How to finance your wedding
Wedding bells go ka-ching!
- The average cost of a U.S. wedding in 2016 was more than $35,000.
- Cut costs by reducing the guest list, considering alternative formats and DIYing.
- Extend your engagement to save for the wedding.
- A personal loan can offer lower interest rates than a credit card.
Weddings are no longer the life-defining event of decades past. Young people in the U.S. are putting less importance on — or delaying — getting married, according a 2017 report by the Census Bureau. In addition to changing social norms, many couples carrying hefty student loans don’t want to start their new lives together saddled with even more debt from financing a large wedding.
Cultural, religious and social expectations can drive wedding costs through the roof, however, giving rise to what many call the “wedding-industrial complex.” Indeed, weddings are not cheap. In 2016, the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. was more than $35,000, according to a study by wedding-focused media company The Knot.
The good news is that there is a wealth of resources available to help you plan without breaking the bank. Through open communication with both families and focusing on the most cherished elements of the wedding, you’ll be able to host a meaningful celebration of your new life together.
Manage family expectations
Many couples find their wedding plans interrupted when families get involved. Families often have a strong say in how the event is arranged, particularly in cultures where parents and grandparents play an important role in the proceedings. Managing expectations early on will help avoid emotional disagreements down the line and last-minute changes to appease family members.
Sit down with your partner and both families to understand how everyone envisions the wedding. Identify cultural expectations such as religious ceremonies, guest lists and whether the wedding is expected to cover several days of festivities. This is the time to share your and your partner’s idea for the event as well as your financial plans. Understanding how much either family is willing to help finance the wedding — or whether you and your partner are comfortable accepting financial help at all — will also assist with establishing a budget for the wedding.
Budget and cut
With a helicopter view of what your wedding will comprise, the next step of your wedding planning strategy is creating a budget. There are many websites that offer free spreadsheets detailing potential wedding costs. Pick and choose your essential components and think about how you can bring down the cost of major elements of the wedding.
Cut the guest list
With the average cost per guest at close to $250 in 2016, this is the most impactful way to save money on your wedding. Identify the most important guests to you and your partner, reconsider inviting acquaintances and don’t feel pressured to offer everyone a plus-one.
Consider an alternative venue or format
According to The Knot study, over 45 percent of average wedding costs cover the venue alone, with an additional 6 percent for the ceremony site. A Saturday evening sit-down dinner will always be the most expensive format, so compare the costs of a cocktail and hors d’oeuvres reception or Sunday brunch instead.
While you might think holidays give guests more time off work to attend your wedding, holiday premiums can drastically increase expenses for everyone. Not only will you pay extra for the venue, catering and other services during holiday periods, your guests will pay more for travel and accommodation as well.
Limit photographer hours
Photographer and videographer costs average 10 percent of wedding expenses. Much of the footage ends up becoming repetitive, so think about how many people you need shooting and for how long. Wrapping up filming an hour or two before the end of the wedding can save you hundreds of dollars.
Do it yourself
About 8 percent of wedding costs comprise flowers and décor, according to The Knot. Think about DIY-ing invitations, floral arrangements and supplying your own alcohol rather than having an open bar run by the venue.
Don’t forget to budget some buffer costs for unexpected expenses that can pop up along the way.
Save or borrow
With a rough idea of your total expected wedding costs, you can now assess the figure alongside your joint finances. If, like many couples, you are not able to pay for your whole wedding out of pocket, it is time to plan how to finance the event.
Extend your engagement to save
This is the safest way to finance your wedding. Create a separate savings account for your wedding, and you and your partner can automate monthly transfers to save consistently. The event will be just as exciting if it happens six months or a year down the line, and you’ll have the added security of being debt-free.
Take out a well-considered loan
It is generally not recommended to take out a loan to finance a wedding as you are not building equity in any asset. It may make sense for some couples, however. If after careful consideration of your finances and existing debt you decide to pursue a loan to fund your wedding, be sure to understand exactly what you are committing to.
You will most likely consider a wedding loan or using a credit card to pay for expenses. A wedding loan is simply a personal loan for use toward a wedding, and can be for as little as $1,000 or as much as $50,000. Remember that a loan is a product in and of itself, so you will need to include the cost of the loan — the interest rate — in your wedding budget. Personal loans typically carry lower interest rates than credit cards, though using a credit card may help you accrue points and savings with certain vendors. Work to improve your credit score to obtain better rates and always compare lenders to find the best loan conditions available to you.
Particularly for couples who have lived together for a while and do not need many traditional registry items, crowdfunding can help cover wedding expenses or your honeymoon in lieu of a wedding gift from guests. Note that many crowdfunding websites will take a percentage fee from each donation.
Lastly, remember to relax. Your loved ones are there to celebrate you and your partner’s union, first and foremost. This is your day: take your time and enjoy the creative aspects of planning for a memorable wedding to look back on with joy in years to come.