Are wedding bells in your future? Congratulations, and cheers to you! Whether you’re getting married for the very first time or remarrying after a major life event, weddings are a beautiful way to celebrate love surrounded by those you care about most.
Weddings are meant to be joyous, momentous occasions, but a couple of major obstacles can get in the way as you start your happily ever after: money woes and debt. When you’re about to begin a new journey with your spouse, you shouldn’t be stressing and worrying about money and massive debt; you should be soaking up the early days of pure marital bliss.
It’s no secret that weddings cost a pretty penny, but the last thing you want to do is overspend and go into debt over your special day. Money issues are the number one source of marital conflict, and sometimes, they can overpower the happiness marriage brings.
Here’s how you can plan your dream wedding while keeping wedding-related debt from getting out of control.
Talk about Money before Your I Do’s
Having a conversation about money should happen early on in your relationship—ideally, well before walking down the aisle, or better yet, before you ever get engaged—so you can have a clearer understanding of each other’s full financial pictures and money habits. I know it’s not the most thrilling or romantic conversation, but it’s undoubtedly an extremely important one.
You both should disclose your assets and liabilities, any financial obligations you may have for immediate or extended family members, outstanding debt, and credit history. Be sure to ask each other hard-hitting questions when it comes to debt and credit. For instance, if one of you carries a significant amount of debt, what is the plan for paying it off? Once you’re married, will you be expected to contribute money to your spouse to help them pay down their debt? As for credit, evaluate your credit scores, reports, and history, and discuss any concerns you may have. Though you each have individual credit scores, it’s essential to understand that your future credit and choices may be impacted depending on your spouse’s financial picture and the way you intend to bank and borrow together in the future. For example, many married couples often seek out joint loans, mortgages, and credit cards together, but if one of you has poor credit and you’re borrowing jointly, you may face higher interest rates as a result.
Talk about how you envision managing finances together once you’re married. Will you each have your own personal bank accounts? Will you keep a joint account together? Who’s going to handle all the bills? Do each of you plan to contribute equal amounts when it comes to household, family, and everyday expenses?
The earlier you talk about money together, the better. It’s imperative that you make it a priority to sit down and talk through money issues and come to an agreement for managing money as a married couple.
Open up about Future Goals and Values
Similarly to having a chat about money before getting married, you and your partner should make it a priority to have an open, honest discussion about your common values and financial goals for the future.
You’ll find that this conversation is another that requires you to ask each other thought-provoking questions. Are you planning to buy a home together after you get married? What are your financial goals and plans for the next five to ten years? Do you hope to grow your family? Are you planning on opening your own business? Do you have dreams of retiring early? Honestly answering these questions can help you map out and envision your future life together. It may also affect how much you spend on your wedding, because surely you would want to avoid taking on excessive wedding debt especially if you’re planning on purchasing a home or starting a family shortly after you tie the knot.
Know What You Can Afford and Stick to it
Where does your wedding day fall into the picture money-wise? Are you both willing to spend the same amount on your wedding? What kind of wedding do you want to have? What are your wedding day needs and wants? Answering questions that are related to your wedding day budget will help you to avoid taking on high debt to afford your big day.
On average, the cost of a wedding in 2023 is around $29,000, an increase of about $1,000 over 2022, and with inflation, we could very likely see that number increase going forward due to economic changes and the costs of goods and services. One-third of Americans start what is supposed to be the happiest time of their lives drowning in debt from planning their weddings.
But how do people have amazing weddings and not go into debt with costs like that? It seems almost unavoidable. First, try not to let that number scare you too much—remember, it’s just an average. Average wedding costs vary for a variety of reasons; it can depend on your guest count, location, day/time of the week, food selections, and décor (for example, flowers may be more expensive depending on the season). Second, all weddings can be amazing and special no matter what, and they can happen on any budget without breaking the bank. All you need is a little determination, flexibility, creativity, and a can-do attitude.
Talk with your partner and anyone else who may be helping you afford your big day openly and honestly and set a budget you’re all comfortable with. Then, and perhaps the most challenging part of all, stick to the budget you set. Once you get into the researching and planning phases, you’ll quickly see how easy it is to become enamored with the latest and greatest wedding trends, especially when vendors are dangling their products and services right in your face. This is when you may be tempted to stray from the budget and splurge “just a little more,” causing you to overspend on your initially agreed-upon budget.
It's never too soon to start saving for something that’s important to you, like your wedding. Whether your big day is right around the corner or in a year or two from now, start saving now—together! To help you reach your savings goals faster, open a custom club account to save specifically for wedding expenses and contribute money to it as often as you’d like.
Cut Wedding Costs
When it comes to funding weddings, most couples pay for their weddings by getting a little help from their families or using some combined life savings (not all!), but more often than not, there will still be outstanding costs that need to be covered, as well as additional costs that may pop up along the way. So be prepared to have a plan of attack for how you plan to fund those.
Or, if you’re in way over your head and have no other choice, you may need to come to terms with cutting costs. Here are some ways you can trim costs without sacrificing your dream wedding day:
Avoid Peak Wedding Season: Early spring and fall are the most popular and expensive times of year to get married, more specifically, the months of May, June, September, and October. When you book your wedding during an off-peak month, your wedding venue and vendors may be more willing to work with you and your budget.
Consider a Weekday or Sunday Wedding: Saturdays are the most popular day of the week to get married. The demand for Saturday weddings drives up the cost of practically everything from venue rentals to food and beverage to vendor packages (DJs, photographers, videographers, florists, transportation, etc.). Weekday weddings (more commonly Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday) and Sunday weddings are gaining more appeal, but they’re still proven to be more cost-effective for price-conscious couples.
Shorten Your Guest List: Analyze your guest list. Is there any way you can trim it down? Think about limiting plus ones, having a kid-free celebration, or removing people you haven’t spoken to in a year or more. When you limit your guest list, not only will you keep per person costs down, but you’ll also end up having a more intimate celebration with your closest family and friends.
Consider Your Menu: Consider your food selections and the manner in which you plan to serve your guests in order to save yourself some extra money. Are hors d’oeuvres included in the overall price or are they an additional cost? If there’s an additional cost, consider leaving them off the menu altogether and elect to have dinner service start earlier. Also, compare the costs of plated meals vs. buffets and/or serving stations. Typically, you’ll find that plated meals are more expensive. For dessert, are you having a cake or cupcakes? A whole dessert display? Look into whether or not your venue charges a cake cutting fee or dessert display fee. To save even more money, you may also look into having your wedding earlier in the day and opting for a brunch-style soiree.
Get Down and DIY: Unleash your crafty side and get creative with various do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. Watch some tutorials, gather your besties, and get to work to make your own bouquets, centerpieces, personalized place cards and other decorative signage, backdrops, arches, other displays, and more.
Go Paperless: Say goodbye to expensive invitations and postage and go paperless instead. Sending digital invites is an excellent alternative that can save you a ton of time and money. You can create a wedding website on The Knot or Wedding Wire or something similar to not only track RSVPs, but you can also tailor the site to share your love story, photos, and registry with your guests.
Focus on the True Meaning
Thanks to social media and other outside influences, couples feel intense pressure nowadays to have a perfect, Instagrammable day, which can often take away from what your wedding is genuinely about and, as a result, puts you into debt. Don’t blow your entire life savings or spend money you may not have. Debt can be a difficult hole to crawl out of, and it can hold you back from life experiences and achieving future goals together.
It's important to remember that your special day is not a spectacle for your guests or for the world to see. Recenter your focus on your amazing life that lies ahead and remember what your special day is truly about—love, commitment, promising yourself to your person, and creating lasting memories.
And don’t forget, amazing weddings can and will happen on any budget!