The last thing engaged couples want to do is break the bank on their wedding.

Many, however, find themselves in economic shambles once the confetti has settled, and that’s no place to be, especially in what seems like fragile financial times. How do you avoid it from the start? Turns out hiring the right experienced wedding planner can help save you money.

“Most couples don’t have a realistic idea of what things will cost because they’ve never done this before,” says Wendy Lee, a certified planner who has run Weddings by Wendy in Toronto for 10 years. “An experienced planner can help craft a reasonable budget that suits their client’s resources, and get beautiful results for what they can afford.”

With a sound budget in place, knowing where to spend and where to save is key.

“For instance, gracious hosts can’t invite friends to celebrate and ask them to pay for drinks, so an open bar is a must,” says Lee. “But smart decisions on when and how long it stays open and what drinks you serve will control costs.”

As well, “spending on an experienced makeup artist will save photo-retouching expenses, which take a big bite from funds.”

Many experienced planners save clients cash through preferred-rate arrangements with vendors. “We have special rates with a number of planners,” says Trina Turl, a photographer with The Art of Weddings in Toronto.

“It’s a network, thing, how the industry works,” she says. “Good planners are like editors. When their clients come to us, they already know our style, our prices and how we work. Plus the day is efficiently scheduled for the client as well as the photographers.”

Nicole North, owner of Petals, Stems & Leaves in Richmond Hill, works with several wedding professionals but does not offer preferred rates. However, wedding co-ordinators — like Lee — can make adjusting for a budget easy, North says, adding: “There’s no initial sticker-shock for the client, and no panicked, repeated back-and-forth exchanges.”

Couples can also save if they’re prepared to do a little work themselves. “Not only did our planner find us less expensive vases than our florist could provide, we got an additional price break because we collected, cleaned and returned them after the wedding,” says Albert Nam, one of Lee’s clients.

“We could’ve saved more, but didn’t want to do any more work,” he laughs. Although Lee went through a detailed spreadsheet with them post-wedding, Albert and his wife, Elaine Atencio, can’t say exactly how much they saved, but they estimate thousands.

“What we saved certainly offset Wendy’s fees, and we definitely got more bang for our buck and our time,” says the couple. “And if we went over budget in one area, Wendy knew what to adjust without ever compromising our vision,” Albert adds.