You’ve found that special someone, you just got engaged, you’re in love and everything is wonderful! You’re getting married! You’re getting married. You’re. Getting. Married. OMG. You have to plan a wedding!
That was me last Valentine’s Day. After getting the biggest surprise of my life, I now had the biggest event to plan. And of course, the next big question was: How are we going to PAY for this?
So after just getting married this past summer, allow me to share some things I learned along the way. Here are my top tips for reducing expenses at a wedding:
1. Create a wedding budget.
The best first step I can offer is: Decide on your budget together. The cost of the average American wedding is $33,391! And did you know that nearly 45% of that went toward just the venue*? Managing a wedding budget will instantly help you make smarter spending decisions as you choose all the other details of your wedding — like red velvet or lemon chiffon cake.
2. Do your research.
Once you know how much money you’re working with, it’s time to make your wedding checklist. It helps to do some research, go to events and ask your married friends.
Attend wedding and bridal shows. You will quickly learn the costs of many wedding venues and vendors as well as discover how many options you have for your wedding style. As a bonus, many vendors offer a chance to win free services!
Go online. Many wedding websites offer planning tools and apps to help you stick to your budget, manage your wedding expenses and payment due dates.
3. Prioritize what you say “I Do” to.
No one will remember what flowers were in your centerpieces or which vegetable was served at dinner. (I certainly don’t!) By creatively tackling some of the basics, you’ll have bigger budgets for your must-haves. Here’s some examples:
Save the Dates. Nice gesture, but not necessary. Go digital and send an invite via email.
Wedding Favors. Couples spend an average of $239 on favors that often go untouched and left behind by your guests. Skip it! You could put those funds elsewhere (we put that money toward our honeymoon instead!)
Wedding Flowers. Floral arrangements can add thousands of dollars to your wedding cost. ($2,379 on average.) Look into floral alternatives or DIY options. Grocery stores and farmers markets are a good place to start. There are even online kits that curate your materials for you to put together yourself.
Guest List. Do you really need to invite that “friend of a friend” or an old coworker that you haven’t talked to in a year? With catering being an average price of $70/person, you can see how quickly this can add up!* A good place to start is with your immediate family and your wedding party, then branch out from there. Don’t cave in if people ask to bring last-minute guests — I’m glad I didn’t!
4. Plan for every dollar, before — and after — the party is over.
Some costs can sneak up on you. So make sure you’re thinking about everything from start to finish, including ways to get some of your money back.
Rent your clothing. It’s hard to think about spending so much money on clothing that you will only ever wear one time. You can find amazing deals renting dresses and tuxes or suits.
Second-hand = major savings. Consignment shops and online marketplaces can save you hundreds on wedding decorations. Plus now you have your something borrowed!
Re-sell. If you do invest in your own wedding decorations, sell them after your wedding. This is a great way to get some of that cost back and help pay off wedding bills. (I’ll get to see our centerpiece lights again at a friend’s upcoming wedding this year!)
Don’t forget to tip. Couples may forget that there are hundreds of more dollars needed to tip your vendors. Often a 10-15% tip is a nice gesture for your DJ, florist, hair and makeup artist and transportation. You may also offer tips to your photographer and officiant.
The best tip of all? Have fun! Don’t make planning an affordable wedding a chore, but an activity you do as a couple. It’s a great way to start managing money together and learning how to plan a healthy financial future together.
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* The Knot 2017 Real Wedding Study. https://www.theknot.com/content/average-wedding-cost-2017