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How Much Does a Wedding Cost? Ways to Prepare Financially

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As exciting as this moment may seem, it’s best to plan your wedding around your finances and future lifestyle. Your wedding is just one piece of a much bigger financial puzzle. Use this guide to help plan your special day in an affordable way so you don’t end up putting a financial strain on your marriage before it starts!

Shot of a happy newlywed young couple getting showered with confetti outdoors on their wedding day

Congratulations, your special day is just around the corner! Whether you’re waiting to pop the big question or getting ready to finalize the details of your wedding, we’ll walk you through some things that you’ll need to know about paying for a wedding, as well as your various financing options.

So, how much does a wedding cost? Here’s what to expect:

Wedding Costs

Venue

First thing’s first, where is your wedding going to take place? The venue tends to be the most important ticket on the list unless you plan to have the party in your backyard or at your parent’s house. Some venues may need you to book more than a year in advance, so it’s best to cross this item off your to-do list ASAP. If you’re religious, this may be a no-brainer. Others like to plan their wedding around certain activities, seasons and destinations.

If you’re looking to cut costs, this is a great place to start. Consider choosing a more modest venue, such as a park, if you’d rather spend your money on an extravagant honeymoon or a down payment on your first house.

Wedding Planner

If you’re planning a large wedding with lots of moving parts, consider hiring a wedding planner to help you keep track of the costs, especially as guests cancel and plans change. In addition to traditional wedding planners, keep in mind, there are many new apps and websites designed to help you stay on track with planning, vendors and budgeting.  Factor these fees and any other essential staff members into your budget.

Photography

Another must-have item on most people’s list. The photographer can easily cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to several thousand, especially if you’d like a video or a custom photo shoot. Some vendors may even charge by the hour, so you could contract them to photograph the parts that you’d like photos of most.  Like everything on this list, you get what you pay for, so keep your expectations in check. Your family members likely have smartphones with built-in cameras, so there will be plenty of material to go around.

Music

Music is a must, as well. No one wants to go to a party that’s dead quiet. Live music can quickly get expensive, so consider hiring a DJ instead or choosing a playlist ahead of time. You can always sign up for online services like Spotify.

Officiant

Who’s going to marry you? You can always hire an officiant or local reverend. For a more intimate experience, consider asking one of your friends to help you tie the knot. You can get ordained in just a few hours using various websites. Check your state requirements to see who can act as an officiant and what requirements there are. Certain states, like Colorado, allow for self-officiating marriages, meaning that the people getting married can solemnize their own ceremony.

Food/Catering

What are you going to serve? The menu is another big-ticket item. You’ll want to bring in food from a local restaurant as opposed to cooking, as everyone will want to focus on the festivities. Having a guest list will be crucial during this stage. Keep the head count low to save on food. Don’t forget to check for allergies and diet preferences. Expect to pay anywhere from $10to over $100 per person.

Bar

As a couple, you may choose to have a bar during your reception.  With an open bar costing $20-$100 per person for a four-hour reception, be sure to budget this expense early in your planning.

Clothing/Wedding Dress/Tux

This one all depends on preference. Some people like to break norms and wear more casual clothing. But plenty of people still value the sacred tradition of wearing a tux and dress. Consider whether you will have the wedding party pay for their attire. This may be a big ask, so be sensitive of your loved one’s finances. A high-end wedding dress can easily cost as much as $10,000.

Transportation

Travel can get complicated as the night goes on. It may make more sense to travel as a wedding party by hiring a party bus or limousines. If people plan on driving, make sure there is enough room for everyone to park. When serving alcohol, avoid having people drive under the influence by making sure there are cabs or drivers in the area.  

Lodging

You may need to pay to put your loved ones up during the festivities, while others may be able to pay their own way. Some people like to rent a large house, so everyone can be together without having to travel at the end of the day.

Honeymoon

The wedding and honeymoon often go hand-in-hand. Factor in the cost of a trip, if you plan on taking one, as you prepare for your big day.

Special Moments

Weddings are all about the experience. Don’t forget to include any special activities or events you may have planned, such as the rehearsal dinner, bachelorette parties, taking a group trip or visiting local attractions. If you’re planning a destination wedding be sure to budget for the entirety of the trip.

Tips to Save and Prepare

Plan Your Budget

Now that you have a better idea of what it takes to pay for a wedding, you should be able to put together a budget. It’s important to plan for surprise expenses that may catch you off guard down the line. Weddings rarely go exactly as planned, so leave room for error.

Again, keep the total cost of the wedding in check based on your total income, savings, and future lifestyle. Ideally, spending your life with another person means combining your finances, so you have even more spending power, but life can easily get more expensive from here as you explore moving, having children and pursuing new life goals. Avoid spending too much on a celebration if it means putting your finances at risk.

When saving, come up with a timeline for paying for the wedding. If the wedding is in 18 months, divide the total cost by 18 and that’s how much you should be saving each month.

Make Sacrifices Along the Way

Planning a wedding can take several years in some cases. Don’t be afraid to make sacrifices as your finances change. Consider reducing the head count or coming up with alternatives for food, music, attire or venue if you need to cut back down the line.

Chose Debt Wisely

You can also take out a personal loan to help pay for the wedding. You will need to apply for a loan at a bank or local credit union. They will check your credit score to evaluate the perceived risk of lending the money. If you are approved, you will need to make regular monthly payments, plus interest. Try to pay off the loan as soon as possible to avoid paying extra interest.

Getting married means starting a new life together. Go through your finances and make these decisions together as you plan for the big day.

 

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