I made a post online one day that sums up what this post is about: “plan your marriage, f*ck the wedding.”
But after you’ve spent a fortune paying for a wedding, reality sets in and the food is no longer catered, your best man and maid of honor are nowhere to be found during intense arguments and you could find yourself deep in debt after wining and dining 250 of your “closest” family and friends.
Remember, the average cost U.S. couples spend on a wedding today is $26,444. This doesn’t even take into consideration the engagement ring, prenuptial agreement or honeymoon costs. (In many locations like Los Angeles, the average for a wedding can be as high as $40k.)
But just because the average couple spends around $26k on their wedding, does not mean anyone reading this has to be “the average couple”.
The couple that places a $26k wedding on a credit card at 19.99% interest, then pays $511 over 10 years to pay off the balance, ends up spending $61,320 total on that wedding over 10 years.
If you were to be frugal with your planning instead and decided to have a max wedding cost of $10k, which you saved PRIOR to getting married, you could use the savings to literally jumpstart a major portion of your family’s financial future. This in turn creates less financial stress for couples which is one of the leading causes for divorce.
Understand that the $500 or so that you now do not have to come up with each month to pay off credit card debt could be invested to become:
- $103,402 over 10 years
- $364,378 over 20 years
- $1,023,044 over 30 years
Now ideally, you will have both a wedding that you enjoy as well as a nice start to your marriage sans financial stress. But again, from a healthy marriage stand point, being stressed out and deep in debt is not a smart way to begin your journey with a person.
So how can you pull off a great wedding without beginning a new life hating each other and your wedding bills?
Pre-proposal saving: Yes, start saving money for your wedding before the actual proposal. It might sound a little weird, but that’s the point here: normal is broke. The key is to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing so you can achieve different results.
Before the proposal, couples have usually discussed marriage in some form or fashion. They have usually discussed a time line and where/how each future spouse would like to have their dream wedding.
If you are already having serious discussions, then start saving money for the “big day.” If you cannot set aside at least $200 or $300 a month for your wedding due to immense debt, then that’s usually a sign that you need to get on better financial ground and reconsider your plans.
Pay in Cash: Once you have a nice amount saved up, buy everything in cash: rings, dresses, the honeymoon-everything. The same mentality from above applies. If you do not have the CASH to pay for an item, then you cannot afford and need not get it, or wait longer and save more.
Of course if parents or other family members have agreed to step in and contribute then take these things into consideration as well.
Exchange Services & Receive Services as Gifts: Do you or your partner have a skill set that can be swapped for a wedding service? I previously worked with a woman whose wedding planner was free, because her fiancé was a graphic designer and the wedding planner needed a new website.
Additionally, this same client received wedding pictures and photography for free because a close friend was a wedding photographer and offered his services as a gift to the couple. These two examples alone saved a couple over $2500. Do you have a family member or friend who is unlucky enough to have a timeshare? Ask if they will gift a week to you for a honeymoon, or allow for you to pay them whatever it costs to stay for a week.
Prioritize and Take Timing into Consideration: You’ll also need to prioritize all purchases and factor in timing for each item you will spend on. Yes, the wedding magazines you’ll be tempted to read will show wedding dresses that cost upwards of $1,000 or more but if you know you cannot afford these things while paying for other wedding components, then it’s the perfect time to prioritize.
Remember, this is a dress or tuxedo you will wear for a maximum of 8 hours, and then put in a closet. Discounts stores like David’s Bridal and Boutiques and various websites online have garments that are much more affordable. I’ve had a client who purchased her dress from David’s Bridal for $100, borrowed the tiara, veil, petty coat and all of the ring bearer and flower girl accessories from a friend.
Why not? That person will never use it again, and neither will you! Unless you’re a ratchet wearing the same wedding outfit in your second marriage of course…
The point is that hardly any of these things could have been done at the last minute. It pays to figure out what you’re willing to go all out for and what you won’t ahead of schedule. Also, by shopping around and asking around in advance, you could potentially save yourself a ton of money in general.
Get Creative: Flowers can be one of the most expensive aspects of a wedding and let’s face it, within a week, they’re dead. Do you need roses and out of season flowers? Do you need flowers at all? One of my clients used artificial flowers for their wedding and nobody knew the difference. Also, the bride was able to keep her bouquet for years.
Another expensive part of a wedding is the reception and food at the reception. There are
inexpensive ways of doing this as well. Instead of having a sit down dinner, why not have a brunch? Have the reception on a Sunday afternoon. Do you have a friend with a big backyard? A friend who caters? This is the time to utilize all friends and resources available to you so that once the wedding is over, you and your new spouse can begin with as less stress as possible.
Make it less expensive for everyone: Lastly, be considerate of others’ budgets and make your wedding affordable. If you ask close friends to be in the wedding, don’t take them to a boutique in Beverly Hills and expect them to pay $300 for a dress while still having to purchase shoes. This is ridiculous and borderline selfish. You could designate a specific color and have your wedding party shop wherever they’d like to instead of mandating a dress or tux of a specific brand.
Additionally, when it comes to things like hair and makeup, you should inform everyone upfront that the makeup artist and stylist you use will not be for everyone, unless of course you’re paying for everyone…which you should of course not do if you can’t afford to.
By being considerate of the finances of the other people in your wedding, this could have a positive impact on the resources these people volunteer or provide to your wedding. People are much more likely to help out if they aren’t already feeling a financial strain from doing so.
In the end, the decisions made regarding your wedding can either have a positive affect
financially or cause a significant strain on your new life as husband and wife.
If you are reading this and you’re thinking of taking the big leap, now is an excellent time to talk with your spouse about the items discussed above. Hopefully you both will realize beforehand that spending tons of money and going in debt to impress and feed others is not important to you.
Remember, normal people spend $26k on their weddings that they most likely don’t even have. But normal people’s marriages also fail. This is the perfect time to be as weird as humanly possible. This is the time to plan, save, pay in cash, prioritize, get creative and utilize all available resources to make it inexpensive for everyone involved.