Over the years I’ve witnessed a lot of folks spend every penny of their earnings, some of their parents (or other sponsors), and unfortunately, a good bit of their future as well. It’s a practice far too often adopted by couples planning weddings when faced with coming up with large sums of money. How else do people pay for weddings?
In our case, there was a lot of sacrifices and smart maneuvering. We paid all of the costs for our wedding out-of-pocket as a couple and double-downed on our habit of living off of the following adaptation from the Dave Ramsey handbook.
Not many of our friends understood our preference to eat what we’d cooked at home or the level of control we exercised over impulses to buy material items. We didn’t forgo restaurant meals altogether, nor did we go without buying everything we wanted… we simply were a bit more discerning in our choices. Nonetheless, both of us developed reputations for seemingly miser-like behavior. I don’t mind it either. Our actions helped us to do more than pay for a wedding. Together, we paid off tons of student loan debt in addition to becoming homeowners.
I can’t tell you what sacrifices to make; everyone’s financial situation is a bit different. But here are a few concrete examples of things we did to make the most of our resources:
Stick to a budget.
If you set a budget for groceries, keep to it. If you need more room, use manufacturer and store coupons to get more bang for your buck. Food is one place where people overspend and there are no refunds available for buyer’s remorse.
Space out must-have services.
For instance, without much thinking about it, Sherrod and I both extended the periods in between hair services. Either we put our own hand to our hair or we skipped services altogether and it helped keep more money in the bank that ultimately went to bigger payments on student loans or into our wedding savings account.
Sell useful items you no longer need.
I had tons of items in my home that I no longer needed but were in great condition. Plus, with the merging of our households, I had more leeway to get rid of things I’d ultimately no longer need. I managed to get instant cash by selling things on Craigslist. Check out this post for suggestions on where to sell things you don't need.
Wherever possible, buy wedding items that can be repurposed or sold.
Just as recommended above, sell what you don't need. After the wedding is over, utilize craigslist or other avenues to recoup your expenses (provided the condition of the items is still good). We did this with our vases and a few other odds and ends.
Utilize credit cards that offer cash bonuses for purchases.
We kept cash on hand to pay for all of our purchases, but saw a great opportunity to multiply the reach of our dollar in picking up Chase Sapphire credit cards. At the time we signed up, the credit cards were offering up to $450 cash back for meeting a minimum dollar amount purchase in the first three months and the addition of an authorized user. Initially, I was reluctant. But I couldn't deny the awesome benefits. We were going to be spending the money anyway and Chase was offering additional points (which are converted to cash back) for dining purchases.
In the end, we both signed up, and in one fell swoop, we received over a thousand dollars in cashback by paying the balance on our food and beverage costs which qualified us for additional dining points. The key to really saving is that we paid the credit card bill as soon as the statement was ready (read: no interest charges). I can’t say for certain how much cash back we earned on all of our wedding purchases, but the sum we picked up with Chase was a major boon.
Eliminate costs where possible.
Neither of us had many expenditures we could reduce. I’d already bitten the bullet and canceled my gym membership and opted to hit the pavement for running instead. My rent was the only place left to cut. Distance did not permit us to live together, nor would our religious beliefs. With a high-priced long-distance move on the horizon, I needed a big way to save and one of my friends graciously agreed to let me crash with her temporarily. I moved out of my place and my friend only allowed me to give her a fraction of what I’d been paying in rent. It was a help to us both and an opportunity to spend time together before I left town.
I think it goes without saying that THE number one budget savvy principle to live by is… to make your money count! It wasn’t easy to do most of the things we did, but we made it work for us and we’re happier for it. This list isn’t the most comprehensive breakdown of every cost savings measure at your disposal, but hopefully it’s given you some ideas.
If you have any money-saving tips to share, PLEASE leave them in the comments section below!
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.