Wedding Planning, Budget-Style

How to Get the Most Out of Your Day Without Breaking the Bank

So you’re getting married? Congratulations! Committing your future to the love of your life while surrounded by your closest friends and family can be one of the most magical moments you’ll experience. However, you don’t want one amazing day to cause financial repercussions that will stop you from building the best future together. The perfect fiancé is far more important than any fancy theme or gimmick. Given that the average wedding in the United States now costs over $33,900, finding ways to keep the costs down is highly advised. Here’s how you can plan your wedding on a budget without losing the magic you both deserve.

Step One: Create a Realistic Budget 

Whether your budget is above or below the national average, it’s imperative that couples sit down to calculate their finances. You should work as a team, focusing on a high level of transparency that extends to considerations about other financial ambitions – you don’t, for example, want to overspend on your wedding at the expense of your homeownership dreams. In addition to understanding how much money you have to spend, it’s important to think about how that capital will be spent. Most couples will find that around 50 to 60 percent of their budget will go to the reception, with the ceremony itself taking up another ten to 15 percent. However, there’s no set ratio. Instead, the key is to find out what works for you. It’s probably best to leave yourself some breathing room (ten percent is a good target), as unexpected costs are likely to surface throughout your wedding planning process.

Step Two: Pick an Appropriate Wedding Style 

Given that the ceremony and reception will consume a large percentage of your budget, this should be one of the top issues on your agenda. A clear understanding of your budget will enable you to pick the most suitable place to tie the knot, and you have a number of options when it comes to exactly how lavish you want the day to be. For example:

  • At the courthouse, you’ll simply pay for the marriage certificate.
  • If you opt for a City Hall wedding, you’ll pay a small fee for the ceremony. If you choose to host your reception there as well, fees and services offered will vary for extras like bartending and food.
  • The church venue wedding is an option in which you’ll generally pay a few hundred dollars for the venue and pay for the reception separately.
  • With a little extra cost, a specific wedding venue, such as a country mansion or seaside hotel, can host both the ceremony and the reception.
  • Destination weddings can be expensive, but you gain the added bonus of including your honeymoon in the same step.

Once you select the type of wedding you want, it’ll provide a solid platform for you and your partner to build the rest of your budget upon.

Step Three: Decide What You Can and Can’t Do Without

Even if you’ve only recently gotten engaged, it’s likely that you’ve both imagined what the big day will look like. In reality, many couples find they need to compromise, or at least find how to combine, their individual visions according to their respective interests. Meanwhile, you may need to consider compromises due to your budget as well. Some items are non-negotiable (which is another focal point for your discussions as a couple). A list of three to five “must-haves” that you definitely don’t want to do without will help guide your wedding arrangements. After you’ve set these aside, it’ll be easier to shift your attention to other things you might be willing to let go. These things could be related to the day itself (do you really need a DJ in this digital age of playlist creations?) or other factors (the bachelor/bachelorette parties, for example) that occur around the big day. Meanwhile, many couples often find that the best solution is limiting the guest list. Skipping over a few tried-and-true wedding traditions, especially if they don’t take away from the wedding you want to have, can be a boon to your budget.

Step Four: Look for Alternatives

Removing a few items from the wedding list can work wonders for budget control. Additionally, you can support this further by using budget-friendly alternatives to any number of other wedding items. Even if each change you make only saves you a small amount, with the long to-do list that usually accompanies wedding planning, the small savings will accumulate fast. Listed below are some of the most productive switches that can reduce costs without majorly impacting your day. Whether you choose to invest the extra cash into other areas – such as those you may have bigger dreams for – or to reduce your overall wedding cost entirely is up to you. 

  • You can use a “dummy” or “presentation” cake for photos and cake cutting, with a regular cake for serving.
  • Consider renting wedding attire, versus buying outright.
  • Create do-it-yourself wedding invitations and decorations.
  • Use plastic or fabric flowers, rather than fresh ones.
  • Opt for providing guests with disposable cameras, versus hiring a photographer.

Additionally, asking friends for help with items for the wedding itself in lieu of buying a wedding gift can work wonders too. If you happen to know a savvy baker, amazing stylist, decorator, or even someone who just loves organizing and can operate as your wedding coordinator or planner – all savings will help you manage the expense of your big day. 

Step Five: Time Your Wedding Wisely

The impact of supply and demand on financial costs is huge, not least of all when arranging your wedding day. While many of the products bought for your nuptials will stay the same price regardless of the season, many services can fluctuate widely in cost depending on when they’re requested. Saturdays, for example, are the most popular days for weddings, closely followed by Fridays and Sundays. As such, booking a wedding Monday through Thursday can instantly reduce the rental costs of venues, vehicles, caterers, entertainment staff, videographers, and more. On a similar note, spring and summer weddings are traditionally more expensive than fall and winter weddings. Whichever option you choose, making your decision at the earliest possible stage is crucial. This gives you the best chance of finding solutions that are tailored to your needs and also leaves you in a better position to negotiate with various vendors. Your chosen timeframe could reduce the cost of your wedding by a significant figure, while simultaneously preventing you from having to deal with other stressful situations created by a time crunch.

Your wedding day is a time for you to enjoy the luxuries that make you feel extra special. That said, the magic of your day doesn’t have to be reflected by a huge wedding bill. With the right strategy in place, your wedding can be everything you dreamed and more – no matter what your budget is.

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