If you’re planning on getting married or remarried and haven’t been paying close attention to the wedding industry, you may experience sticker shock as you begin calculating costs. An average American wedding costs the newlyweds and their families about $26,000 — and that’s without the honeymoon tab.1
Even with a carefully pruned guest list and modest reception, it can be difficult to pull off a wedding under five figures. Short of eloping, the best way to manage wedding costs is to start early and plan carefully while keeping finances in mind. The following tips can help you get your wedding planning—and your marriage—off to a great start.
- Communicate with mom, dad and the future in-laws. To avoid misunderstandings, hurt feelings and unexpected expenses, it’s critical to maintain open lines of communication with everyone who is involved in the wedding planning process. This is especially important for brides and their families, as tradition often puts the mother of the bride squarely in charge of planning and dear old dad on top of the checkbook. But things have changed, and it’s not unusual for couples to share costs, or for the groom’s family to chip in.
- Set a budget. Regardless of who is paying, couples need to identify a wedding budget before working out the details. This number should be based on what you can afford, and should act as your reality check throughout the planning process. Added costs can add up quickly, especially if you aren’t calculating along the way. Knowing the maximum amount you can spend will help you keep a level head as the caterer, bridal shop, florist and other vendors start flooding you with tiered price packages and fancy add-ons.
- Be flexible and keep your focus. Assuming you don’t have an unlimited budget, this is important mental preparation for the tough decisions you will face in the planning process. You may have elaborate visions in your head of the ideal wedding day, but be prepared to adjust your expectations as you come face-to-face with real price tags for wedding finery. Better yet, focus on the purpose of the day and savor the true meaning. The right attitude can help reduce your stress and lessen the pressure to seek perfection in the not-so-important details.
- Prioritize. The hard work is in the nitty gritty—figuring out how to allocate your total dollars. If accounting isn’t a strength of yours, seek out the many wedding websites and books that can help you generate an itemized list of expenses. Give the necessary items top billing and then whittle down the extras that can add up quickly and bust your budget. Rose petals as you walk down the aisle? Nix that if you want to keep your floral costs in check. Professional photography? Plan on spending $1,000 or more. Be an informed consumer—research vendors and compare costs before signing contracts.
- Get a head start. It’s smart to set your date further out if you need more time to save. Set up automated savings between your checking and savings accounts for consistent, non-negotiable contributions. Once you have the amount you need or desire set aside, consider investing in an account where you may earn some interest before the bills begin coming in post-wedding day. Another benefit of an early start is availability. Couples who wait to book their reception hall or photographer will have fewer options and may pay a premium.
- Don’t stop at wedding planning. It’s tempting for newlyweds to pour all of their resources into their wedding day, when it may be wiser to invest in the lifetime that’s ahead. If more couples planned for their financial future with the same energy and enthusiasm as their walk down the aisle, there would likely be fewer marriages burdened by debt and worry. While you’re in the money mindset, consider creating a financial plan that extends beyond your wedding day with the help of a financial professional. Meeting with a financial advisor before you get hitched is a wonderful way to lay a strong foundation for your life together.
Rob Davis lives in University Place with his wife Lorri and sons Wesley and Parker. With over 34 years of experience, he is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner and is licensed/registered to do business with U.S. residents in the states of Washington and Idaho.
1 According to weddingstats.org
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