The big day doesn’t have to mean big debt
Weddings are life-changing moments, and everyone wants theirs to be perfect. However, poor planning can lead to budget-busting consequences that can scar a new financial union. There’s no reason you can’t have a memorable wedding without going into debt, but it does take planning, a little more leg work and a commitment to working within a strict budget.
How much do you expect to spend?
Recent data shows the average cost of a wedding is $22,500. That includes everything from the wedding dress to the rings, the venue and catering — not to mention flowers, the cake, entertainment and the photographer. It all adds up very quickly and doesn’t even include the honeymoon. These wedding costs can be higher or lower depending on where it takes place.
The most important number is the amount of money you can spend without going into debt, making the wedding budget the central focus of your plan.
The critical importance of a wedding budget
The crucial first step of planning a wedding is determining how much you can spend. If your budget doesn’t match your expectations for the perfect wedding, you will need time to get your finances in order. What can you expect to save between now and the big day? Will your parents contribute to the costs? Whatever your sources of money, you need to establish a budget limit and a timeline for raising the money you need.
For example, if your wedding is 12 months out and you determine you can save $600 a month, that’s $7,200 on top of what you already have saved. If your total savings amounts to $15,000 and you receive another $10,000 from your parents, that’s a total budget of $25,000. Be sure to include in that amount sufficient money for an emergency fund after you’re married.
You can further refine your budget and spending power by prioritizing your expenses. There may be things you must have and other things you could do without or find ways to provide them less expensively. For example, you can create your own wedding favors and centerpieces or host the rehearsal dinner at your home rather than a restaurant.
Once you have determined how much you expect to spend, add another 15% to your budget for inevitable unforeseen expenses. If your spending plan exceeds your budget, look for areas you can economize, or you could push the wedding date further out on the calendar to allow for more time to raise money.
Ways to save money on wedding costs
Hiring a caterer can be the most expensive item in your budget, but it can be easily controlled. If the per-person cost is $150 and your catering budget is $10,000, you can afford to invite 66 people. Want to invite more people? Find a caterer with lower catering fees. You could also save money with an afternoon wedding offering appetizers instead of a meal, and wine and beer instead of a full bar.
Also, caterers and venues tend to charge more during the peak wedding months — June through September — so you could look at scheduling the wedding in off-peak periods like winter or early spring. You can also find better deals on wedding dresses and rings during the winter months.
Instead of hiring a photographer, which can cost several thousand dollars, you could provide your wedding guests with a unique wedding hashtag and ask them to take pictures throughout the day with their smartphones. It’s fun, and it invariably produces memorable photographs. Download a photo-sharing app like WedPics, Capsule, Wedding Party or Guest Shots. The app allows guests to upload their photos easily and seamlessly to a centralized location. You could hire a professional photographer to shoot a few formal wedding pictures.
Whatever you plan to purchase for your wedding, always shop and compare. And always get quotes in writing with expiration dates.
The bottom line
Most couples will agree that planning the wedding can be as much fun, if not more, than the wedding itself. It’s also much less stressful when you know you can afford it. Wise use of time to thoroughly plan, shop and compare can result in the perfect wedding without breaking the bank.
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