Congratulations! You are getting married! Now comes the fun part, planning that wedding!
But planning a wedding can come with some not-so-fun surprises, because, if you were not aware, weddings can be quite expensive. It’s not as easy as a ceremony and reception anymore. There are florists, bands/DJs, photographers, videographers, favors, invitations, a marriage license… the list goes on and on! While my fiancé will be the first to tell you I am not a wedding connoisseur, I am a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner. By my own admission, I cannot tell you what color scheme will work for your wedding, but I can provide some insight on how to afford your big day.
The average cost of a wedding in 2020 was $19,000 according to The Knot, but that data is skewed due to the COVID pandemic. 2020 saw many smaller weddings due to limitations on capacities. See below for an average cost by year:
Albeit, it seems like the average amount spent on a wedding is trending down, but $22,500 in 2021 is still a pretty penny. Maybe the largest component to what you will spend for your wedding is the timing of your big day. Both season and day of the week provide variability to the pricing of a venue. Ceremony sites, reception halls, and photographers are known to offer lower rates during off-peak months, such as January or February. By contrast, the Fall and Spring months are typically the most expensive wedding months to book. Saturday tends to be the most expensive day of the week to get married, and you may get some price relief by having a Friday or Sunday wedding. Some advice: if you can find a day other than Saturday that coincides with a holiday, investigate booking that. For example, the Sunday before Memorial Day. One warning, be aware that your guests could be traveling around holidays.
Here are some other tips for reducing costs:
- Seek a more rural/suburban venue. Big cities equal big money!
- Have a friend who bartends or does make-up? Consider them rather than a professional.
- Limiting your guest list. As hard as this may be, reviewing your list a few times can help you budget.
Now comes the fun part, paying for the big day! It is estimated that about a third of newly wedded couples go into some kind of debt to finance their big day. My baseline recommendation is this: say “I don’t” to debt. Set a budget for your wedding and create a savings plan to achieve your goal. There is good debt and bad debt. Good debt has the potential to increase your net worth. Bad debt involves borrowing money to purchase rapidly depreciating assets or only for the purpose of consumption. Borrowing money for a wedding is bad debt.
Delaying the wedding, giving yourself more time to save, or finding a less expensive alternative can help you fund your wedding. But, if neither of these options are plausible, here are some ideas around debt. First, there are many credit cards that have 12-, 15-, and 18-month 0% APR intro promotions. Putting some of the wedding costs on this card, as long as you can assure you can pay off that card by the end of the promo period, can be an effective way to finance a wedding. Last on your list should be personal loans. This should be an absolute last resort. The interest rates are high, and you will be required to make monthly payments for years to come.
Wedding planning is supposed to be fun! Do not let the finances get in the way of your big day. Don’t bow to pressure from relatives, friends, social media, or spending reports. Your wedding spending should align with your income, regular expenses, and other financial goals.