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According to The Knot, the average wedding in the US today costs over $32,000! Couple that with the shocking number of people who live paycheck to paycheck, and it should come as no surprise that many couples and families pay for weddings with credit.
Frankly, it is no wonder weddings are so expensive when the expectations for a modern wedding are out of control.
Brides have pinned all the best and most expensive ideas to their dream wedding Pinterest boards (I did this, too!), they watch wedding shows on television that set unrealistic expectations (guilty!), everyone is expected to be invited with a plus one, and friends and family expect certain rather expensive things at every wedding they attend (like a DJ, open bar, and 5 star dining).
The expectations are sky high, with price tags to match.
Despite the average cost, starting a new life together with your spouse should not include being burdened by wedding debt. A wedding is a party, a celebration of love and family, and a uniting of two people in the eyes of God. A wedding is the first day of a marriage—not an excuse to go all out and spend more money than you have. I mean, do you really want to be paying interest on grandma’s meal or on flowers that are long dead?
Figure out what you really want from your wedding day, and skip the other things that the billion dollar wedding industry tells you that you must have. To give you some ideas, this is what we did with our wedding so that we could afford a nice party for our friends and family—without going into debt.
We got married on a Sunday in the off-season (winter).
Our wedding date was December 21st, right before Christmas. Many of our family members were on their Christmas break from work and school, and my husband (who is a teacher) had enough time off from work so that we could go on a honeymoon.
Deciding to have a winter wedding was one of the best ways to cut down the cost. Our venue was about 70% cheaper in the winter than in spring or summer! We also found that we could get even more of a discount by holding our wedding on any other day than Friday or Saturday…so we went with Sunday! A lot of popular wedding venues cut down their cost during the off-season and on odd days because they have trouble booking up.
This steep discount meant that we could hold our wedding at a wonderful venue that we couldn’t afford if I had stuck with my original idea of a June wedding. Flexibility paid off, big time!
We also had a very easy time finding vendors for the food and the flowers, because none of them were booked! Most of them were also much cheaper because they were competing with all the other available vendors. Vendors were in high supply, and the demand for their services was very little (a few company holiday parties, that’s it!).
Having a wedding near Christmas doesn’t mean you need to do a Christmas or winter wonderland theme…I wanted to have a wedding inspired by Jane Austen, so I just went for it! My colors were blush and gray—appropriate for winter, but definitely not Christmas-y!
We had a small guest list.
I have always wanted a small wedding, and when I found the price per head to feed everyone, it sealed the deal on my small guest list.
It is very expensive to provide space, food, and drinks for 250 people or more. You will pay an arm and a leg for this huge guest list, and then you won’t even have time to greet every one of your guests!
Opting for a more intimate party saves you money that you can put towards other things that you care about. Sure, you get more gifts from a huge guest list, but it isn’t worth going thousands of dollars in debt to have pots and pans and multiple toasters. It just isn’t.
We decided to whittle our guest list down to 50 people. A lot of people got left out, but at the end of the day we didn’t start our marriage in debt, and we had the opportunity to actually spend quality time with each of our guests.
We cut out things we didn’t want.
If you take a second look at your wedding budget, you might find that there are things you are paying for that you don’t even want.
For example, I do not like cake. I didn’t want cake shoved in my face. I didn’t want people watching me have cake shoved in my face. Just…no. I didn’t want it at all, so I cut it out of the budget.
Instead, we asked our caterer to put together a dessert bar. It was about a quarter of the cost of a wedding cake, and everyone loved it!
Also, our venue offered a lot of things I just didn’t have an interest in. Fancy horse and carriage…no thanks. Linens…no thanks. Open bar with top shelf liquor…yikes, that is expensive, no thanks.
I said “no” to a lot of things that people think are “mandatory” to have at a wedding. But if you keep the end goal in mind (a healthy marriage with a fun party to celebrate), it is a lot easier not to go overboard.
Here is a good rule of thumb: Ask yourself if an expense will contribute to a healthy marriage or a fun party. If the answer is no, say no. Linens, cake, and liquor all were a “no” to me.
BTW: We decided to buy two kegs with our favorite craft beers and a few bottles of wine from the amazing winery venue where we hosted the wedding. Everyone had enough to drink, we gave out cheap pint glasses as a favor, and it was a fraction of the cost of a traditional “open bar.”
We cut down on decor and flowers.
Instead of linens and fancy centerpieces, I just bought some wallpaper to use as a runner down the middle of the table (which cost about $50). Then I put some flowers, old books from thrift stores, and family pictures on the table. It was the perfect look I was going for—on a budget!
Speaking of flowers…they are expensive! I wanted to include them on the tables but didn’t want to pay for huge table centerpieces. So I bought a few cheap apothecary bottles and asked the florist to put a few stems in each. We also put the bridal bouquet and the bridesmaid’s bouquets in vases for the reception—they double as floral arrangements!
Instead of big arrangements to decorate the reception space, we opted for two beautiful floral wreaths. They were the focal point of the reception, and much cheaper than a traditional flower arrangement.
Plus, I worked with the florist to only choose seasonal flowers…this significantly cuts down on the cost!
Our family helped us with some of the expense.
We cut down on our how much our wedding cost…but it still cost money.
My husband and I were very fortunate to have some financial help from our families, and we will always be grateful for their assistance.
When your parents or family members offer to pay for some aspects of the wedding, take them up on it! Having people to help you pay can help alleviate financial stress, and it makes people feel involved with the wedding planning. Also, having help planning is a lot more fun!
Be sure to sincerely thank anyone who helped pay, and make sure they have an amazing time at the wedding!
Finally, I hustled.
Even with family members chipping in towards our wedding costs, many expenses fell onto our shoulders.
Some people are not as fortunate as we were, and they have to pay for their entire wedding on their own.
Whether you are paying for the entire wedding yourself or part of it—like my husband and I did—it is much better to cut expenses and hustle to make and save more money than to put things on a credit card.
So hustle I did! I put in a lot of overtime at work and saved as much money from my everyday expenses as possible. And my husband did the same!
We were able to pay for the remaining wedding expenses and our honeymoon to Ireland—in cash!
If you have a big dream like a wedding or honeymoon, use it as motivation to work even harder at tightening your budget, making more income (if possible), and getting your finances in order to make your dreams come true!
If you are confused as to how to start saving money, check out my posts on how to write a zero sum budget and how to cut your grocery budget to $25 a week. Start hustling and start saving, and make your wedding dreams come true!
It is possible to set a realistic budget for your wedding so that you can pay for it in cash. Cut expenses by choosing a date that is in the off-season, cutting out expenses for things that you don’t even need, saving on decor and flowers, accepting financial help if it is offered, and hustling to save as much money as possible. It is a lot of hard work, but it will be worth it to start your new life with your husband without any wedding debt!
If you are a soon-to-be-bride who really likes our wedding photos, check out Maria Grace Photography. She is very reasonably priced and takes absolutely incredible photographs. She is a joy to work with, I can’t recommend her enough!