You’ve got plenty of bills stacking up where your wedding is concerned, from gowns and tuxes to food and cake to venues and vendors. In fact, you may not be very far into the planning process when you begin to realize that it’s going to be almost impossible to stick to your budget.

For this reason, you’re going to have to find ways to cut back on some of the expenses, and you know you’re not going to give up the gorgeous reception hall, the dress of your dreams, or the famous photographer that just happened to have a single weekend free for you. That means you’ll be looking at ways to cut food and beverage expenses (there goes the open bar) as well as entertainment.

But you don’t want to end up with nothing more than a wedding playlist on your MP3 player for the evening’s amusements, so here are a few unique ideas that won’t break the bank.

Opt for a dessert reception. Many brides and grooms these days are feeling the crunch of the recession, and they’re having to choose between the costs of a wedding and putting a down payment on a first home (for example). But if you can stick to your budget, you could have your cake and eat it, too. One great way to ensure this sweet success is to skip the pricy entrees and go right to dessert.

Set up stations with the basics (cake, cupcakes, ice cream, fruit, etc.) along with a whole slew of icings, spreads, and toppings for guests to choose from. You’ll get food and entertainment all in one and every guest will get the dessert they want. Just make sure to mention it on the invite so no one expects a five-course meal.

Hold high tea. Instead of a serving a full meal, high tea is a less expensive option for an afternoon reception (also, no costly alcohol and no drunk relatives). Tea, finger sandwiches, and bite-sized cakes and crumpets can be pre-arranged on tables (no wait staff necessary) and you can flit from table to table going over the fine points of sipping versus slurping.

Make each table a playlist. If you literally can only afford to hook up your iPod to a docking station with speakers, at least make the most of it. Create your wedding playlist and then post specific song lists at each table with a few special tracks selected. When the tracks on the list start playing, everyone from the table has to head to the dance floor. You may want to cater to older relatives with a few slow songs, especially if you think granny might object to shaking it to Sir Mix-a-Lot (although watching your grandparents dance to “Baby Got Back” could be hilarious).

Flash mob. A lot of couples are now opting to do a special dance (complete with choreography) to entertain guests. Instead of hiring a pricy instructor, work something out on your own with the wedding party and then hop up and get dancing when your song of choice comes up in the playlist.

Ask a friend to perform. While most couples will shell out big bucks to hire a professional band, a DJ, or a wedding magician, you simply may not have the money it takes to book the pros. Instead, think about approaching friends who dabble in performance to see if they’ll work for cheap (or even free as a wedding gift to you).

You may know someone in a band, or even a solo musician, or you might have friends in the theater that would be willing to stage a short performance. And if you simply have no one, think about advertising at a nearby college campus for a band or DJ. They’ll often work for less dough in order to gain some experience.

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