Planning a wedding is an exciting and often somewhat overwhelming season of life. I wanted to share guidance that will help you minimize the financial stress of a wedding so that you can find more joy and fun in the process.There are lots of potential stressors, many out of your control, that can arise during the planning process. One major stressor can be avoided by setting a clear plan on the financial front early on in the journey.If you develop a clear vision of your day with top priorities nailed down and have a defined budget to follow that works for your financial situation, your planning process will flow much more smoothly and your day can come together in the perfect way for you.
Engaged couples often ask me, “How much does an average wedding cost?” claims that an “average wedding” in the United States in 2018 costs just under $34,000.Our clients are spending about $15,000 on average to hold dream weddings that rival those that cost more than double.But I see beautiful, memorable weddings happen with budgets far under $10,000 . . . all of the time!If no one has reassured you that your budget, no matter the amount of money you have, is enough to plan an amazing wedding, let me be the one to provide some reassurance.You’ve got this!If you are looking at the “average,” you are focusing on the wrong number.If you were going to buy a car, would you ask what the average car in the U.S. costs before you go shopping?Probably not.You would likely start your search by calculating how muchcan afford in cash and/or as a monthly payment . . . and then work from there to make a wise investment that suits your situation.With this in mind, sorting out what you can reasonably afford for your wedding is the first step I recommend to every single couple.Once you have a number that works for your financial situation, you can develop a plan for the big day in alignment with this budget.
You and your fiancé will likely contribute some savings to your big celebration of love and lifelong commitment. If you are lucky, some relatives may help with expenses, too.While you might have a decent-sized savings account, spending a large chunk of your nest egg on a wedding may not be a priority for you and your future spouse. There are a lot of expenses pulling for your financial focus in your early adult years. You may be battling paying down student loan debt, saving for a home or car, or starting to build investments for your future.With those factors in mind, you and your fiancé may be totally happy with skipping a traditional wedding to save a bundle, but that might not come without resistance.There will likely be others around you who are very emotionally invested in seeing this event come together — parents, grandparents, and other family members. I suggest talking to these relatives early in your engagement about their contributions and expectations for your wedding.Having this potentially awkward conversation about wedding finances and expectations with both families is critical early on in your engagement (before even looking at a single venue or vendor).Each of you will find a different mix of responses.If your relatives have been saving for years, have $40,000 set aside for your wedding, and will give you carte blanche on the planning . . . lucky you!If your relatives imagine that they will contribute $1,000, but want you to have an enormous wedding with everyone they’ve ever known in attendance, you’ve discovered a challenging situation that sits in your future.Direct and honest communication about this topic is key.You’ll want to weigh the value of the contributions and the obligations tied to them. There may be situations where taking the money is not worth it and you can respectfully decline the contribution.Once you have a clear idea of what wedding contributions are coming your way, you can now calculate an overall wedding budget that works for you and your future spouse.(Contributions from family)+ (Money pulled from couple’s savings)= Total maximum wedding budgetAll of these numbers will vary from couple to couple.In an ideal world, I’d recommend stashing as much money as possible in savings well in advance of your engagement.Planning a wedding is a busy time and trying to stay on a strict budget to save rapidly during your engagement will make things more stressful.If you are currently engaged, you can play with these numbers and these numbers only . . . do not take on debt to make your wedding budget bigger.While a wedding is an amazing day to celebrate the start of your marriage, it is not wiseto bury yourself in debt to have an amazing wedding.If you are currently 20 years old and blissfully single, this may be an odd conversation to have with your parents. But thinking ahead is a smart decision and will help you avoid a large surprise expense from knocking the wind out of your financial progress when the time does come. Remember that there will be your future spouse’s relatives to factor in the mix, too.Once you have this number, you will focus on building your wedding within these limits and planning your day with your priorities in mind.
With your overall spending limit in hand, you will now want to calculate how much you should allocate to all the varied expenses that make up a wedding.For some people, a gorgeous, traditional wedding has been on their dream board since they were young. For others, this is an event they are planning to satisfy the cultural obligation.Discuss what is really important about your wedding and what you value in the event with your future spouse:There are many general recommendations online which outline percentages to spend on photography, venue, flowers, and more . . . but everyone’s priorities are different.Over at , we developed a budget creation tool that takes your wedding priorities into account.You answer a few questions about what is important to you on your wedding day and it creates a budget template with suggested percentages for all the major wedding expenses.Once you have this customized spreadsheet in your hands, you can fine-tune the expense category percentages to suit your fancy.You should aim to keep your costs per expense category within the limits listed. Throughout the planning process, keep checking in with this budget. If you go over on a category, make sure to balance the budget so your overall cost does not balloon.The crucial factor that impacts the budget most significantly is your guest list, so let’s take a look at that next.
For most couples I work with, creating the guest list is a big concern.They worry about offending people, but I promise you, these fears are more in your head than in reality.The reality is that this iswedding. The only people that “need” to be there are you and your future spouse. Throwing a big party to celebrate is optional, so shake off the feeling of obligation.Those who love and care about you truly just want you to be happy, so deciding to elope or have a micro wedding will not upset people as much as you imagine it will.There is likely a relatively small group of people who you’d be willing to reschedule your wedding for. What I mean by that is that if they couldn’t attend, you would change your wedding date to ensure they’d be there to celebrate.Those are the people who shouldmake the invite list.Beyond that, you have the people that you’d love to be a part of the day. They are important to you and would make the event more fun. If you have the budget, I would invite these people.After that, you pick where to draw the line:Just remember that with every additional guest, the cost of your wedding goes up.Remember that keeping the guest list small goes beyond financials. Keeping the guest list smaller will give you more time with the people who really matter most to you and your fiancé.When you’ve locked in your budget and your estimated guest list . . . you are ready to begin your venue and vendor search.For local guests, you can estimate that 83% of the people you invite will attend. Once you have a guest list, you can use this percentage to calculate your approximate venue needs.
We are programmed to be consumers, but there are other options.Before you start spending your hard-earned cash to plan your dream day, consider leveraging these other techniques:There are many savvy couples out there who have managed to plan their wedding in its entirety with these tools.Be resourceful and creative and there are always solutions available.
Maybe you went big for prom and spent $300 on a gorgeous gown . . . or perhaps you were invited to a gala and bought an awesome new suit for $450.For most people, high-end fashion is not really in our wheelhouse, but for some reason, when it comes to a wedding, many people suddenly think it is necessary to spend a small fortune on a single outfit.I can assure you that this is not the case.If you want to live in luxury and wear a designer look on your wedding day, I recommend investigating our long list of pre-loved resources for a wedding gown.If you prefer a new gown, then you can find a lot of lovely and reasonable options by thinking a little outside of the bridal shop.Here is an article with our fave wedding dress resources for both new and pre-loved gowns.For those looking for a tux or suit, I recommend tapping into the modern online resources of The Black Tux, Generation Tux, or Menguin. These online-based options are affordable, far simpler, and offer stylish options to suit any wedding.The bonus with these online options is that they often offer a free suit rental for the groom with the rental of five other suits.When it comes to accessories for your wedding day look, I suggest trying out the four Bs mentioned earlier in this article. If no amazing options come from these local resources, I suggest Happily Ever Borrowed, Etsy, or even AliExpress for bridal accessories.All of these options offer amazingly gorgeous veils, tiaras, belts, and more for a fraction of the price you’ll see in a bridal shop. Always read seller reviews and pay attention to the delivery timeline before buying.When selecting looks for your wedding party, be kind to their budgets, too. Wedding party members spend $1,500 on average to be a part of a wedding held locally. Ouch! That is a sizable hit to anyone’s budget.Rather than picking a look that is going to push them to max out their credit card, check out options like the “multi-way” or “infinity” dress on Amazon. Sellers have these dresses for amazingly low prices, they come in every color under the rainbow, and they give the flexibility to suit every body shape . . . plus they can cost as little as $20.If you envision a different style for your bridesmaids, browse options on Rent the Runway to snag the high-end style you want at a fraction of the retail price.If you are having your bridal party pick their own style within a certain color palette, I recommend they explore Tradesy or Poshmark, where they can find bridesmaid dresses that have been worn once and are being resold.My biggest suggestion is to be resourceful. Think outside of the bridal shop where prices are inflated and the sales pressure is highest.
One of the biggest issues in the wedding industry currently is styled shoots.Styled or inspiration photo shoots are a collaboration of vendors to create a fantasy version of a wedding and capture marketing photos.While these images can give couples tons of dreamy ideas for their big day . . . they can also be dangerous to couples and vendors on a few levels.The danger comes from the fact that real weddings are complicated with aof moving parts and a tight timeline.Styled shoots are photo shoots scheduled to capture optimal images.Real weddings are crazy, chaotic, and oftentimes stressful . . . but they are dripping with raw, real, love-filled moments.Styled shoots are akin to an editorial fashion shoot and blogs really should list the approximate cost for a wedding with this level of styling in the fine print so couples don’t dream about something way out of their realm of possibility.Learn to look at photos of weddings on Pinterest and Instagram with the understanding thatof them are not real weddings at all.Freeing yourself from the manufacturer pressure to keep up with an unachievable standard will take a large weight off your shoulders.When it comes to styling awedding, remember that you don’t need to go over the top to make the event beautiful.The sweetheart or head table and the ceremony backdrop are the central focal points of the camera and your guests’ attention, so put more effort into styling these areas.The other tables can have a much more toned-back level of decor, and despite what Pinterest might tell you, every item at your wedding does not need to be monogrammed or personalized.Be strategic about the items you personalize and have the intention to repurpose the item into home decor. If you make a gorgeous “welcome-to-our-wedding” sign without personalization, you can resell it and recoup some cash after the event.Lighting is an affordable way to add a lot more drama and depth to a venue without spending a fortune. If you have access to a venue in advance, uplights and twinkle lights are a relatively simple DIY project that can be done with borrowed strings of Christmas lights from friends and family.One last resource I highly encourage couples to check out is called the Buy Nothing Project. This is an amazing resource for borrowing and acquiring items from people in your neighborhood for free! There are also many great resale wedding sites and apps, like ONBB.There are many, many other amazing sources for wedding decor over on the Wedding Hacker blog, but my last piece of advice is to avoid renting items — or at least be very strategic if you do opt for rentals. This problem with rentals isn’t the cost of the items, it is the extra fees and order minimums which will burn through your budget like wildfire.Use the four Bs and get creative. Staple items like chairs and tables are available at churches, schools, and office buildings. It’s amazing how many resources are available if you start asking.