The average couple in the United States spends about $26,000 on their wedding. That’s enough money for a down payment on a decent home, to fully fund a 12 month emergency fund, or to buy a family sedan brand new with cash. But not every wedding needs to cost tens of thousands of dollars. It can be easy to be swept up in the emotion of the event, especially as you go from one wedding service provider to the next. What’s $500 here and $1,200 there? Over time it adds up and can lead to starting your marriage off severely in debt.
Photo by Laura Dye via Flickr
Plan an Inexpensive Wedding
How can you avoid this fate? Here are a few tips to getting your marriage off on the right financial foot.
Use a Plan and Budget
This may sound like basic advice, but going from shop to shop swiping your credit card with no real plan is a fast track to overspending on your wedding. Do your research and plan out all of the various items you want in your wedding. Create a list and set a budget for each item. If having a swing band isn’t high on your priority list you could downgrade to an iPod of carefully selected music to save money. If you plan to leave the church in your own vehicle you could save the cost of a limo.
The main idea is to consider all of your options and what those options are going to cost. If something really isn’t important to you (not your family, your friends, or what you think people expect) then don’t buy it. Stick with what matters to you, and come up with a total cost for the whole wedding. If that number still shocks you, trim back as necessary.
Trim Your Guest List
One of the driving factors in high wedding costs are all of the “per guest” costs. Food is charged per guest. Drinks are charged per guest. The size of the venue is determined by the number of people attending. The list goes on and on. Consider having a smaller more intimate wedding instead of one in a gym full of your friends and acquaintences.
Consider Alternatives For Everything
Alternative options can let you have the type of item you want at a reduced price. If you don’t want to cut something completely from the budget you can come up with creative ways to include it without breaking the bank. This is one of the keys to having a nice and inexpensive wedding. If you want an inexpensive wedding alone you can go to the courthouse during the middle of the week. If you want to have a nice celebration with your friends while not going broke, alternatives will help out tremendously.
Here are a few examples:
- Use an iPod full of music instead of live musicians.
- Make your own invitations instead of buying pricey designer invitations.
- Change up the dress code. Have the wedding party wear something they already have (like jeans and a similarly colored shirt) instead of renting. Have the bride wear a dress not purchased specifically at a wedding dress boutique.
- Get creative with table arrangements. A colored plate with glass beads and some candles can do the trick for well under $100 for a decent sized venue.
- Instead of a fancy guest book, set up an online guest book and leave a computer sitting out for your friends to use.
There are some things worth spending money on, but what I considered important (photography) might not be important to you. That’s why planning out your wedding well ahead of time is so critical. Not only will it help you save money, but it focuses your efforts in on the things that you really value.
Kevin Mulligan is a debt reduction champion with a passion for teaching people how to budget and stay out of debt. He’s building a personal finance freelance writing career and has written for RothIRA.com, Discover Bank, and many others.