Q: I’m ready to tie the knot, but I don’t know if I can afford to have a wedding! Between the flowers, gown and venue, it’s thousands and thousands of dollars. How can I cut costs without compromising on my special day?
A: If you’re finding the costs of your wedding to be prohibitive, you’re not alone. According to wedding magazine The Knot, the average American wedding costs upward of $35,000.
That’s a lot of money to spend on one day, especially for twenty- and thirty-somethings who might still be carrying college debt and are probably at the starting end of their earning potential.
It should come as no surprise, then, that more than half of newly married couples are still paying off debt from their special day years after the honeymoon is over.
This doesn’t mean you need to give up your dreams of a spectacular gown and a three-tiered wedding cake.
By planning ahead, choosing wisely and prioritizing what’s truly important, you can say “I Do” without stressing over wedding costs.
1.) Start saving now
Instead of waiting for that special someone to pop the question, start saving now!
Ramit Sethi, popular finance blogger and author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich, says this is the biggest mistake people make when it comes to planning for their weddings. The average age of marriage is 27 for men and 26 for women. If you start saving for your wedding when you’re 20, explains Sethi, you’ll only need to put away $333 a month. But if you start at age 26, you’ll need to put away $2,333 a month!
Start saving now and take your vows, debt-free.
2.) Time it right
Don’t assume you need to get married on a balmy Saturday in July. Think off-season and mid-week, and you’ll save a bundle!
First, consider a winter wedding. You might not have the luxury of sunny skies and blossoming flowers, but you’ll have the warmth and coziness of being inside on a freezing winter’s day. You can treat your guests to steaming hot cocoa and then set off for the ski slopes and a dreamy wintry honeymoon.
Best of all, you’ll shave thousands of dollars off the venue price by choosing an unusual time of year to get married.
Second, think beyond Saturdays. If you can find a church with a vacancy on a Sunday, grab it! Venue prices can drop dramatically with just a one-day switch.
You can also opt for a mid-week wedding that precedes a national holiday date, like July 4th or Thanksgiving. This way, your guests will still be able to enjoy the evening without rushing home.
3.) Skip the cake
A slice of a dessert for $2.50 that doesn’t even taste that good? Meh. Who needs it?
Here are some other ideas:
- Fake your cake. If you can’t stomach the idea of a cake-less wedding, ask your baker to fake it for you by creating a false, cardboard bottom for your cake and only baking a genuine top layer or two. You’ll get the same look without the huge cost and you won’t be left with half a cake to trash when the wedding’s over.
- Set up a bar. No, we’re not talking liquor. Make your wedding a conversation piece by setting up a dessert bar instead of a cake. You can serve hot waffles with ice cream, chocolate syrup, caramel sauce and a huge selection of other fun toppings. Or, you can choose to serve warm brownies or chocolate chip cookies as your base instead. Make it super fun with a hot chocolate fountain. Everything’s better with chocolate. You’ll be pampering your guests at a fraction of the cost!
- Serve a sheet cake instead. Still want a cake you can eat in its entirety? Order a simple sheet cake from the best bakery in town. Your guests will be happy to savor a slice — even without all that fondant and frosting.
4.) Save on your gown
Every little girl dreams of her special day – and the special dress she’ll be wearing when it finally comes. But wedding gowns can cost thousands of dollars, and after being worn once, are often left to turn yellow in a forgotten corner of an attic.
Instead of throwing out thousands or even hundreds of dollars on your gown, look for a pre-owned gown on eBay, OnceWed.com or PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com. You can find a beautiful, gently used gown for under $100.
You can also look for a gown that wasn’t specifically designed as a wedding dress. Check out prom shops and sites, or embellish a bridesmaid dress to make it look like bride material.
5.) Vary your venue
Wedding venues tend to be couples’ biggest money-waster for their special day.
Save a ton by choosing a venue that has no outside contracts. You can shop around for the cheapest caterer, or break convention and skip the sit down meal, opting for something simpler and cheaper, like a BBQ buffet, burger bar or hors d’oeuvres and mini deli sandwiches.
If you really dare to be different, you can have your wedding in one of these unique, budget-friendly venues that can also serve as wedding halls for starry-eyed couples just like you:
- Art gallery. It’s already decorated beautifully. Make your wedding stand out with this artsy choice of venue!
- College campus. If you’re still a student and your college has a large dining hall and picturesque grounds, this can be an ideal wedding venue. Plus, you’ll probably be able to snag a steep student discount!
- Vacation home. By renting a vacation home for two weeks, you’ll have lodgings for your out-of-town guests, a romantic wedding venue and a honeymoon destination when the wedding’s over.
Still not sure how to pay for your wedding? We can help! Call, click or stop by [credit union] today to ask about our personal loans, wedding clubs and other great services that can take the stress out of your wedding preparations.
Your Turn: Already married? Share your best wedding hacks with us in the comments!