A History of Our Changing Priorities, Courtesy of the NYT Wedding Pages

Newlywed Groom Lifts Bride With Bouquet
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When it comes to shopping, every purchase is -- to some extent -- a statement of values. Whether your concern is how the chickens you eat are farmed or where the shirt you wear is made, the high cost of fish or the suspiciously low cost of clothes at Walmart, we all vote with our wallets. And, as with any other vote, we tend to follow trends.

And when it comes to events that occasion careful purchases -- and following trends, for that matter -- it's hard to beat weddings. Coming after years of childhood dreams and careful plans, your wedding day is the one when you most want to be on top -- and to be there in style.

Recently, WeddingCrunchers.com offered a fresh tool for checking out the rise and fall of America's hottest trends. A compilation of all of the New York Times' engagement announcements and wedding write-ups from 1981 to the present, the site makes it possible to see how the popularity of certain jobs, colleges, retailers, food trends, and other factors have risen and fallen over time. For example, you can see how, in the 1990s, the traditional triumvirate of top jobs -- doctor, lawyer, and dentist -- were overwhelmed by real estate brokers:

Or, if you're interested in Wall Street, you can see how the prestige of a fiance at Lehman plummeted in the late-2000s, while JPMorgan and Bank of America soared:

Interested in retailers? Check out the shifting fortunes of JC Penney, Barney's, Bloomingdale's and Macy's, presumably in registries:

What do you think about sodas? Coke and Pepsi have switched top spots for years, only to be shunted aside recently by the rise of...Juice!

And where's the hot place to volunteer when you finish college? It used to be the Peace Corps, but Teach For America is definitely coming up. Americorps is not quite as popular...

Remember when everyone was going low-carb? How about when vegetarianism was the big thing? Nowadays, vegan seems to be the way to go:

And what about your entree? For years, salmon has been the go-to fish of choice, neatly eclipsing other trendy fish like snapper. But recently, lobsters seem to be making a run for it:

This is only the beginning -- the rise and fall of wedding trends is full of surprises (for example, in the battle between chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, the dark horse victor will probably blow your mind). If you want to see how fads come and go -- and maybe even get a peek at the trends you're currently following -- definitely give it a shot!

Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings Editor. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.
Painless Ways to Dramatically Slash Wedding Costs
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A History of Our Changing Priorities, Courtesy of the NYT Wedding Pages
A novel and innovative option for the modern, time-strapped bride and groom is a service called BrideRush, which offers discounted, date-specific wedding deals. BrideRush bundles the search, inquiry, and booking processes for a simplified and streamlined solution with a possible 30 percent to 70 percent discount. Owner Anita Malik refers to BrideRush as the "Priceline of weddings."
The average wedding dress costs roughly $1,100, according to WeddingStats.org, so thinking outside of the box can yield big savings. Consider a pre-owned gown from a vintage or consignment store. Preownedweddingdresses.com offers hundreds of designer dresses, with many priced at less than $300. On top of that, after your big day, you can even sell your dress back to them. You can also find used veils, shoes and jewelry on the site.

Both eBay and Craigslist also offer thousands of less expensive gown options. Bridesagainstbreastcancer.org sells gowns donated by designers, with all proceeds going to charity. Most gowns range from $100 to $800. Or consider borrowing a gown from a family member or friend.

- Shorten (or elongate) your wedding planning timeline to either nab last-minute deals or have the flexibility to lock in bargain rates at a later date.

- Consider a Friday or Sunday wedding instead of the traditional -- and expensive -- Saturday.

- Consider nontraditional venues, like city-run spaces, gardens, beaches and zoos, for inexpensive and beautiful wedding sites.

With the average cost of a full-service wedding planner clocking in at nearly $4,000, eliminating the planner is an easy way to shave money from your budget. Not having one will require legwork on the part of you and your spouse-to-be, but the savings are tremendous.

Avoid traditional evening sit-down dinners or buffets. You can save lots of money by hosting a daytime affair or cocktail reception. While you may hear some guests grumbling, you will save a healthy chunk of change.

Avoid an open bar and consider opting for wine and beer only. Or serve a signature cocktail instead. This lets you buy one or two types of alcohol, allowing you to buy in bulk and cut costs. Consider avoiding the pricey champagne toast altogether, and toast with your signature cocktail instead. It'll be more personalized and memorable.

The higher, larger, and more ornate the cake, the more money it will cost. Choose a lower, smaller, and simpler one for the ceremonial cake-cutting and photos, and stock the kitchen with a sheet cake. Guests will never know the difference, and it can save you a couple hundred dollars.

The average cost of wedding flowers is nearly $2,000, but by choosing one type of seasonal, local flower, you can take advantage of a cheaper, bulk order. Or consider using Costco or an e-retailer like freshroses.com, whose site allows you to buy wholesale flowers -- cutting out expensive middlemen -- for do-it-yourself centerpieces, bouquets, and boutonnieres.

You can find DIY ideas by perusing Pinterest or marthastewartweddings.com. No one attending your wedding will remember -- or care -- that you had homemade favors as opposed to expensive, store-bought ones. Consider commissioning an aunt or grandmother with a unique skill to make the favors, centerpieces, or cake. It'll be special and that loved one will probably feel both pleased and honored to help.

The pre-ceremony aromatherapy massage, professional hair and makeup, pricey bachelorette weekend in Tahoe, and three bridal showers are all completely unnecessary.
Invest in your long-term relationship instead.

With so much focus on the wedding day, consider parlaying some money into services that'll build a great foundation for your marriage, like couples counseling and financial planning. These investments in your future together have magnificent potential for enhancing the quality of your marriage.

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