Lavish weddings may have always been a dream for you but in this practical world of bills, bills, bills, those weddings may put a strong damper on the future plans of you and your spouse. The average wedding today can cost around $20,000. If you're a young couple just starting out, this could be about half of your earned income for a year! Some parents help with wedding costs but asking them to pay such a substantial amount may be too much for them also.

Saving costs on your wedding in the areas of dresses, favors, reception food and flowers can allow you to have more money to put towards other desired wedding items, your honeymoon, or on your future household budget. Try not to use credit cards for your wedding; you don't need to pay compounded interest charges on top of the incurred debt. Who wants to start out in a fresh marriage with looming debt? Did you know that most arguments in marriages are about finances? With planning and help from friends and family, you can have an elegant and smart wedding.

Here are some money-saving tips:

-Look for wedding dresses and bridesmaid dresses online (e.g. Ebay), in your local classifieds, outlet stores, thrift shops or friends may loan your their dresses or sell them for a fraction of the cost of retail stores. Remember that alterations can be quite costly so try to find a dress that fits well.

-Fantastic engagement rings and wedding bands can be found at Sam's Club. For even tighter budgets, again, try the classifieds or even pawn shops. Have a ring budget in mind when you start out and know what to look for! Look carefully at the settings-are there weak spots in the setting or the band? Are there noticeable flaws on or in the stone?

-You can buy bulk wedding announcements various places online. Buying online can actually save you more money than trying to buy blank announcements and envelopes and printing them at home on your computer. You can, however, buy address labels at office supply stores or stores such as Wal-mart and print those out on your own.

-Do your own flowers, bouquet, boutonnières, and corsages.

Beautiful , realistic-looking, artificial flowers can be bought at any craft or hobby store. For a really inexpensive place to find these materials and supplies, you can look at your local dollar stores. Silk flowers are great because you can do them ahead of time and rearrange them till you get the look you want. Borrow a book from the library on wedding flowers for free.

-Shop around for the best price on a cake (or have a friend do it). A popular and really cute idea is making a cupcake cake in which decorated cupcakes are used instead of a traditional tiered cake. There are lots of cute ways to display the cupcakes on cake plates, and even tiered cupcake holders.

-Get hair, makeup, nails and facials done for your big day at the beauty school for a fraction of the cost! For example, facials average about $10, manicures about $8. You should make extra time when planning on going though because the beauty school students (with teacher supervision) do the work but can take their time.

-Receptions can be cheaper (even free!) if held in your church's activity hall. Check out your different options you may be able to have your reception in a friends garden or a local historic mansion.

-Double wedding favors and gifts. For example, print stickers on the computer with the bride and groom's names and wedding date. Stick them on candles and put them on the reception tables as decorations and as gifts for guests.

-Elegant gourmet reception foods can be bought at outlet stores (such as Sam's or Cosco) and heated or thawed. Place the foods on platters-which can be rented at party supply stores. Decorate the tables with inexpensive tablecloths, vases and/or glass bowls filled with water, artificial flowers, glass marbles, or candles which can be bought at dollar stores.

Start with a budget and put the bulk of your funds on those things you really, really want and be flexible on everything else. Remember simplicity can be really beautiful. Have a fun, elegant wedding and receptionand above all else be practical, be creative and have great time!