You’re tying the knot, congratulations! A wedding is a major milestone and a huge investment. If you are smart, you can find ways to save.
You’re tying the knot, congratulations! Getting married is one of life’s most significant decisions, and you probably want to throw a bash to celebrate your union. After two years of microweddings and minivows, you’re ready to go big.
Toast your engagement and take a breath. A wedding is a huge financial commitment, and you don’t want it to cost more than your annual rent or student loans. Please, don’t even think about maxing out those credit cards. Before you book the stretch limo and luxe beachside venue, hit pause, and get your finances in order.
Welcome to the next stage
Whether you planned your dream wedding in grade school or you’re new to nuptials, get ready to open your wallet. A wedding is one of the first big financial commitments you’ll make as a couple and an opportunity to unite family and friends. It’s also a spendy affair. From rings to clothing to booze, the wedding industry is big business.
As the pandemic subsides, couples are once again planning big weddings with all the pomp, circumstance, and price. The average wedding costs about $28,000, according to wedding planning site The Knot’s annual survey. Larger affairs in major cities will be even more expensive.
How do I calculate how much to spend on a wedding?
Depending on your tastes, you could spend a few hundred dollars on a courthouse wedding and beers at the neighborhood bar, or throw down hundreds of thousands of dollars to charter a yacht and serve guests caviar. No matter your tastes, it’s smart to start with a budget.
Where you get married will help you assess costs. Big cities, including New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, and luxury destinations, such as the Caribbean or Hawaii, will be the most expensive, while rural spots or small towns will likely be more budget friendly.
According to a recent survey in 2021, New Jersey was the most expensive state to get married with an average wedding cost of $47,000, followed by Washington D.C. at $44,000 and New York at $42,000. Want to save some cash? Opt for a wedding in Wyoming or Oklahoma, where weddings average about $16,000.
Once you’ve picked your wedding location, you can fill in budget details. Go online to research costs of venues, photographers, caterers, and DJs. Talk to friends and family who live in the area. Ask the venue manager to suggest economical options.
For spreadsheet lovers, The Knot offers this guidance for creating a wedding budget and allocating dollars:
- Venue: 30%
- Catering: 23%
- Photographer: 7%
- Rings: 7%
- Alcohol: 7%
- Flowers: 7%
- DJ: 4%
- Lighting: 3%
- Couple’s attire: 6%
The Knot’s budget includes several other categories, including invitations and transportation. The full breakdown exceeds 100% to account for different options that couples will have.
(Potentially) expensive elements to evaluate
Many of us can picture a dream wedding (the beach in Cabo, anyone?) but you can’t always have your cake and eat it too. To save money on your wedding day, take a hard look at your wish list and see where you can trim. We’ve collected some tips to help even the biggest Bridezilla.
Location, location, location
If you have your heart set on a destination wedding, it will likely cost more than a local affair. You’ll need to fly to the location, book multiple nights in a hotel, plus meals, activities, and ground transportation. Since your guests will be traveling too, it’s customary to treat them to a welcome dinner and potentially other meals. The bill is adding up, and you’re not even married yet!
If you choose a destination wedding, sign up for an airline or hotel credit card and earn points on your purchases. If you already have points, you can cash them in for free flights or hotel stays, which will save you cash.
To save more, consider a local wedding, which cuts down on all those travel and hosting-related expenses. Think of inexpensive locations in your network. Maybe your friend has an Instagram-worthy backyard or a cousin who lives on a farm. Look for an apartment building with a rooftop deck or an office building with an Art Deco lobby that you can rent after hours. Vendors in your hometown or small cities will likely charge less than their resort counterparts.
Disinvite the wedding planner
As a young professional working crazy hours, it’s hard to devote time to wedding planning, and it might be tempting to hire a wedding planner to handle the details. Think twice. Wedding planners can charge thousands of dollars or more—money you could spend elsewhere. Instead, divide responsibilities with your fiancé and recruit friends and family to help. Isn’t that why you have a bridal party?
Decorations: natural beauty or bare bones
Once you’ve picked a venue, it’s time to design the room. If the space is cavernous and empty, you may need to rent tables, chairs, linens, lighting, dishware, and linens. Those expenses add up fast. If you pick a venue that already has those items in place and in stock, such as a catering hall or hotel, you’ll save on rentals.
Now, let’s talk flowers. Centerpieces dripping with flowers and vines are gorgeous, but they’re expensive. For a wallet-friendly tablescape, choose LED candles and small bud vases with seasonal flowers and fruit. Surround them with pine cones or small stones you collect. Want to save even more? Get married on a beach or in the woods, where the stunning landscape eliminates the need for pricey flower arrangements and string lights.
When it comes to programs and printing, a little DIY goes a long way. You can design your own programs, pick up some nice cardstock and print them at home. Even better, eliminate individual programs, place cards, and menus by designing large posters with the information. Display them on inexpensive easels or frames you can buy at a craft store.
Slim down the catering and booze
There’s nothing like lollipop lamb chops and champagne toast. However, if you skip the pricey hors d’oeuvres, bubbly, and plated dinners, and opt for a buffet, you’ll shave down catering costs. Choose chicken or salmon over tenderloins, and replace the seven-tier cake with cupcakes or bite-sized desserts. To keep the liquor bill down, offer your guests beer and wine instead of a full bar.
Save on photographer and videos
Of course, you want to memorialize your big day. Those pictures and videos will last a lifetime. However, you don’t need to shell out thousands of dollars on photographer and videographer. Instead of booking the photographer for a whole day, hire them for four to six hours, and skip the assistant photographer. When you’re ready, buy the digital proofs and create your own albums. Rather than hiring a dedicated video pro, ask a tech-savvy friend to shoot the ceremony.
Dress the wedding party for less
Wedding dresses are such big business there are TV shows dedicated to gowns. (“Say Yes to the Dress” is a personal favorite.) But you don’t have to break the bank here. At bridal stores, ask for past season gowns or samples, which will cost far less. Better yet, rent a dress or borrow one from a friend. When you shop for shoes, look for something you can dye black or wear again.
To outfit the groom, skip the tuxedo and opt for a dark suit, which is more likely to be reused. Instead of glossy tux shoes, buy sharp loafers or even sneakers.
Finally, if you’re treating the wedding party to their outfits, look for off-the-rack options at department stores, which will be less expensive than bridal shops and more likely to be worn again.
Ready, set, walk the aisle
Your wedding should be one of the happiest days of your life. Don’t spend it sweating about how you’ve blown your budget. It’s possible to throw a fabulous event without taking on unnecessary debt. Make a financial plan, spend wisely, and collaborate with your partner. After you’ve said “I do!” take the cash you’ve saved and use it for the honeymoon or buying a house. You can send us a thank you note later.