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Paying for Your Dream Wedding without Breaking the Bank

wedding-budget-01There’s no doubt about it: Weddings are expensive. In fact, CostofWedding.com estimates that American couples spend an average $25,000 on their wedding day. In Southern Maryland, couples spend $10,000 to $20,000 on their weddings. That’s a huge chunk of change, no matter who is paying for your big day.

How do you afford it all? How can you save money on your big day? Follow these tips for financing your dream wedding day so that there’s something left in your savings account to start your life as newlyweds.

Who Pays?

Expecting your parents to chip in? Have the money conversation with them early in your planning process. Be frank — ask them openly if they can help you pay for the wedding (or pay for it entirely). Remember that every party who contributes money to the cause is entitled to a say in how things go as well as slots on your guest list.

Some parents will prefer to give you a chunk of cash that you can spend as you need for your wedding. Others will want to pay for certain aspects of the wedding. Be open and honest about what you need, and it is likely your parents will be open and honest about what they can afford.

If you’re asking for money from both parents, have separate conversations. It’s becoming more common for the parents of both the bride and the groom to contribute to the wedding.

Grand Total

But — before you talk with your parents, have some idea of what your wedding is going to cost. You can get an early idea of what your wedding might cost by budgeting $100 per guest — that’s $50 for catering and $50 to cover everything else. You can also ask friends who were married in the area where you will be married how much their wedding cost and what they spent on certain vendors. Check vendors’ websites for rates — many post their prices online. All of this will give you a ballpark figure you can bring to your parents.

What Goes Where

Once you have numbers from your parents and yourselves, start divvying up the funds. About half of your money is going to go toward your reception; catering, the cake, entertainment, and decorations eat up a lot of your budget. Here are some other estimates for where your money will go, according to The Knot:

Reception: 48%-50%
Ceremony: 2%-3%
Attire: 8%-10%
Flowers: 8%-10%
Entertainment/Music: 8%-10%
Photography/Videography: 10%-12%
Stationery: 2%-3%
Wedding Rings: 2%-3%
Parking/Transportation: 2%-3%
Gifts: 2%-3%
Miscellaneous: 8%

You’ll appreciate it if you add an extra 5 percent of your budget for an emergency fund. It will save you stress later. Also, if you’re paying for your own honeymoon, don’t forget to include those figures in your planning as well.

Ways to Save

  • Change the date. Marry outside the busiest wedding season, or choose a date other than Saturday for your wedding. Friday night or Sunday afternoon weddings are uncommon, and you might be able to save on location and vendor costs by choosing a non-peak date. Marry during the week, and you might save even more!
  • Pare down the guest list. A quick – but difficult – way to trim your wedding budget is to cut your guest list. Divide your list into “must have” and “nice to have” attendees. Make clear distinctions as you compile your list, and you’ll find it’s easier to edit your list: no kids; first cousins invited, more distant cousins not invited; or close work colleagues but not your whole department. This will also give you concrete explanations for anyone who wonders why they didn’t make the list.
  • Save on your gown. Shop designer and sample sales or look online for inexpensive gowns. Shop someplace other than the wedding or formalwear store. Or, many bridesmaid gowns are available in white, cream, or ivory, and they are often cheaper than gowns designed for brides. When dressed up with a sash, jewelry, and flowers, no one would ever know your gown wasn’t meant to be a wedding dress! Don’t be afraid to think second hand – check online classifieds like Craigslist for wedding gowns looking for another chance to shine. You can always alter something that doesn’t fit perfectly.
  • Change the menu. Dinner menus are most expensive, so save by moving your reception time earlier and serving lunch. Or, forgo a meal altogether and plan a cocktail reception with delicious appetizers, tempting desserts, and creative drinks. Save money at the bar by limiting choices: Just beer and wine, or offer these plus one signature mixed drink.
  • Hire a wedding planner.  We know, hiring another wedding professional seems counterintuitive to saving money, but it’s true. Hiring a wedding planner can save you money. These professionals know local vendors and may be able to get you the best rates for their services. Wedding planners are also experts on making your budget and wedding dreams work together, and they can give you tips for saving money in ways your guests will never know. Add in the stress relief a wedding planner can provide, and they’re worth their fee.

Your Turn!

Tell us: How are you budgeting for your wedding? Share your tips and advice in the comments below!