A pretty pearl ring recently took up real estate on the fourth finger of my left hand, meaning my boyfriend (a word I’m not ready to abandon for the absurd-sounding “fiance”) and I have taken the emotional leap of planning a life together.

Despite dating for more than a couple years and becoming roomies recently, I remain surprised at how different things feel now. It’s a magical time being between the “Will you?” and the “I do.”

There’s only one problem I can see with all of this: Apparently, we’re supposed to put on a wedding.

The most daunting part is the cost. A friend working for a wedding Web site tells me today’s average wedding budget is $30,000. Which, for those of you keeping score, is more than my annual salary.

We’re just starting to plan our wedding, and the first decision we made was to host the celebration here in Colorado. Our next decision was to keep our entire budget as close to $5,000 as possible.

It’s been less than a month since we popped the champagne, but it looks like we’ll attempt to get married this summer—a fact that causes a mix of disdain and horror on the faces of venue owners and bridal-store workers.

I plan to document all the deals I find here, from our search for affordable venues to my quest to find a gown that has less than four figures on its price tag. Our wedding will be specific to what we want (microbrews and lots of dancing), but along the way I’ll talk with local experts about how to keep all kinds of weddings on the cheap.

In the meantime, if you’re a bride-to-be on a budget or a veteran wedding-thrower who has advice to share, e-mail me via jennie@5280.com.