By: Kaitlyn TarPey
Congratulations- you’re engaged! Now comes the fun/crazy/stressful/amazing part of planning your WEDDING. Woohoo… or wooboo?
The world of wedding planning has become a business, and an expensive one at that. This article is meant to give you some insight and ideas of being fiscally responsible when it comes to planning your wedding day because budgets are LIFE.
Before we get started, something to note. Even if you’re not yet engaged but are talking about taking the next step with your significant other, my advice is to consider saving together in preparation of the day. Whether it is a couple hundred dollars or a couple thousand dollars, it gives you a cushion to start with once that engagement day happens. My fiancé and I opened up a joint online savings account at about…2 years of dating. At that point, we knew the plan was to eventually get married, so it made sense to put a little away as we could (tax returns, bonuses, and some b-day money were divided up as we felt fair). By our engagement we had saved $5,000 for “our special day,” which is a nice chunk if we wanted to get straight to planning (you do need money to place deposits after all…). And in full transparency–we haven’t even dived into the account yet!
Alright, I don’t want to bore you with specifics about me so here’s what I’ve found in general on wedding budgeting.
1) Headcount is either your friend or your enemy. The more people you have, the more expensive it will be. Period. The cost you will never escape is food and beverage, so if your headcount is not able to be finagled with, consider having a cocktail party as opposed to a sit down dinner. Maybe a buffet option is more affordable at the venue you choose. There are a few different options when you’re looking at food and beverage (including open bar vs. cash bar), but ultimately the SIZE of your party will have the greatest influence on your bill. Average cost per my research is around $150/pp., so 100 people = $15,000 for just food and beverage. Yeah, gross.
2) Vendors come in all shapes and sizes. Photographers, videographers, transportation, DJs, Bands, photo booths, hair stylists and makeup artists, etc. To an extent, you get what you pay for, but you should always compare a few vendors before making a decision. Photographers in my area (CT/NYC) range from $2,500 to $10,000+ for the day, but I could probably find an up and coming photographer for less than that if I really searched. You have to make your list of priorities and spend where you want (i.e. I want a videographer more than a photographer, so I’m okay with a junior photographer) and don’t spend where you don’t want (does it really matter if you roll up to the venue in a sparkly white Rolls Royce, or would people driving themselves be fine?) DJs are almost always cheaper than a Band which averages to about $1,000/piece, and some hair salons will offer discounts if you do everything at the salon versus having the stylists travel to you.
3) People won’t remember décor specifics. Pinterest is FULL of options for making your own centerpieces, bouquets, aisle runners, table cards. Be creative–or if you’re not crafty, try out some of those online print retailers to cut cost. This goes for flowers too. if you’re a flower person, I get it (I totally am), but make sure you find a florist that is open to trying different flowers/unique combinations–and be up front about your budget! I’ve seen people alternating center pieces between floral arrangements and candles (cuts half the cost), or even photos of the couple at different ages (free if you have photos lying around at mom & dads)! Also, think of approaching everything with a “less is more” mindset. How gorgeous would one sunflower be on the center of every table? Simple, understated, and a nice pop of color.
4) Having the ceremony at the same place as the reception cuts a few costs: The cost of the church/temple/place of worship, as well as the cost of transportation.
5) Gowns, shoes, earrings, tuxes, and bridesmaid dresses are beginning to have second lives. Check re-sale websites (hello, Poshmark!) to see if you can get lucky. This may take a little effort–but to get a designer piece at half price would make you happy, I’m sure of it! (Also, alterations can be pricey, so be prepared).
6) Some vendors give a discount if you pay in cash versus credit. It’s worth asking if you're able to!
7) Invitations can either be an expensive or a free undertaking. Invitations offer the “first impression” of the party, and some people take that very seriously. But, nowadays there are also options to e-mail invitations for free! At an average of $2/invite (when you think of postage, envelope, invite, RSVP cards, postage of RSVPs and anything extra), you can save a good chunk of savings by taking the environmentally friendly route of e-vites. (This includes Save the Dates too)!
8) The old way of guests gifting “the cost of your plate” seems to be long gone. So, don’t plan the wedding “expecting” to make your money back. Our parents might have expected this, but I hesitate to support that way of thinking anymore, especially after seeing how the word “wedding” tacks on some invisible exponential price increase on everything involved. Therefore, make sure you work with a budget you know you can manage, regardless of whether or not you can pay some of it back with the gifts you receive.
9) Last but certainly not least: Don’t forget about the reason you’re getting married in the first place. Your wedding is for celebrating you and your future life partner. I think nowadays people get so caught up in keeping up with the joneses that they lose track of the important stuff. If all the planning gets you down, remember this: forever is a lot longer than the 8 hours you’re spending in your wedding outfit.
Overall, weddings aren’t cheap, but they can be done in a financially responsible way if you do your research, prioritize, and keep your impulses in check. Hope this gives you some insights and inspiration to be fiscally responsible with your wedding planning! Congratulations and cheers to you!