A wedding should be one of the most memorable days of your life — but it doesn’t have to break the bank. The average wedding costs nearly $30,000, and that’s not including the engagement rings. Whether you long for a fairy tale wedding or you prefer something more scaled back, there are ways to save for your dream day that will ensure you have the magical moment you’ve always wanted without having to incur massive amounts of debt.
Related: Average wedding costs
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Set a Budget
Do you want a big lavish wedding worthy of the royals? A destination wedding? Or maybe you want something more intimate with just a few friends and family? There are different levels of spending when it comes to weddings, and deciding what is most important to you can help you determine just how much you’ll need to save. Is the venue a priority? The number of people? The food?
The DJ (or band)? It’s smart to start by making a list and getting a solid estimate of the costs for each of your need-to-haves and your want-to-haves.
And it’s also wise to leave a little wiggle room for unexpected wedding costs. Little things like the marriage license, dress or suit alterations, and even insurance costs, can start to eat into your budget pretty quickly.
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Start a Savings Plan
Before you’ve locked in the date, you and your partner can start a savings plan. Some couples open a separate bank account and set up automatic monthly transfers to that account to collect wedding funds. When savings are automated, you often don’t notice the missing funds. And by picking an account with a high-yield interest rate, your money can make money while you continue to plan and save.
And if you’re thinking about a loan, yes, there are people who finance their weddings, but the real question is: do you want to start your marriage with debt or do you want to have a healthy savings strategy in place to use even after the dream wedding is over? If you are leaning toward financing your wedding, be sure to weigh the pros and cons and thoroughly check out all of your options, which can range from credit cards to personal loans.
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Put the Wedding First
Sure, you may want to go on vacation, eat at fancy restaurants, and buy those new clothes, but that will put you further from your goal. Instead of spending on those luxuries now, cutting back and putting that money into your shared dream wedding account can help you get to your savings goal quicker.
And there are some simple ways to cut back that won’t make you feel deprived. For example, you can take local day trips or regional vacations instead of traveling afar. Eating out just once a month and cooking at home more can cut costs. You could even get swanky and hold cocktail hour with friends at your house instead of going to happy hour. Your new bank account will thank you.
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Do It Yourself
One way to keep your spending low is to plan the majority of the wedding yourself. If you already have experience managing projects, then this should be within the realm of your abilities. Researching the typical steps and fees associated with weddings before making any concrete decisions can be helpful.
If that feels daunting, you may want to keep in mind that wedding planners cost an average of $1,500. And while there are advantages to using a planner (they already have a contact list of professionals and know their rates, saving you a lot of time and energy), the downside is you could be getting a one-size-fits-all experience instead of the personalized ceremony and party you may want.
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Just like other big expenses, getting more than one quote for each service you need can help you find the best price point to fit your needs and wants. Does your preferred venue charge a premium for a wedding, but a lower price for a party? You may want to consider negotiating the price. Calling multiple DJs and catering services can help you ensure you are not overpaying. New York City is going to have very different rates than, say, Asheville, North Carolina.
This might even be a factor in deciding when to have your wedding, too. For a better idea of how much costs can vary, you can check out this comparison of costs by state.
You can wind up saving a ton of money by doing away with an expensive venue altogether and looking for a free or really inexpensive location, like parks, gardens and even beaches.
And if you’re able to hold your celebration on a weekday or during off-season, you’re likely to find some additional savings. For example, you can pick Friday instead of Saturday; or you can have a fall or winter event to help lower your costs.
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Reassess the Dress
Maybe your dream wedding includes a Vera Wang gown, but your bank account can’t swing that. Or maybe you want something a little simpler. Consider shopping for a vintage dress and having it altered. Or if you want a more modern look, you don’t necessarily have to buy brand new—wedding dresses are usually only worn once and then either sit in the back of a closet or get sold or donated. Resellers often offer beautiful dresses at a fraction of the initial cost.
Consider this: Dresses less than three years old are usually sold for half their original price. And that Vera Wang might not be out of reach after all if you buy it used. Designer brands can sell for 60 to 70 percent of their original cost.
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Where not to Cut Costs
While you might not have much of an appetite on your big day, your guests likely will, so it’s a good idea not to scrimp on the food. It doesn’t have to be a five-star, multi-course meal, but if you want to create a memorable experience for all, it’s smart to offer quality food that doesn’t leave anyone grumbling about “wedding food.”
And what good is a dream wedding if you have bad or no photos to remember it? A good photographer can capture all of the moments of both you and your guests. These are photos that you will cherish when you are older and wiser, that will adorn your dresser and be sent out to family, so skimping here is best avoided if you can. The average cost of a wedding photographer is about $2,500, but It could end up being the best you put toward your special day.
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Saving for your dream wedding might seem impossible, but it’s within your grasp if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. With some ingenuity and careful planning, you don’t have to break the bank. By cutting a few costs and saving those nickels and dimes, the wedding you’ve always wanted can be had.
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