Your Wedding and Your Wallet

Dear Altar-Bound,

‘Tis the season to get engaged! November thru February is peak time for proposals. So, if you should happen to be newly engaged and want to spend wisely for your wedding, this post is for you!

Nowadays, the average wedding costs roughly $27,000/year (more in major metropolitan areas), and this doesn’t even include the honeymoon. Umm… that’s a lot of moolah! And this crazy economy certainly doesn’t help the cause. So, how do you afford a fabulous wedding without breaking the bank? Here are 10 tips to help you do just that:

1. Create a realistic budget. As John Maxwell says, “a budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”  I view a budget as a spending plan. It shows me how much money I can reasonably spend each month. So, do the same for your wedding. Write down your net monthly income and compare that to your total monthly expenses. What’s left over? This is your discretionary income. These are the funds that you can use towards your wedding. If the figure isn’t high enough, then you’ll need to cut back. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t commit more money than you can realistically afford to set aside each month (keeping in mind that you still need to save to build up your emergency fund). Use The Knot‘s  Wedding Budgeter to help you plan appropriately.

2. Use cash/American Express only (no credit cards or loans). From day one, you must commit to not financing your wedding. For major purchases (reception, wedding gown/tux, wedding bands, etc.) use an American Express Charge Card (responsibly, of course!) and pay the balance in full when it’s due. Better yet, use an American Express Pre-paid Card. Either way, your purchases will be protected against fraud, and you won’t have an ongoing balance lingering over your head. For everything else, pay as you go with cash. It will do your mind and your marriage a whole lot of good to have everything paid in full by the time you leave the reception. Don’t enter your marriage with the ball and chain of debt.

3. Let there be… lunch! That’s right- consider having a lunch reception (you may even be able to get away with a brunch reception, if you plan it right). Shout out to Pastor Tejado and Co-Pastor Victoria Hanchell for giving us this brilliant idea years ago- before we were even engaged! The earlier your ceremony, the earlier your reception. You can get practically the same entrée for lunch as some venues would serve for a dinner reception- for 20-50% less. How awesome is that?!  This could literally shave THOUSANDS off your reception bill (which typically accounts for up to 50% of the total cost of your wedding day). And with a lunch reception, you can take advantage of Tip #4…

4. Skip the open bar. An open bar can account for nearly HALF the cost of your reception. Want to save some major cash? Have a lunch reception and skip the open bar. If you really want to go all out, skip the bar all together. How many of your guests are really going to be “takin’ it to the head” in the middle of the afternoon?

5. Hire a student photographer and/or videographer. What’s a great wedding day without great pictures and video to prove it? Contact the department head of your local College for Design and request referrals for student (junior or senior) photographers/videographers who may be for hire. Just make sure they come highly recommended and you view a sample of their work. Ask them for references as well. You’d be surprised how many college students would love to add you to their professional portfolio for a nominal fee (I can testify! Thanks to our videographer, Dylan Steinberg! He’s big time now- glad we snagged him when we did!).

6. Be selective with your guest list. Look, I know you want to invite your BFF from 4th grade, but you haven’t seen her… since 4th grade. Too often, couples invite everybody and their mama to their wedding, and have no clue who some of these folks are when they look through their wedding album. My friend, this doesn’t have to happen to you! Looking for ways to trim your list? Don’t invite anyone whose middle name you don’t know, or anyone you haven’t personally dined with in the past 12 months. Those two criteria alone should drastically reduce the number of guests on your list. Oh, and forgo the ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, as well anyone who is not married, engaged to, or in a significant long-term relationship with someone else on your list. The fewer mouths to feed, the more money in your wallet (and it’ll make the bouquet/garter toss much more exciting.) ;-)

7. Pair down the bridal party. Keep it simple: closest friends/family members only (2-8 people max). The fewer folks in the bridal party, the less  you have to spend on gifts, and the less you have to spend on transportation to and from the ceremony/reception. Hey, more people, more problems! Lol

8. Cut the cake. Tiered wedding cakes are rather passe nowadays. Consider an assortment of desserts (sorbets, chocolate treats, slices of cake, etc., for your guests. Still want a big fancy cake but without all the financial fuss? Opt for what I call a “styrofoam special”… a beautifully decorated styrofoam cake, where only the top tier or two is real. Have a less expensive sheet cake to be cut to served to your guests (check beforehand to make sure your venue doesn’t have a cake cutting fee. If so, ask them to waive it as a courtesy). No one will ever know the difference, trust me! (Shout out to Bredenbeck’s Bakery for making this happen so deliciously!).

9. Skip the favors. Hundred of dollars can be saved by not giving favors to your guests. No one will even miss them. Do yourself a favor- skip the favors.

10. Spend less, invest more. I know it’s tempting, but don’t spend all your money on your wedding. As beautiful as your big day will be, it will only last a few hours. Your marriage- on the other hand- will last a lifetime. Invest more in your future, less in the moment. If you haven’t done so already, check out my previous post (Financial Rules of Engagement) for smart steps towards holy financial matrimony.

Implementing these tips will reap you a wonderful wedding, while sowing more wealth in your wallet. Cheers to you!

Practically Yours,

~The Practical Chick