THE average cost of a wedding is $36,200, but these four brides did it for less … a LOT less.

Ask anyone planning a wedding and they’ll tell you that even with the best intentions, your budget can break more easily than that fine bone china dinner set on your gift registry.

Indeed, in September last year the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) found the average cost of a wedding in Australia was $36,200. And if you think that’s a fairly large sum, some other publications put the average as high as $65,000. That’s a lot of Mason jars and personalised chocolate bomboniere.

“From props and expensive gifts for the bridal party to elaborate decorations and a million professional photos in giant canvases or photo books, these things can seriously blow out any budget,” says Michelle Hutchison, money expert at finder.com.au.

“[Your wedding] doesn’t have to be an incredibly opulent affair that will leave you in debt for the next 10 years — the simplest weddings are often the most special.”

And Michelle should know — her own 2009 nuptials came in at just $9,000.

“I shopped around for absolutely everything and when I thought I could do it cheaper myself, I did,” she says.

To find out exactly how, we quizzed Michelle and three other brides who pulled off their big day for less than $18,000 — or half the average cost of an Aussie wedding.