So, you finally found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. Congratulations! Now the fun part begins—planning the big day. Everyone wants to have a dream wedding.
However, that can come with a serious price tag. The wedding industry has changed quite a bit in the last 40 years, with the average wedding now weighing in around $35,000. That’s a lot of money!
When you account for all the things you will be spending money on (tuxes, flowers, venue, licenses, caterers, etc.), the cost can add up quickly, dumping unwanted financial pressure on newlyweds and their families. Even if you are fortunate to have some financial help, managing your money will keep it from getting sucked into a nuptial black hole and instead go to things like a killer honeymoon.
So, for those of you that want to celebrate your union with style but have a budget fit for eloping—don’t worry. You don’t need to run off to the courthouse just yet.
Here are some tips to keep your dreams (and wallet) alive when planning a wedding on a budget.
Talk to Your Partner
First and foremost, and before making any real budgetary decisions, have a conversation with your partner. You may have heard it said that financial matters are one of the leading causes of stress for marriages. So start your union out right by making sure you and your future spouse agree on a wedding plan. By creating a budget now, you will avoid significant mishaps later.
Brittney Bartling, Wedding Planner at BLB Events, says, “Google Sheets becomes your best friend in planning a wedding. It allows you to customize your budget and categories. You can also keep track of payments, the budget left to spend and you can access it anytime.”
Bartling expands, “Want to dance all night, but don't care to have a sit-down dinner? Splurge on a great DJ and have a buffet dinner that is still good, but doesn't require all the staff of a served meal.”
And be realistic. If you have a small budget, a sweet, nature wedding with close family and friends may be the way to go. A bigger budget may allow you to have a ceremony in a venue with a catered reception. The key is looking at what you want and what you can afford.
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Decide on the Essentials
Now that you and your partner have honed in on a budget, it is time to decide how to allocate that money. In other words, you need to decide what percentage of the wedding budget will be spent in each area. Depending on your priorities, each budget will look different. A simple breakdown can look something like this:
- Reception: 55%
- Ceremony: 12%
- Photography: 10%
- Wedding Planner: 10%
- Dress/Tux: 8%
- Miscellaneous/Cushion: 5%
This is the backbone of your budget. Use it to help make decisions about the things you want or need. Maybe you can forgo a videographer in lieu of a better venue. Instead of a DJ for your reception, perhaps a live band is more cost-effective. And, rather than get a new dress, maybe you can keep the sentiment alive by wearing the dress your mother wore with some customized alterations.
Michele Velazquez, owner of Pop the Knot, helps couples plan weddings on a budget and shares, “with full weddings costing an average of $33K, couples are loving our service which starts off at $1,750. All of our packages include a venue (for a fraction of the cost), officiant, photographer, bouquet, and boutonnière.”
Ultimately, you get to decide what your non-negotiables are. Put aside a higher percentage of your budget in these areas. And no matter what, make sure to do your research and shop around for the best prices.
Dress for the Occasion
Clothes for your ceremony can be a huge expense if you are not careful. Your clothing decisions will be easier once you decide how formal you want your wedding. Do you envision a ball-like wedding fit for royalty? Or are you more comfortable in a country setting? Keep in mind that formal events usually come at a higher cost.
Hair and makeup for the bride can be expensive. For a cost effective alternative, look for someone who will do a good job for a reasonable cost; this is where friends and family can be a great resource. And for the bridal party, you can save money by having the bridesmaids wear dresses they already own within your color scheme.
Menswear is usually less expensive, especially if you are open to renting. Tux rentals are usually under $200. And if you are having a less formal ceremony, the groom could wear a suit he already owns. Much like the bridesmaids, groomsmen could wear personal suits & ties that go along with the wedding colors.
Big Ceremony or Reception?
The venue is going to be one of your highest costs, so be sure to dedicate plenty of resources in this area. Your venue choice also impacts how many people can attend. Not only do you have to think about seat accommodations, but keep in mind that most venues charge per guest, especially if you have a plated dinner.
You may want to invite everyone you know, but often that is not feasible. And more guests usually means more expense. A good rule to keep your guest list (and budget) within reason is to take your guest list and cut it by 20%, then another 20% to settle into something you can manage and afford.
To avoid hurt feelings, you may tell coworkers and acquaintances that you are keeping things simple and only inviting only close family and friends. Another option can be to have a large ceremony, but have an intimate gathering with close friends and family afterward.
You can also cut venue costs by utilizing the great outdoors. Having your wedding at a public park or a similar venue can be cost-effective, as you often do not have to pay for a building. Also, having a home wedding or reception can be another way to cut costs and still have a memorable wedding. Providing your own food and beverages if the venue allows is another great way to cut costs.
Decorating Like a Pro
To save money without sacrificing charm, shop around at websites like Etsy for decorations and other wedding supplies. You can also find great gifts for your bridal party that won’t break your budget. Online vendors can be a great way to get custom wedding decor at a price you can afford. Plus, you will be supporting small businesses and local artists.
Marie Kubin, CEO of Rent my Wedding, shares, “The best way to plan a wedding on a budget is to do as much as you can yourself, rather than hiring full-service vendors.”
Kubin continues, “ For example, wedding lighting is something that anyone can set up, no experience needed. DIY wedding lighting options include colorful uplighting for the walls, personalized monogram lights for the floor, and spotlights for the cake. Setting up the wedding lighting yourself will help you save hundreds or even thousands of dollars!”
If you have friends with special skills, consider asking them to help make wedding items in lieu of gifts. You might have a graphic designer friend that can do your invitations or a cousin who moonlights as a DJ and can give you a discount.
There are also some great DIY projects that can help save you some money. You would be surprised at how much you can get accomplished with a trip to the craft store and a night with some friends. (Just make sure to stay below that 10 person limit.)
Kubin also adds, “Other DIY options include backdrops, canopies and photo booths. All of these are DIY rentals that you can set up yourself.”
No matter how you budget, remember that the most important part of your wedding is not in the venue, decorations, or reception—it's the start of a new life with someone you love. And in ten years, you probably won’t even remember all the microscopic details you are stressing about now.
Whether your budget is big or small, you can have a wonderful wedding without putting yourself into a financial hole.
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