Wedding season is upon us. One look at magazine stands makes it clear that our society is obsessed with who’s getting married and who’s getting divorced. Did you know that the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton netted more viewers in the United States than the 2014 World Series?
According to Bloomberg, the U.S. weddings are a $55 billion industry. With the equality movement opening up marriage opportunities to same-sex couples and baby boomers 2.0 coming of age, the demand for wedding-related services will continue to grow. We can expect approximately 2.1 million couples to marry annually, according to the Wedding Report.
In 2014, the average cost of a wedding in the United States was $31,000 (the average cost of a wedding in the New York City borough of Manhattan was $76,000). With the influence of social media and peer pressure, expensive dream weddings are no longer reserved for celebrities, and more couples are taking on wedding debt. Although there’s no correlation between a successful marriage and an expensive wedding, some couples continue to spend whatever is necessary to have their dream weddings, in some cases, taking out second mortgages and other loans to cover their costs.
However, with proper planning and efficient budgeting, one can have their dream wedding and still save up for future goals. Further The wedding tends to be the first major joint expense, so this is a prime opportunity as a couple to develop good financial planning habits.
But how does the fiscally responsible couple avoid all of the financial pitfalls and have their dream wedding for less?
Create a Budget
The first thing a couple should do is to develop a realistic wedding budget and commit to abide by it. Several blogs and wedding websites offer free budgeting templates. According to the Knot, the suggested expense allocations are as follows:
Wedding Rings: 2%-3%
When setting a wedding budget, a couple also should consider their long-term goals and whether splurging on a wedding will harm their plans. They also should have a plan for how to pay for the wedding without overextending themselves and sabotaging their future selves.
The planning doesn’t stop at budgeting. Once you’ve decided on a budget, you can do several things to keep expenses to a minimum.
Venue and Catering
On average, venue expenses account for 48 to 50 percent of the wedding budget. If getting married in your family’s back yard is not your idea of a dream wedding, other cost-effective locations are available. The timing of your wedding greatly affects costs. Serving a brunch instead of a dinner can save you more than $50 per guest. Getting married in the winter rather than in the popular spring or summer months also can cut venue costs significantly.
Less-popular bed-and-breakfasts and wineries can be intimate, scenic and sometimes cost-effective venues for weddings. Just make sure that the location isn’t so rural that you are required to bring everything in, which could end up costing just as much as, if not more than, using a more traditional and accessible venue.
Doing things yourself is one of the best ways to save money, and Pinterest and social media sites are full of decor ideas. Flowers can be expensive—the average bridal bouquet costs $100-$150, and bridesmaids bouquets average $50-$90 each. With a few online tutorials and inexpensive fresh flowers from a retailer such as Costco or alternatives to natural blooms such as Sola flowers, it is possible to assemble your own bouquets. If you’re not confident in your flower-arranging skills, ask a florist to use less-expensive flowers such as carnations and baby’s breath.
Another way to reduce the budget for decorations is to incorporate non-floral earth elements such as spray-painted fruits, leaves, branches and sand in your decor.
When looking for a decorator, coordinator, band or any other vendor, seek out people who are less established in the field and looking to build their name and portfolio. Group buying sites such as LivingSocial and Groupon offer discounts of up to 65 percent on expenses such as photography, invitations, tuxedo rentals and gifts.
Keep It Intimate
You can DIY to your heart’s content, but the best way to save on a wedding is to keep the guest list short. If you are having trouble deciding whom to invite and whom not to invite, a rule of thumb is: If you wouldn’t invite them over to your house for dinner, don’t invite them to your wedding.
Overall, keep your expectations in line with your budget, and try not to get caught in the wedding world. Do what works for you and your spouse without unrealistic ambitions.
Plan Beyond the Big Day
A wedding is an opportunity for couples to test their ability to compromise and live within or below their means. If you and your spouse-to-be infrequently discuss finance, the planning process is an opportunity to begin talking about your long-term plans and how your wedding will affect your family’s plan. Compromising and finding middle ground during the planning process was extremely important. Rather than just allowing a wedding to create debt, the event can be an opportunity for you to begin planning your financial future as a family. Don’t stop at a wedding budget; create a household budget if you don’t have one. Then create a financial plan.
Just remember that long after the wedding has passed, you and your spouse will be faced with even more important financial decisions that will determine your family’s security.