This photo from The Knot shows a happy couple post-ceremony. Not pictured: $35k in debt.

The Knot released its annual Real Weddings Survey this week, only to reveal that the average price of a wedding (among the 13,000 brides surveyed) was $35,329 USD. What the hell is that?

That’s a down payment on a house. That’s 3-6 really good vacations. That’s an entire college degree. That’s a car (or 3 entire cars, if you’re more like me). According to TrueCar, a 2017 Chevy Camaro costs about $27k USD. The most expensive place was NYC, with an average of nearly $80,000 a wedding, and the least expensive was Utah with an average of just over $20k. This is still double the price of my wedding budget. Why are brides willing to spend so much on a single day?

I have one culprit: Instagram. Feeds like The Knot and Brides Magazine showcase the best, most expensive, most photogenic of weddings and brides think that those photos show a standard, average wedding. They do not. They show what money can buy – but that doesn’t mean that it’s always the best for your budget or for you.

The survey breaks down the average price of each aspect of the wedding, and I’m here to tell you how to not spend that much money on anything.

Venue – $16,107
Where are you getting married, a NASA shuttle? Do some shopping around before you decide that this is a reasonable price to pay. Consider doing a cash bar or a partial cash bar. Get your decorations from Ikea, Michaels, or the dollar store. Nobody is going to know the difference.

Photographer – $2,783
As someone who owns and can operate a camera, I’m here to tell you that you’re getting ripped off if you’re paying more than $2.5k on your photographer. Yes, it does take a lot of time to edit the photos and they have to make a living too, but it’s not rocket science.

Wedding/Event Planner – $2,037
What do you think this blog is for?

Reception Band/Ceremony Musicians  – $4156/$755
Spotify is $10/month. Get a good Bose speaker if you’re worried about it.

Reception DJ – $1,245
I have a DJ for my wedding, mostly for the speakers and the fact that I don’t want to have to worry about what song’s coming up next. But I’m not playing them to play YMCA and AC/DC all night. I’m paying them to play music my guests will like and will actually want to dance to. Make sure you don’t just get a generic wedding mix.

Florist/Décor – $2,534
Fake flowers do the trick too. And they always look exactly the same.

Invitations – $462
Who’s spending $500 on wedding invitations out there? You need to spend exactly $35 – design them yourself (or get a friend to do it for you) and print them on Vistaprint. Don’t fall sucker to a calligrapher when you can find a font that does the job.

Engagement Ring – $6,163
It’s up to you (or your future spouse, whoever’s paying) to decide what kind of ring you want, but I’m here to spit the truth – go for practicality, and go for clarity over size of the diamond. You might think she wants a big diamond, but she’d honestly rather have a sparkly diamond that lasts for years than a dull one. Big diamonds get caught in sweaters and when you’re baking. Pick something she/you can wear forever, because you’re/she’s going to love it, no matter what, because of the sentiment behind it.