Wedding Finance 101 – Walk Down the Aisle Without Debt

Everyone looks forward to the ceremony and building a life together, but nobody looks forward to digging themselves out from under mountains of debt.

The average wedding is setting couples back nearly $30,000; these star-studded affairs are stimulating a wedding industry – with vendors, magazines, officiants and venues – estimated at $70 billion dollars. Get your marriage off to a healthy start with these 8 Tips to Avoid Wedding Debt: 4 personal finance tips to help you walk down the aisle debt-free and 4 ideas for keeping your wedding costs under control.

4 Practical Wedding Finance Tips to Prevent Budget Bloat

1.  Talk about Your Finances

Set the tone for the many financial discussions yet to come. Before you can sit down and draft a budget, you’ll need to establish good communication practices. Now is a good time to discuss what each person expects to contribute to the wedding budget. Will you both split the wedding expenses?

Perhaps your parents will be helping, but to what extent? And don’t forget to discuss what level of credit, debt or risk each of you are comfortable with assuming.

2.   Set a Budget and STICK TO IT

Now it’s time to look at the numbers. When you have an idea of what you can spend and what is being contributed, use a template or budgeting app to set your spending limit, track your income, and account for every receipt. Once that budget is set, try not to deviate; of course you may need some flexibility for hidden vendor fees and the unexpected, but if you’re serious about saving, then stick to your budget.

3.   Pay Off Existing Debts and Avoid Borrowing More

You can take out loans from a bank or from your pension to pay for your wedding, but you may want to consider other options. If you’re like most young adults you have some college and credit card debt already and piling on more debt is not the answer.

Couples who pay for their wedding from loans may instantly double their debt load and who wants all that baggage? A typical adult will leave college with $25,000 in college loans and several thousand dollar of credit card debt. Here are a few ideas for raising funds without pushing yourself further into the red:

  • Consider asking family for a personal loan; these usually don’t come with the fees and interest associated with traditional loans or credit
    • If you have to use credit cards, use ones which provide you with rebates or perks on travel, gas, etc. Perhaps you can score honeymoon tickets for free?!
    • Ask guests or family to contribute to a wedding fund rather than buying wedding presents
    • Take on independent contract work, sell homemade crafts, or trade/sell some investment shares to pay off existing debts or save for wedding expenses

4.   Cut Your Personal Expenses and Save More

Another way to save more before the wedding is to enact some personal austerity measures. By cutting back on you daily lattes, hitting the trails for a month instead of pay gym fees, bringing a packed lunch to work and passing on that weekly massage, you can set aside more for your wedding. Take a moment to think about which personal expenses are actually necessary and which are luxuries you can afford to pass up. You will hopefully have more in the bank to use on your wedding.

4 Wedding Planning Tips to Keep Costs Down

1.   List Potential Expenses and Set Priorities

Create a list of potential wedding expenses and priorities to help you set your budget. This may not be an exhaustive list, so besides the invitations, venue(s), officiant, food and attire you may also want to consider adding the following to your list:

  • Decorations
    • Cake
    • Wedding attire Alterations
    • Party Favors
    • Cocktails
    • Flowers
    • Guestbook
    • Hair and Makeup
    • Gifts for Wedding Party Attendants
    • Music for Ceremony and Reception (DJs, Bands, Harpists, etc.)
    • Tips for Vendors and Servers
    • Wedding Planner or Organizer Fees

Pick which elements of the wedding ceremony and party are important to you – prioritize which ones you’re willing to splurge on and cut out the ones you don’t need. Then set a budget for the rest. Use online planners to estimate the average cost from professionals and consider your options for doing it yourself (DIY).

2.   Limit the # of Guests and Attendees

One of the easiest ways to limit the total cost of your wedding is to scale down your guest list and wedding party. First make a list of priority guests – parents and close friends – then draft a second list of people you both would like to invite. You can set a limit to the number of guests, then discuss further to compromise on filling in the permanent list. Or you can consider options for keeping the ceremony and dinner limited to a small group of guests while the wish list is admitted to a larger, cheaper reception.

3.   Avoid Peak Season

Another way to keep down the cost of your wedding is to avoid peak wedding season. The wedding season varies by location, but typically June to October are busy times for venues, officiants and planners. Having a wedding during these peak months may up the price for vendors and major expenses. Getting married in January, February or March may help you stick to your budget or it could help you afford the large, luxurious space you’ve always dreamed of renting.

4.   Consider Your Vendor Options Carefully

Event planning, venues and food are the cornerstones of a typical wedding. To cut down on cost during the planning process, take a hard look at your vendors to avoid costly add-ons or see what you can do yourself. Some vendors will allow you to cut costs by assisting with product assembly or packaging; be sure to ask for any way they can give you a break.

Organization – Wedding Planner or DIY

An experienced wedding planner can save you money and ensure your ceremony runs smoothly but if you’re really looking to save money, you may want to skip the wedding planner. A DIY wedding shouldn’t break your budget – take the time to make your own centerpieces, bundle your own bouquets, design and print place cards at home, DJ off your iPhone and box your own party favors. Lucky for you, there are plenty of tutorials on Pinterest and you can recruit some help from friends and family to make it fun.

Venues – Location, Location, Location

where you decide to have your wedding ceremony or reception is important but the cost doesn’t have to eat up half of your budget. Consider these tips for making the most of your venue or finding more affordable options:

  • 2 Uses, One Price – Use the same space for your ceremony and reception
    • Ask your church about using their facilities or garden for reception space
    • Apartments and condos often have recreation spaces for rent
    • Ask about free or rentable hall space if you’re a veteran, Eagle, union or other fraternal club member
    • Cities often allow events in public parks and municipal buildings for a low price
    • Weddings at home, a friends ranch or family vacation home are intimate and affordable

Food & Spirits – Plates, Buffets and Bars

Cocktail services and formal dinners can come with a price. First, decide when and where you plan to incorporate edible treats into your wedding. Will you be serving hor d’oeuvres, full dinner or buffet at a venue, serving family style at home? Then make choices according to your priorities.

Got to have that formal meal? Opt for a lunch reception since these often cost less for vendors. If you’re looking to save, skip the sit-down dinner and opt for buffets or potlucks. And alcohol can be the most expensive wedding cost – pass on drinks, skip the cocktails before the reception or have a cash bar during the party.

Cakes – Splurge or Save

Budget conscious couples can get that expensive looking cake at an affordable price or find a comparable alternative. Cake costs are all about labor – time to design, bake, assemble decorate and deliver.

Ask if your caterer does cakes too. This will cut down on delivery fees, cake-cutting fees and maybe more

Less is more – simple designs, real flowers and smaller cakes cost less Assist your baker with decorations or have someone pick-up the cake for you Provide your own cake toppers to cut down on decorating labor

You can always DIY your dream cake too! Have a professional decorate a small cake, which you make your own cupcakes or cake-pops. Everything you need can be found in most grocery and craft stores.

Manage Your Finances and Have the Wedding of Your Dreams on a Budget

You want your wedding day to be about marrying the person of your dreams. Don’t wake down that aisle with unbearable debt; build a budget, stretch your dollar and plan each expenses carefully.

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