BOSTON (CBS) – Definitely the cheapest way to get married is to elope and find a justice of the peace. But there are ways to have your cake and eat it to. With some good planning you can have a wonderful day, a lot cheaper than the average of $31,000.

The most expensive item for a wedding is the venue and reception. What can you do to keep food, alcohol and the venue costs down? A wedding at home? In your parent’s garden? The beach at sunset? An afternoon wedding and serve finger foods. Serve only wine and beer or just a wine punch.

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Wedding gowns: average cost over $1,300. Consider a cocktail dress. There is David’s Bridal where you can get a very nice dress for under $300. Buy a used wedding gown at a yard sale, consignment shop or the Goodwill. Try Craig’s List or eBay, Tradesy, Preowned Wedding Dresses. Do a Google search for “Preowned wedding dresses”.

Photos of the big day: $4,000. Is there an amateur photographer among your friends or family? Someone that you would entrust with the day? Better still, ask several folks to take pictures for you. Once collected go to Snapfish and create your own wedding albums.

Average cost of a wedding cake is close to $600. They are priced by the slice, some as high $10 a slice. Go for a small cake, a 9-inch size so that you can do the traditional cutting of the cake together and then serve slices from a sheet cake or fancy cupcakes. You can get a great cupcake for $2 or less.

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The band: average cost $3,000. Hire a DJ for under a $1,000 or use your iPod hooked up to some speakers.

Flowers: average cost $2,000. Buy the bridal party bouquets but get a friend to do the centerpieces for the reception. Garden flowers make great centerpieces. I was recently at a wedding held in a barn and they had wild flowers in Ball canning jars on the tables.

A proposal usually comes with an engagement ring. I know it’s traditional but lots of folks opt not to incur the expense. Average cost is over $5,000. That’s a lot of money for something that sparkles and needs to be taken off when you make meat loaf!

One more thing: Some Hidden Fees

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According to AARP some wedding expenses that might not be included in the base price of an item or service: wedding dress alterations and steaming; cake-cutting and corkage fees; additional transportation for rental equipment and supplies; overtime fees for musicians, photographers and caterers; and taxes and gratuities. Some venues may charge additional if you use caterers or florists who aren’t among their “preferred vendors.”