How to Actually Pay for Your Wedding

The little things you can save, the big things you can sacrifice and how to make it all add up for your wedding day.
Bride and groom doing the money dance at their wedding

PHOTO BY BINARYFLIPS PHOTOGRAPHY

Your wedding is probably the priciest party you’ll ever throw in your lives. The average cost in the US is $31,000, but it’s much higher in NYC, where you could throw down $76,000 for your wedding, and much less costly in places like Utah (only $15,000). It’s easy to say you’ll do a budget wedding, or have tons of fabulous DIY wedding details, but at the end of the day, booking your wedding venue can cost upward of $13,000 and your catering bill could amount to more than $68 a head. It’s worth it to understand how paying for the wedding will break down between you and your future spouse, or you and your parents.

If you don’t have a lot saved yet, you have a big job ahead of you, but saving up for the wedding and paying deposits aren’t insurmountable tasks. Here’s how to actually pay for your wedding by saving up and making sacrifices big and small.

1. Use this simple math equation.

If you have a big budget goal that seems outrageous, divide it into smaller chunks that are easier to digest. The simple math trick that makes it all work? Take the sum of your budget and divide it by the number of months you have to save up. Getting married in a year with a budget of $20,000? Divide $20,000 by 12 (which equals about $1,700 per month). If that amount seems like too much per month, add more time or try cutting back on a few of your big ticket monthly expenses to help you save. “That’s literally how simple planning [financially] for a wedding can be,” says David Bach, founder and chairman of FinishRich Media and author of Smart Couples Finish Rich, about this relatively simple math. Where should this money go? Into a newly created “wedding account” of course! Throughout your life, having a savings account dedicated to something more exciting than a retirement plan, like travel, a wedding or another big event, is a good idea and will help make saving more fun.

Obviously the amount of time you’ll need to save up for a wedding depends on your current income and expenses. “When starting to plan for such a big event, it helps to take a realistic approach. If you want to spend $25,000 on a wedding, but you can only afford to save $200 a month, you would be saving for about 10 years,” says Lauren Lyons Cole,certified financial planner and personal finance contributor for MainStreet.com. “Not exactly practical.” When you’re thinking of your budget, work within realistic parameters and don’t set unattainable goals. For some, more drastic sacrifices will be required than for others. Still others will split the cost with relatives to help lighten the load. The amount of time it takes you will depend entirely on your own circumstances.

2. Cut back on monthly expenses.

Do you belong to a gym, a club or a subscription service that takes a monthly sum out of your account? Cutting back on these types of expenses can have some of the most easily seen effects on your account balance. Cutting off your cable could save you $100 a month while ending a gym membership in a major metropolitan area (like New York) could save you $150 to $200 per month. The average couple isn’t going to give up their cellphones, but they might be able to change their plans or cut off their cable for a year, Bach says. “Every year I negotiate my cellphone and cable prices. Just by asking the company to give me a better plan, they knocked $20 a month off of my bill—that’s $240. I was able to get my cellphone bill knocked down about $40. Those two phone calls saved me $700,” he notes. “It’s so expensive to acquire a customer that most companies today will lower their fees in order to keep you.”

And even if your attempts at negotiation with a company fail, you should consider cutting out these monthly costs anyway by deactivating your accounts. We’re not talking about your health plan or your life insurance—those things are non-negotiable. But something like cable, Netflix, Amazon Prime—anything that debits you on a monthly basis—this is the time to really consider if those are must-haves, or if you’re willing to sacrifice them.

3. Stop the little spending habits that add up.

Scale down your shopping for the months that you’re saving or only eat lunch out one day a week and you’ll begin to see a little wiggle room for your wedding account in no time. “I call this ‘the latte factor’—the way we spend money on a lot of little things without thinking about it,” Bach explains. “It could be your coffee, bottled water, cigarettes, eating out for lunch and dinner or having drinks. It could even be taking a cab instead of taking the subway, or parking your car closer to your office and therefore paying a higher parking fee.” These are all the ways spending money adds up throughout your days and your weeks. Cutting back on a few, or a lot, of these things can add up to $10, maybe $20, in savings per day—that’s $300 to $600 per month! And cutting out these expenses isn’t going to change your whole life for the next year.

4. Make bigger sacrifices, if you’re willing.

If you’re looking for any possible way to cut costs or find money to help pay for your wedding, there are some more drastic measures you can take. You could move in with your parents to save on rent for the year (or move in together if you haven’t already), or if you both own a car, consider selling one of them—that could save you more than $5,000 in expenses like gas, tune-ups and insurance. “The expenses from that car could pay for a third of the wedding!” Bach says.

5. Realistically use your credit cards.

If you’re in the process of saving up for the wedding while you’re putting money down to reserve your venue and other vendors, you’re going to have to use credit cards. That shouldn’t worry you as long as you are using them correctly (read: paying them off in full in a timely manner). Credit cards can actually protect you from fraud and make transactions easier, so we don’t suggest avoiding them entirely as long as you’ve saved up enough, or will have saved up enough to pay them off before interest sets in. But one big thing to keep in mind: Don’t start your marriage off in debt—it’s just never a good idea—and don’t consider paying for things with money you don’t have and won’t have for a long time. And you shouldn’t take out a loan to cover costs. “Going into marriage with debt for a one-day party is a huge mistake,” Bach says. “People start their lives in these huge financial holes and it’s just a shame. It’s smart to create a specific wedding account to put money into and then simply reverse the math to come up with your savings plan.”

6. What about investing to pay for the wedding?

Investing in stocks is more of a long-term process, and probably not the best idea as a way to pay for the wedding, but if your parents are planning to pay, it’s something they might consider years before you’ve even met your fiance. “If you’re planning on getting married in the next year or two, I wouldn’t recommend investing your wedding fund. This is a tool that’s better used for long-term goals, like saving for retirement or your children’s college fund,” Cole says.

7. Think of creative ways to make more cash.

There are ways to get money without making too much of a sacrifice. Have you considered selling items you don’t need anymore on eBay, or on an app like PoshMark? What about starting an Etsy shop? If you’ve got the clutter or the talent, this is definitely a way to supplement your wedding fund.

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