When it comes to planning a wedding, says sociologist Carol Greenblat, "people who are normally rational and businesslike can go totally nuts."

The main myth promoted by the "wedding industry," she says, "is that the wedding is symbolic of the relationship you're going to have: The perfect wedding will make the perfect marriage.

"Most people don't rationally believe this is true, but the pressure is great. That's why you wind up spending far more money than you know you can reasonably afford."

Two common sales tactics are, she says, "catering to fantasies women may have had as little girls -- perfect veils and cascading flowers and napkins with your name on them. Or they may imply that if you don't buy the products now, when you're older, you may always regret it."

Among Greenblat's suggestions for cutting through sales hype and planning a personalized wedding:

Resist pressure to decide on an important item immediately.

Take someone along to shop who is not emotionally involved.

Get the groom involved in wedding preparations.

Consider modifying the wedding service so it is meaningful to you. "It doesn't occur to some people that you can shop for a minister or rabbi. If one says, 'This is the ceremony I give' and won't allow changes, you can find someone else to perform the service."