Total savings: Up to $500
Work with your florist to create pieces that can be reused throughout the day/night. Make it so your ceremony flowers can then be moved to serve as centerpieces and your bridesmaid bouquets can dress up the cake table. For example, use pomanders (balls of flowers) during the ceremony, with ribbon so they can hang at the end of each row; then, move them inside to sit as centerpieces during the reception.
Total savings: Up to $1,000 (or more!)
Typically venues offer a few bar options. You usually have dry (only soda, tea, coffee), beer and wine, or beer and wine with differing levels of liquor options. For most couples, you're going to be deciding between the liquor options in order to accommodate all guests. As an alternative, make a list of the items (beer, wine and liquor) by brand that you want to have. Try to keep it simple but cover all the important bases. You know your party best so you'll be able to customize just the way you like. Then provide the list to your venue and ask them to provide you with a custom price based on your selections. You can also ask for recommendations from them (as the experts) on alternative options to your picks to cut costs even more --without cutting taste.
Total savings: Up to $500
I know it's time-consuming but make sure to compare pricing before you buy! Check in stores like Michael's and Jo-Ann's, as well as online with places like Save on Crafts and Etsy. You never know what you might find and you could end up saving a boatload. Also consider pulling the help of your Facebook community. For example, if you're going with a rustic theme (that would be me), ask your Facebook friends if they have any mason jars they're willing to donate to the cause. A pack of 12 jars is under $20, but it still adds up in the end.
Total savings: $100-$200
Food is definitely not something you want to skimp on (this goes back to my obsession with food, by the way), but there are ways to keep costs reasonable. For example, ask for stationary appetizers, rather than hand passed. You may not actually lower the cost with this but you will get more for your money because the staff can solely focus on keeping stations full rather than passing and refilling. Also beef up your veggie/cheese display to include more so you don't have to do as many other options. And lastly, with dessert, just pick one. A lot of couples these days have the traditional cake, but also add in other desserts. Keep it simple! You want your guests dancing the night away after all, not sitting to eat again.
Total savings: up to $500 (a chocolate fountain can really cost that much)
Trust me, this is not all! I have plenty more tips and tricks for cutting costs coming your way. Look for Part II later.