Your wedding day is going to be one of the most memorable of your life. As pop culture likes to remind us though, that joy could be tempered by the stress of planning – and paying – for the big day. According to The Knot’s 2014 Real Weddings survey, the average cost of getting married last year in America jumped to above $30,000. The good news is that with some careful consideration, your dream wedding doesn’t have to come hand-in-hand with a crazy price tag.
Image via Addison Studios
Agree on a financial vision for the wedding
As you begin planning your upcoming nuptials, before all else, you need to sit down with your husband-to-be and discuss your current financial situation. Check your individual credit scores and reports at Credit Karma to make sure your finances are in good shape. Not only is this an important step if you plan on borrowing money to foot the bill, but it also ensures that you’re not spending money at the expense of addressing much more urgent financial responsibilities. Map out what your financial needs and goals are for after the wedding, so you can envision your big day in a way that is realistic for you both and won’t leave either of you with buyer’s remorse.
Set a realistic budget
Once you’ve created this financial vision and ballpark budget for how much you want to spend, it’s time to outline a more detailed budget. Agree on what aspects of the wedding are most important to you as a couple and allocate budget accordingly. Prices from different venders can differ wildly, so make sure you get a range of quotes before committing to anything. It’s always a good idea to keep close tabs on your spending while planning a wedding – Microsoft Excel is your friend on this – because if you’re not working from a complete understanding, it’s easy to spend a lot more than you planned.
Give the guest list another look
The first order of business for most weddings is usually making the guest list, which is also the easiest way to blow out your budget. Lowering your guest count saves you money immediately and across the board. Think about the people you’re inviting and why. You’re going to be looking at the people who attend your wedding in photos for the rest of your life. In ten years, is it going to be important to you that person X was there on the most special day of your life? Keeping the guest list in control will not only keep costs down, it will give your big day a closer, more intimate feeling.
Thinking differently can be a smart financial choice
Renting a fancy wedding venue on a Saturday afternoon in summer is understandably very desirable but is going to be priced accordingly. Changing up the location where you get married will help you bring costs down quickly with little sacrifice. Explore renting a non-traditional wedding space. Weather permitting, a pavilion or outdoor area can be charming. A museum, art gallery, or even a brewery will help you save money on decorations and won’t tie you in to a pricey list of preset vendors. Getting married at a less popular time of the week, or year, can be a great cost-saver. A Friday night cocktail wedding or a Sunday brunch wedding can still feel extravagant while being comparatively cheap. A winter wedding will save you a bundle.
Attention to detail can equal huge savings
As you go through the line items in your budget, you’ll find there’s an economical alternative for almost all of them. Limit the bar selection to beer and wine, or a signature cocktail. If you shop for a dress at retailers like J. Crew, you can find simple, elegant wedding gowns without the eye-popping price tag. You can cut back on stationery costs by printing invitations and save the date cards yourself, having people RSVP via a wedding website and serving up a buffet meal so you don’t need to print individual place cards. An expensive wedding DJ can be replaced easily with a well thought out Spotify playlist. And spare yourself the expense of party favors. Not as many people will cherish that monogrammed wine glass as you might think.
Some things are worth spending money on
Planning weddings are expensive. Throwing a financially responsible wedding will be a matter of deciding what is important to you to spend on and the areas where you’re happy to cut back. There are going to be things in your wedding that are inadvisable to scrimp on. For instance, people are going to be at your wedding for a long time, on their feet and even dancing and so it’s a smart move to keep everybody well fed. People will remember if the buffet ran out before their table was called. The day is also going to go by in the blink of an eye and you’ll feel like you witnessed only a small portion of the memorable moments. So for the sake of your future nostalgia, make sure that you have a qualified professional on hand to take photos.
Editor's note: Due to the pandemic, some of the general wedding planning advice we share may not be applicable or possible due to restrictions on events. Please adhere to all current regulations and stay safe and healthy! Get more resources for planning a pandemic wedding here.