Planning a wedding can be an incredibly stressful exercise and if you’re not careful, your big day could leave you with massive debt that may take years to pay off.

That’s no way to start your married life, so to make sure this doesn’t happen to you, it’s vital to draw up a detailed budget that outlines all the expenses associated with your special day.

“Outline your must-have items. Ensure that you include everything from the lobola, venue, wedding attire, food, cake, car, photographer and flowers. This will give you a clear picture of your total costs and influence how you prepare your savings plan, advises Lezanne Human.

One way of keeping the costs down is getting married on a weekday as opposed to the weekend. Another is opting for a wedding in the cooler, off-season months when venue rates aren’t as high as they are during the spring and summer months.

READ MORE: How to pull off the perfect traditional wedding

Carla Oberholzer, a debt adviser from DebtSafe, offers savvy tips for how you can keep your wedding budget in check.

  • Choose an unconventional wedding venue

While a wedding on a sprawling wine farm in Stellenbosch would amazing, you can still have a beautiful outdoor wedding in a friend or relative’s garden if the numbers allow.

  • Wedding cake

Wedding cakes can be very pricey, so make sure that the cake you’re ordering isn’t too big for your guest list. You might want this big, elaborate cake, but having a five-tier cake at a wedding for 50 people is being excessive.

  • Meals and drinks

Food and drinks is an important aspect of a wedding, but some couples tend to go over the top. “You don’t need a five-course meal to impress your guests. What about only serving affordable snacks and a satisfying (not skimpy) main meal at the reception?” advises Oberholzer.

From a drinks perspective, you don’t have to put yourself under the financial strain of having an open bar tab at your reception.

READ MORE: How to save on your wedding day costs

Instead, serve some sparkling wine or champagne for the speeches and toasts and perhaps a few bottles of wine per table and let your guests buy their own drinks.

  • Décor and gifts

Get creative with your décor and see what decorations can be made as a way of reducing costs.

Gifts should be given if you have the budget to do so, but if the budget is tight, remember that it’s not a necessity so don’t stress about it.

  • Flowers

Flowers cost an arm and a leg and will likely make up a big chunk of your budget – the “less is more” concept is quite apt in this regard.

Instead of elaborate bouquets, why not opt for a single stem flower or a long-lasting one like our national flower, the protea.

  • Wedding attire

You’re only going to wear your wedding dress or suit once, so does it really make sense buying a dress for tens of thousands or rand essentially for 12 hours?

If your budget allows for buying your wedding attire then by all means go for it, but renting your outfits for the day is a cost-effective option to consider.

  • Wedding invitations

Don’t spend thousands on formal, printed wedding invitations. These days, most couples are going digital – you’ll be saving the trees while saving your pocket. There are sites that you can use to share your wedding details that do not cost a pretty penny.