Wedding planning for savvy couponers can be frustrating (why are there no newspaper coupons for wedding dresses or cake?!), but you don't have to break the bank to have a fabulous wedding on-budget. In your quest for savings, you've no doubt heard one resounding piece of important advice: Don't skimp on your wedding photos. After all, they'll be framed, viewed, shared, remembered, put on Christmas cards, set on grandma's mantle, and will last forever…but what no one tells you is that skimping on cost doesn't necessarily mean skimping on quality.

So, with wedding photographers charging an average of $3,000 – $4,000, what options are out there for frazzled, budget-conscious brides? Rest assured, having a friend-of-a-friend take your photos, or handing out cheap disposable cameras to potentially intoxicated guests are not your only options. Three years ago, my husband-to-be and I faced the same predicament. After putting our heads together, we ended up with beautiful, professional, high-quality wedding photos, engagement photos, and even got a digital CD of the photos with the rights to re-print them. Our price? $725.

Here are a few tricks we used along the way:

1. Find local talent

Real talent—not, "I have a friend who takes great Instagrams," or "I know someone with a nice camera" talent. I placed a call to our local university's photography department. I asked the Department Chair if he had any promising upperclassmen or seniors who have had practice photographing weddings, or if he might recommend any students who could handle the task. He certainly did! He had the name and contact information of a senior student with a couple of weddings under her belt. I contacted her and she sent me her portfolio. I was wowed! She quoted us $750 for the entire day, all photos with retouching in an album, and a digital CD with copying rights. She was eager to build her portfolio, and we were happy to oblige!

2. Advertise

We asked our photographer if she would consider a discount if we included her contact information on our programs, of if we advertised her services in some way at the wedding. She knocked $25 off the price, and all we had to do was plug her services during our reception speech. We sold out. We saved. We couldn't have been prouder of ourselves!

3. Be a muse

Since our photographer was still up-and-coming, she was eager to hear our ideas and wanted to try everything she could to make us happy while making a name for herself. When we got married, "photo booths" with mustaches on sticks was a brand-new concept. She asked us if she could set up a photo booth for free, to get more face-time with our guests. We eagerly agreed, and we got photos of almost each guest in the booth, for no extra charge. She had fresh ideas and techniques that other photographers didn't even have—and we were the first to benefit from them.

4. Be prepared

If you do hire a less-established photographer, be sure to come prepared with lists to make her job easier—and ultimately get what you want. Provide a list of all the family photo-group arrangements you desire; include a list of the day's schedule; highlight any parts of the day, details, or décor you particularly want to capture. Make sure you're doing all you can to help her be in the right place at the right time. Don't hire anyone without viewing examples of his or her past work.
The photographer we used has since graduated and now has a business of her own—charging the same prices as the rest, taking the same great style of photos we received. Couponers know: find good deals early, or you could miss out!

This is a guest post by Heather from Mundelein, IL