With wedding season in full swing I thought it was appropriate to explore ways to save money on a wedding. Weddings are one of the most important days of our lives and some people would argue that there should be no limit to how much we spend for our special day. However, the price for weddings is increasing at a dramatic rate that is much higher than inflation. Weddings have become one of the biggest financial decisions we have to make.
According to The Knot, the average US wedding cost $35,329 in 2016 (not including the honeymoon). This number increased by $2,688 from 2015. In addition, the average honeymoon costs $3,882 per The Wedding Wire. The total is therefore $39k for wedding and honeymoon. The cost of a wedding and honeymoon is now roughly 80% the average annual salary in this country. This is a lot of money for a couple to be spending on their special day unless they are independently wealthy or are receiving large gifts from friends/family. It is still possible to have a great wedding and cut costs by at least half.
Here is a breakdown of average costs per category:
Top Wedding Costs
I am going to tackle the most expensive categories to show that savings are definitely possible. You wouldn’t buy a house or a car without trying to save money, so why not try to save on your wedding?
- Rings: There is a lot of silly advice out there about how much to spend on rings (ie. 3 months salary). Look at different diamonds in person and determine the most reasonable size. Consider purchasing a ring through reputable online jewelers like Bluenile or James Allen to potentially save 50% on the exact same specifications as a jewelry store. Also, look into lower diamond specifications that are imperceptible to the naked eye to save further.
- Dress: Set a firm budget on a dress and stick to it. Don’t be influenced by shows like “Say Yes to the Dress” where you can fall in love with dresses outside your price range. Consider clearance dresses from the previous year or shop during an off season sale in the Winter or Summer. Buy from a bride who is selling a dress that they no longer like or have already wore at sites like OnceWed.com
- Engagement / Rehearsal Dinners: Consider having a dinner at a family’s house with catering or shop around for restaurants that have no rental fee and low prices per plate.
- Venues / Catering: This is the highest cost for weddings and therefore results in the greatest opportunity to save. For significant savings consider planning a wedding off season and/or on a Friday or Sunday. Opt for a location where prices are low (stay away from destination weddings in expensive vacation cities). Once you have a location set, shop around different venues and look for low rental fees and low prices per plate. Go with lower priced food options and limit the choices for each course. Plan out the guest count and ensure there are not several hundred people. If you were planning on having an open bar limit it to the cocktail hour or set a not-to-exceed price on alcohol.
- Wedding Planner: Unnecessary in most cases unless the couple is very busy or unorganized. If either of those are true then consider asking a friend / family member to help plan.
- Videographer: Also unnecessary for most weddings. Everyone has a smartphone nowdays so they can shoot HD videos for you for free.
- DJ: Whatever you do, don’t skimp on a good DJ since everyone will remember if there is lousy equipment or terrible song choices. Skip the extras from the DJ including the photo-booth, uplighting, etc. All of that is nice, but not necessary if the beats are going strong all night.
- Photographer: Look at reviews of the best photographers in your area and choose the lowest priced photographers for a tryout. Go on a photo shoot with them and pick the one you like the best.
- Flowers: Limit the number of flowers at the ceremony and the venue to what is absolutely necessary. Also consider going to an arts/crafts store and making your own artificial flowers. Most people won’t care that the flowers are fake and they will last forever.
- Cake: Buy the cake based on the guest count size and don’t buy extra layers. Some people opt for a small cake and then purchase a separate cheap sheet cake for the rest of the guests. Also, consider non-traditional bakeries like Wegmans or Costco for lower prices.
- Honeymoon: Plan your honeymoon in a destination that is off season. This may mean that you have to shift your honeymoon later in the year. The result is significant savings with lower airfare and lower hotel costs.
As you can see above, there are several ways to save on wedding costs. If you are able to implement most of these savings, your wedding will be just as memorable and you will not have a giant hole in your pocket. Weddings are very special but they are also only one day and not worth jeopardizing your financial future. You can take the savings and use it for your emergency fund, student loans, or down payment for a house to name a few!
Readers, what strategies did you use to save on wedding costs?