.Crew and Ann Taylor offer wedding dresses, shoes, bridesmaid gowns, and cocktail dresses for a fraction of the price you’ll find at wedding boutiques. The only downside is that you won’t be able to get full service the way you would at a wedding boutique. However, the selection and savings will more than make up for it. You can save even more if you have loyalty cards to the stores, and purchase your desired gown or outfit on a sale day. To keep abreast of sales alerts, you can sign up for email alerts, text messages, or follow them on social media for the best deals.

Add Personal Touches With DIY

DIY, or “do-it-yourself”, is a big buzzword among this generation of brides. Grooms and brides who want to both save money, and add a personal touch to their wedding festivities, are choosing to do much of the wedding work themselves, whether it’s creating their own party favors, making their own dresses, or making the decor themselves. One thing to keep in mind is the mantra “time is money”. While you may save money in the long run by making your own dress or favors, it will definitely take you much longer than you’ll anticipate to complete your projects. To take the work out of making stuff, gather your wedding party together and ask them to pitch in on any projects you undertake. The more people participating in making these projects, the faster they’ll get done, and you’ll get quality time with your favorite people.

There’s no reason you can’t have a wedding that is unique, personal, and beautiful. That doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice your bank account to get the wedding of your dreams, though. With a little imagination, and creativity, you can have the wedding you want without having to dip into your retirement account.

Kimberly Lau is a staff writer for BluePromoCode