How can you plan a wonderful celebration for the most important day in a couple’s life—without overspending?
It used to be that parents paid for a daughter’s wedding as a matter of course. But for better or worse—or richer or poorer—families and cultural norms have changed. Maybe that’s partly due to the high price tag for a ceremony with all the trimmings; now couples often pay for their wedding themselves while other family members chip in.
It’s no surprise that weddings aren’t cheap, but they’ve gotten exorbitantly expensive in the last couple of decades. In fact, the average cost of a wedding + reception in America is now $35,329.1 There are regional variations to consider when budgeting, for instance, a wedding in Manhattan costs an average of $78,464, but only $19,522 in Arkansas. Average wedding costs in Florida2 are a bit higher than the national average, depending on your area:
Spending More Found to Shorten Marriage Duration
The wedding industry takes in around $72 billion3 per year, but is that a good thing? Should a couple go “all-out” on an expensive wedding? Probably not.
A study of more than 3,000 married couples in the U.S. by Emory University indicated that there is an inverse relationship between money spent on a wedding and whether or not the couple got divorced.
“The researchers found that women who spent more than $20,000 on a wedding were nearly four times more likely to become divorced than women who spent under $10,000. In the case of men, buying a more expensive engagement ring was linked to a higher divorce rate. Stress may be the undercurrent that explains their findings: couples who spend more money are also more likely to report being ‘stressed about wedding-related debt,’ the researchers found.”4
How Can You Save Money Without Looking Cheap?
There are ways to reduce money spent on a wedding without sacrificing what’s most important to you, or coming off as too frugal. Here are four ideas to get you started:
- Change the Venue, Or Timing
At an average nationwide cost of $16,1071, the wedding venue came in as the most expensive element for couples planning their public display of long-term commitment. This has a lot to do with timing, because high demand means higher price.
Consider having your wedding in the off-season5, between November and April. (Keep in mind that Christmas and New Year’s Eve are also competitive times because of corporate holiday parties.) Booking on a Friday night or Sunday can save you even more; and lunch buffets are cheaper than dinner buffets. And don’t forget to ask for freebies from the venue, like tables, chairs, table settings, vases, candles and other items.5
Or you can ditch the swanky digs altogether and go for a meaningful venue, like the park where you went on your first date, a museum, or the university you both attended when you met. These types of locations are unique and can be quite affordable, and you can potentially save on décor since these spaces may not need any embellishing.5
- Keep Your Wedding Party Small
You don’t have to have multiple bridesmaids (they may be thinking they don’t want to buy a dress they’ll never wear again anyway) or invite a lot of guests you barely know (who may not want to buy a gift or a fancy new dress-up clothes in the first place).
You really can keep to a small list of important people and have a heartfelt, special day with those you hold most dear—and create an incredible, irreplaceable memory. Plus, you can spend more per person and still keep the budget down.
- Offer a Smaller Bar Selection, Choose Large Blooms
Rather than a full open bar, consider wine, beer and/or a few signature cocktails. And instead of expensive flower arrangements, you can keep the impact (but reduce the price) by choosing seasonal, large blooms that need minimal arranging, like sunflowers, hydrangea or Gerber daisies. Both of these ideas are on trend, but cost less.
- Prioritize Expenses
Look at every line item selection in the wedding budget closely. What is critical versus “meh”?
For instance, how important is the wedding cake? Some couples have started renting wedding cakes, and purchasing tasty sheet cakes for actual serving. They stand behind the rental and pretend to cut it while feeding each other bites for their Instagram posts. If it’s absolutely non-negotiable that you save a piece of cake in the freezer to eat for your first anniversary, go ahead and splurge on the cake, but cut back on something else, like maybe the designer wedding dress or live band.
Before you decide your wedding priorities, take a moment to read about what some real brides had their hearts set on, but totally regretted later—after the ceremony! These new wives wish they had never spent money on their shoes, flowers, cake, dress or even the whole wedding itself. Read: April 2018 issue of Bride’s Magazine.6
If you would like financial advice for life events like weddings, college or buying a home, or need help planning for your retirement, call Alpha Beta Gamma Wealth Management at (866) 837-0999.