They say, "Plan for the marriage and not just the wedding day."
Great advice worth following, if you aren't distracted by bridal magazines, invitation samples, wedding websites, Pinterest boards—oh, and the joy of getting married to the one you love.
Wedding planning is exhilarating, exhausting, and stressful, even for the smart couple who gives themselves a long lead time.
More importantly, paying for a wedding can be expensive!
Just take if from the appropriately named website, CostofWedding. Here's what they've found about the cost of a wedding.
The average cost of a wedding in the States is $26,645.
Couples typically spend between $19,984 and $33,306.
These numbers do not include the honeymoon.
Of course, costs are all relative depending on where you get hitched.
Couples in Beverly Hills allegedly spend $36,638 to $61,064 for weddings (you know it's gotta be more in 90210).
But if you're tying the knot in Bangor, Maine, then be prepared to "only" shell out $15,769 to $26,281.
Weddings are big business and they provoke a lot of strong feelings.
Amy Keyishian writes in an opinion piece, "Why I Think Weddings Are a Stupid Waste of Money," on Huffington Post that, "according to the Association of Wedding Professionals, the wedding industry nets about $86 billion per year.
That's billion with a "B."
Wherever you'll get married, unless you're planning to elope, by saying "I do" in front of friends and family, you should be majorly prepared to cough up some major dough.
But just keep in mind: You don't have to spend crazy money.
Spending a bundle doesn't create lasting happiness—in fact, a pricey wedding could create quite the opposite.
You want every detail to be just right on your wedding day, so it's easy to say, "You only get married once–let's just do it." But every time you go off budget, chances are good you'll regret the indulgence later.
Plus, doling out more cash for the big day will not necessarily make you happier in real life. An Emory University study found that:
- Couples who spend over $20K on nuptials are 3.5 times more likely to get divorced than couples who spend $5-10K.
- Couples with an engagement ring between $2K and $4K were 1.3 times more likely to get divorced than those with a ring costing between $500 and $2K. (No wonder some celebs rack up the divorces!)
- Don't celebrate yet, frugal friends. Spending too little also hurts. The study found that couples who spend less than $500 on an engagement ring have increased divorce rates.
Why all the pain and misery? Well, spending too much stings and straps stressful debt onto a new union. According to MarketWatch, 47 percent of couples regret going into debt to pay for their wedding. That regret intensifies as debt accumulates.
Long story short? It pays to be smart about how to plan and pay for a wedding.
We combed the digital world for the best strategies smart couples follow to pay for their weddings so you, too, can get hitched your way without going broke.
What did we learn?
Simply put, a smart couple takes the time to consider what's negotiable (and what isn't) - to develop a budget and sticks to it. They know what will make their day truly memorable and indulges there (because you should be allowed to have a little fun)!
So, get ready to start saving, paying for, and affordably planning your wedding right now, no matter where you live or how grand your ideas.
You've got a movable feast to plan!
1. Smart couples know a thoughtful wedding is a smart financial investment.
Don't let people say, "who needs a wedding," or "you don't need to get married."
Celebrating the union of two families by having a wedding is an important cultural and emotional experience.
It signifies a commitment to a formal relationship meant to help a couple overcome all the headaches and unexpected challenges life tosses at us.
Getting married also increases wealth and income, says University of Michigan sociology professor Pamela Smock to CNN Money. You can more easily afford to buy a home and make a more meaningful life for yourself and your family.
Smart couples know that weddings and happy marriages make for good financial investments. Investing in something like a wedding, however, can be intimidating, especially if you already are in debt (curse those student loans!).
Don't immediately associate a wedding to an unavoidable and frivolous expensive act.
Think of your wedding as something important that requires thoughtfulness instead of a high credit card limit.
Don't be afraid to say no to "help"
Online confessionals like Mehera Bonner's "I should have skipped my wedding" essay in Marie Claire could put a damper on your wedding spirit. Or her experience might give you the motivation to nix your big shindig and opt for something smaller—and cheaper. She writes,
"You run the risk of offending...no one. I wanted a low-key wedding, but my family (who footed most of the bill) weren't exactly on the same page. Their generosity came with the unfortunate caveat that I had to consider their opinion, which made planning the whole thing somewhat tense."
As tempting as it is to accept that hefty check from the parents, getting the proverbial financial monkey off your back is nevertheless a generous gesture that comes with a leash.
Expect parental and in-law input on everything from where the wedding is held to what you serve for the meal to who you have in your wedding party if family is part of who pays for the wedding.
And if your opinionated grandma kindly offers to foot the bill for your gown, just say no—that is one personal purchase you want to make on your very own.
Embrace the counterculture
Another bride, Jen Goldenberg, lauds the courthouse wedding, suggesting a backyard BBQ or reception at your favorite diner (with limited guest seating). Her advice?
"Getting married at the courthouse means you have the ultimate freedom to throw away the rules. There's hardly a checklist—just make sure you have your witnesses and identification. All other components are simply optional. Without hundreds of eyes on you, you're free to ditch conventional guidelines."
Want something in between? Consider one soon-to-be-married reader who commented on Quora about their daylong wedding, "Nobody is expected to stay throughout. It'll be designed like an art exhibition. We will be showcasing and exhibiting work and art done by our friends. It's pretty much an event, where our wedding is a piece of performance art."
That may sound wacky, but if it makes them happy and saves a boat load of cash in the process, then who's to say their unconventional approach is wrong?
Go far, far away
If you really want to limit your guest list and dramatically reduce your costs, plan a destination wedding.
As The Knot explains, you can build a honeymoon right into the wedding if you get married on the beach and stay for a week's romantic vacation.
"A couple can fly to an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica, get married, and stay for a deluxe week-long honeymoon for a few thousand dollars, including lodging, meals, drinks, and airfare. Compare that with your average 150-guest wedding costing about $29,000—which can easily skyrocket to more than $100,000 in big cities."
Vet your nearest and dearest to see who would be willing to take a flight, rent their own room, and then some. (Do keep in mind that some couples opt to pay for their guests' accommodations, group activities, meals, and transportation, according to GroupTravel.)
The bill is on them, the all-inclusive planning is on your venue, and you can relax while someone else deals with the details.
All you need to do is show up in your breezy duds and say, "I do. Now, where's my margarita?"
2. Pay for the wedding you want and the wedding you can afford
The average wedding photographer costs 10-15 percent of the total wedding budget. Choose a photographer based on the package, and don't go for the luxury (i.e., five-figure) deal, as Weddings Cost Helper explains.
Going for the budget choice can be the difference between spending $1,000 to $3,000 on pics or over $5,000 on your snaps.
Most people don't want to spend a boatload on their wedding. If you make extravagant decisions about your wedding based on the judgment of guests or what cool pics you can post on Instagram, you'll make choices for the wrong reasons.
This is a day that you and your partner should hold dearly. It's not one to show off, unless, that's what you and your partner want.
Regardless of what you want, collaborating on, creating, and sticking to a strategically crafted budget will make you happier in the long run and save you from starting a marriage in the red. Because who wants to fight about money on the honeymoon?!
Follow these basics steps to design a budget from scratch:
Be with the ones you love. Slash that guest list
Adding one more guest and their +1 may not seem like such a big deal, but depending on the price per head, you could add another few hundred dollars to your costs just because of food and liquor.
"The smaller the guest list the more you'll save on all your other details, including décor, stationery, favors, and rentals, because you won't need as much of everything," saysThe Knot.
Agreeing on the number of people who will attend your wedding is ground zero for decision making.
How do you break down your fantasy guest list?
- Focus on people you know now. You don't have to invite your long-lost BFF from grade school, or the friend you haven't seen in a year. | The Knot
- Create tiers and rank them in order of importance. Then slash an entire tier (like all of your coworkers) if the budget demands it. | Real Simple
- Be strategic about who is extended a +1 invitation. | Brides
- If your parents' friends aren't your friends, they're out. | Brides
Check up on the Joneses
Enter your zip code at Cost of Wedding to figure out how much weddings cost where you will be married. This is so you can be realistic about what you want to spend and should expect to spend. As a baseline, take a look at the cost of a wedding across a few states, with a guest list of between 75-100 people:
- Boston: $32,226-$53,710
- Cedar Park, TX (Austin): $25,252-$42,086
- Huntington, WV: $11,335-$18,891
- Missoula, MT: $10,682-$17,804
- San Francisco: $7,871-$13,118
Do the math: Invite 100 guests instead of 150 and watch the savings roll in.
If your wedding comes to $100 per person for food and drink, cutting your list from 150 to 100 saves $5,000. Common sense, but if you don't actually scribble out the numbers you may not realize the tremendous savings.
Decide your must-haves
Make decisions immediately about what you can do without when it comes to the guest list, favors, transportation, invitations, flowers, formalwear, ceremony, cake, rings, video, music, and more, says The Knot in "Where to Cut Costs for Your Wedding Budget."
If a band is a deal breaker then, "yay!" At least, you know where you and your partner stand. You don't want to be neck-deep in the details (and bills) and both realize that you could care less about costly table centerpieces.
Do your research
Wedding costs will vary tremendously based on the venue and number of guests. Make these determinations early. As Martha Stewart Weddings recommends, preliminary planning, early deliberation, and fact-finding will help you determine a more accurate estimate of wedding costs.
"…there are all kinds of creative ways of saving money that don't look like you're saving money. Some of them are sneaky and simple, like cutting down on the number of tables at your reception, which translates into fewer expensive centerpieces."
Don't limit yourself to a small area of pricey vendors. If you live in a city, hit the suburbs to discover lesser-known but excellent vendors who charge less and are willing to travel.
Pick your battles
As most finance experts will tell you, even though you might qualify for a sizable mortgage loan, it's the monthly payment that you need to be comfortable with.
The same goes for a wedding.
You might be able to afford that $7,000 one-of-a-kind wedding gown, but do you really need to pay that much on a dress that will be worn once? Maybe. Just be sure to apply some critical thinking to your decision.
That kind of dollar amount could finance your whole wedding if you're savvy, flexible, open-minded, and stick to a budget.
Booking incredible live music may be an amazing reception memory, but is it worth the price? A DJ may be more affordable (or your teen cousin who spins as a hobby, and charges 20 bucks).
Don't get carried away
If you've seen the "Sex & the City" movie in which the character, Carrie Bradshaw, gets carried away with wedding planning all because of a designer wedding gown, you know her understated suit and cozy nuptials at the Justice of the Peace got railroaded by societal pressures and other peoples' opinions.
In Jillian Kramer's Brides article, "The (Instagram) Stress Is Real: How to Deal with Social Media Pressure When Planning Your Wedding," she consults Jaclyn Fisher, owner of Two Little Birds Planning in Philadelphia:
"Prioritize a few thoughtful and genuine details, instead of overdoing it with details that don't make sense to you as a couple," advises Fishers.
"Remind yourself of the reasons you are having this wedding.
Is it to impress your friends and family, or to be able to celebrate finding your soul mate for life?
Don't sway from your plan of how to pay for a wedding, unless it's to minimize your costs or eliminate an unnecessary element.
3. Creative thinking enables smart couples to keep the wedding budget from morphing out of control
No matter how eclectic or traditional your tastes, who doesn't want to be remembered as the couple who threw a memorable and unique wedding? Nevertheless, having clear budget parameters forces you to think creatively about your options and avoid overspending.
Substitute to save
Real flowers are gorgeous, but they're expensive if you want gerbera daisies out of season.
- Paper flowers can make a statement | Pinterest
- "Whimsical elements like balloons or pinwheels also make fun aisle markers," suggests LearnVest in "12 Fun Ways to Save on Wedding Costs."
- Use Styrofoam wheels decorated with icing as some of the tiers on your wedding cake. Huge impression and saving. | "Fake your wedding cake," Buzzfeed
Save on the dress
It's all about the dress, right? Not necessarily, but if you're in that mindset, here's how to tighten the purse strings:
- Plan ahead. Order your dress eight or nine months early to avoid rush fees and last-minute alterations. | Brides
- Be designer savvy. Shop a trunk show for deep discounts on gowns, veils, and customizations. Here Comes the Guide offers a searchable list of wedding dress trunk shows and sample sales.
- Get socially smart. Follow dress shops on social media and skim for coupons. Hiring a wedding planner may get you introduced to otherwise unknown gown outlets too.
- Don't be above the sample. Land a gorgeous gown with a huge markdown at a sample sale.
- Buy online. If you won't lament missing the experience of trying gowns in person, get great deals from online wedding gown outlets like House of Brides, BridePower, and David's Bridal.
- Check out eBay. It's not bad juju if you buy a gown from eBay or secondhand. Just be sure to temper your expectations and do your homework if you're buying through Chinese eBay listings. As OffbeatBride says, it's a "small risk on the off-chance of BIG savings."
- Go custom. Customization might be pricey in the grand scheme of wedding gowns, but if you know a fashion design student, your dress for the big day could be their A+. | OffbeatBride
Shrink the wedding "necessities"
A quick list of typical wedding elements to downsize to save yourself some moola:
- Nix the bridal party (your besties will be thrilled to be merely guests, and you eliminate the expense of bridal party gifts, flowers, accessories, and lodging).
- The groom wears a suit and shoes he already owns
- Skip the limo and take your own cars
- Have the ceremony and reception in the same place
- Forgo the rehearsal dinner, or minimize guest list
- Use your smartphone playlist and forget about a DJ
- Buy a bouquet of fresh, seasonal flowers that day
- Pass on the boutonnieres and use pocket squares
- Get married on any day but Saturday
Don't do something just because tradition says so
Bustle names just nine wedding traditions you can skip, and most of them will save you (and whoever is paying for the wedding) big bucks. According to Bustle, wedding times are a ch-ch-changing...
You don't need to...
- Wear a white dress
- Have a wedding party
- Have a long ceremony
- Wear a veil
- Have a wedding cake
- Have a floral bouquet
- Toss a bouquet toss
- Have a designated wedding car
- Immediately leave for your honeymoon
Be innovative with food and drink
A four-course meal is a lovely idea, but cleverness is valued as much as formality.
In the Huffington Post blog, "How to Have a $50,000 Wedding on a $3,000 budget," personal financial strategist Shannah L. Compton booked a wood-burning pizza truck and hit up her neighbor to provide gourmet appetizers. Take her cue and consider other offbeat and affordable wedding meal options:
- Scrambled, please! Get married earlier in the day and serve economical brunch menu items. | Money Crashers
- A buffet of options. Troll budget wedding foods on Pinterest (if you dare). The most talented chef in your family can make a backyard buffet. Or gather ideas and caucus with your caterer to create great-tasting but inexpensive food.
- Midnight snack. Hosting a late-night wedding with sweet treats only to keep the blood sugar going might be just the memorable note you've been seeking. Martha Stewart Weddings suggests cronuts, but old-fashioned fried dough with powdered sugar sounds just fine.
- Have your reception at a restaurant. Money might be better spent on a beefed-up open bar and tasty morsels. Rachel Miller in her article, "33 Insanely Smart Ways To Save Money On Your Wedding, " reports a bride saying:"I realized that getting married at a fancy restaurant was our most affordable option. Instead of paying $1,000 or more (sometimes much more) to rent a space and then bring everything in, I had to buy only food and alcohol. The room, furniture, linens, lighting, beautiful décor, dishes, silverware, fancy display items, etc., were all included. So much cheaper than renting a space and having to bring in everything from forks to outhouses."
Insource and save thousands
Mine your contact list to determine who might be able and willing to bake the cake, handle the tunes, or offer up their award-winning rose garden as the setting for your special day, advises Ariel, the Seattle-based author of a book called "Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides." She elaborates:
"Instead of trying to forge a connection with strangers, we called on the skills of many friends and family members.
In this way, we tried to create a day that was a reflection and celebration of our community of ravers, hippies, academics, and urban hipsters—not an expensive day dedicated to our relationship narcissism."
Don't be hung up on etiquette
The days of heavy cardstock invitations worthy of two snail-mail stamps aren't a given.Online invitations are no longer a faux pas, according to Taryn Williford on ApartmentTherapy. "If your wedding is casual enough and each of your guests are tech-savvy enough, I'm going to go ahead and say that you can pull off an online invitation for the wedding," explains Williford. "You might clutch your pearls, but services like Paperless Post are making online stationery look damn good."
Borrow, don't buy
Nearly every element of a wedding day gets one-time use. Give new meaning to the "something borrowed" phrase and hit up beloved friends and family for shoes, jewelry, attire, headpieces, attire to wear over your wedding dress (for winter weddings), and even décor.
Crowdsource your photos
Smartphones are ubiquitous, and photo filters are da bomb turn all of us into makeshift pros (or at least, we feel that way).
Have a professional photographer on site for formal photos only. For the rest, ask guests to take as many photos as possible.
Establish a photo-sharing site so folks can upload their best snaps throughout the celebration. There are some great apps that make this easy. Check out:
Eversnap: Photos and videos in one online album, plus it works without an internet connection (perfect for destination and off-the-beaten-path weddings).
WedPics: Invite guests via text, email, and Facebook to share pics from iPhone, Android, and digital cameras.
Wedding Photo Swap: You and guests can use mobile apps, online albums, and enjoy easy uploads.
4. Smart couples get help—and don't get stressed out about their wedding
So excited about getting married that you're buying a bridal magazine every day? You may be a perfect candidate to get a wedding planner.
Having someone to keep you grounded—and who is not swayed by your infectious enthusiasm— like a wedding planner could be just what you need to stick to a budget.
Don't discount the value of a wedding planner
When you're trying to honor a budget you may wonder why you should add another person to your list who needs payment. But it is possible to find a wedding planner that fits within your budget. Lauren Grove, who runs the wedding site, EveryLastDetail says,
"If you need to, make it work—cut out 10 guests, don't get those expensive bridesmaid gifts, or forgo cocktail napkins. I promise it will be the best money you spend. And one other thing (speaking as a former wedding planner now), I can't even count how many times I've saved my couples money. Just saying."
If you and your betrothed aren't savvy negotiators, a wedding planner will speak for you. Vendors may mark-up their wares and services when they know you're in a mindset where you'll agree to astronomical prices, as John Schmoll points out on the financial management site, ReadyforZero.
Having an advocate works in your best interest, and within your budget to avoid obvious mark-ups, and you'll enjoy the perks that come from someone who's in the know.
One bride's wedding planner saved her $1,500 on wedding costs—so much money that the planner essentially paid for herself!
Here are some additional pros of hiring a wedding planner, according to a Brides advice column:
- Counting on another person besides yourself who knows everything about the entire wedding day and is prepared to manage it. The wedding planner knows, respects, and fights to see your wedding vision come to fruition, no matter the circumstances.
- A pro helps with legal contracts with vendors, and keeps you within your budget constraints (a string ensemble isn't needed when one violinist could do the trick).
- A wedding planner will save you from stress and handle 25th-hour snafus with aplomb.
- Wedding planners have connections that can land you discounts or VIP treatment.
- Your wedding planner is the heavy when sticky situations arise with vendors or venues.
Still not convinced? Reflective Bride blogs at The Huffington Post about the many reasons she wishes she had hired a wedding planner, among them:
- "Wedding tasks aren't always fun."
- "We weren't that great at choosing vendors."
- "Things go wrong at the last minute."
And if you're planning a large event, destination wedding, or last-minute nuptial, a wedding planner is your ride-or-die. They'll take care of what's too big, too unknown, or too fast for you.
But just like other items on your wedding budget, it pays to shop around for wedding coordinators, interviewing them about charges (hourly rate, flat fee, or a percentage of the overall wedding cost).
Contracts must be signed, as Money magazine reminds us, and, of course, you have to gel with their personality since they'll be planning the biggest day of your life so far.
5. Smart couples know their stuff about who "traditionally" pays for what—and then buck all trends
Once upon a time, a bride came with a dowry to make her a more attractive catch, since she wouldn't be earning an income for her household. Those days are gone. Brides can fend for themselves, the bride's parents are no longer expected to cover the majority of wedding costs, and quite often couples foot the entire bill for their wedding (especially older, more established couples).
However, if you're curious about the traditional cost breakdown of weddings, this compilation of suggested responsibilities from Pop Sugar, Brides, and Southern Bride & Groom will help you figure out how to pay for a wedding. Divvy them up as you see fit.
The bride's family pays for:
- Engagement party
- Wedding planner
- Wedding gown
- Venue rentals
- Reception (including cake, catering, beverages)
- Photographer and videographer
- Flowers for the ceremony, reception, bridesmaid bouquets
- Music for the ceremony and reception
- Bridal party transportation to the wedding
- Wedding favors
- Their own attire
- Lodging or arrangements for out-of-town bridesmaids
The bride foots the bill for:
- The groom's wedding ring
- Wedding gift for the groom
- Bridesmaid gifts
- Bridal party luncheon
- Thank-you gifts for parents
The groom's family handles the bill for:
- The rehearsal dinner
- Alcohol at the reception
- Their wedding attire
- The officiant's fee
- The bridal bouquet
- Boutonnieres for groomsmen, fathers, and grandfathers
- Corsages for mothers and grandmothers
- Bridal couple's transportation leaving the wedding
- Lodging for out-of-town groomsmen
The groom ponies up for:
- The engagement ring
- The bride's wedding ring
- Wedding gift for the bride
- Groomsmen gifts
- Marriage license
- His wedding attire
- The honeymoon
- Transportation for groomsmen to the wedding
- Wedding night accommodations
The wedding party pays for:
- The bachelor and bachelorette party
- Their own attire
- Their own transportation
Feel free to nix 75 percent of the items on these lists in favor of your budget and wishes. Because remember, no matter what tradition says, your wedding is unique to you and every typical wedding obligation is flexible, including who pays for the wedding.
6. Smart couples finance their wedding to get as many benefits as possible
An expensive wedding doesn't guarantee a great wedding. Your enthusiasm, happiness, and a stellar guest list will determine the true success of your shindig. But no matter how big, small, or unusual your nuptials, you (and/or your families) still have to pay for it.
Plastic is fantastic (sometimes)
Plastic can be your BFF, or your "frenemy." In Brynne Conroy's piece for Payoff, "How to Pay for Your Wedding with a Credit Card," she outlines the perks and pitfalls of paying with plastic, identifying that, unfortunately, responsible use of credit cards is not the norm.
If you're gonna pull out the charge card, here are some of the best ways to do it:
Get your just rewards. Rewards credit cards abound. Earn points for just about anything you love—books, trips to theme parks, magazines, airline mileage. Or, enjoy cash back to contribute to wedding expenses. Just make sure you select the best rewards card. You might charge $10,000 on your card, but if you're only earning 1 percent cash back, you'll only get $100 in rewards. One man earned 4 million airline miles by buying US dollar coins (hello, around-the-world honeymoon!) on his American Express. Unfortunately, the program he used was shut down by the Mint, which is a bummer, but you get the idea.
Go low. Choose a credit card with a no-interest introductory rate for 15 or 18 months. Giving yourself a deadline to pay off your wedding debt helps you plan a budget, and motivates you to pay off that card before interest kicks in.
Charge, then pay. If you're flush enough to pay for the wedding up front, use the plastic to pay for vendors and big expenses. Then pay off the card immediately. You'll earn points and rewards, and boost your credit score in the process.
The personal nature of personal loans
It may be a relief to have financial help from family for wedding expenses, but people with a financial stake in your nuptials also have an opinion. This may prompt you to resort to a personal loan for wedding funding. "The problem with personal loans is that most often people are taking them out because they're trying to spend cash they don't have," says Lauren Lyons Cole, a certified financial planner tells The Knot.
Things to consider before you pursue a personal loan:
- If you're taking out a loan to get quick money for your wedding but have the funds tied up elsewhere to pay off the loan, make sure there are no prepayment penalties.
- Personal loans typically range from $2K to $35K. Don't borrow more than you need.
- Online personal loans usually come with three- or five-year repayment terms—don't miss your deadline, otherwise your credit could be negatively affected.
Cash is still king
Paying cash remains the best way to pay for your wedding. You know the money is there. You aren't looking forward to the wedding day only to wake up the morning after dreading the bills you'll soon receive. Some vendors even offer discounts if you pay cash, as Miriam Caldwell points out in "Saving on Your Weddings Expenses" on The Balance.
Just beware of paying cash up front so you don't get taken for a ride—deposits are safer, and make sure you have a contract.
If you want to know how your peers are paying for their weddings
The Knot and PayPal teamed up for a survey about how couples are paying for their weddings:
- 99% use a checking or savings accounts
- 57% borrow money from a financial institution
- 49% pay cash as needed
- 36% pay with credit cards
- 16% borrow from family or a friend
Ultimately, you don't want to attempt to finance a wedding you can't afford. Credit cards and loans can work in a pinch, but if you're planning ahead, working with a budget, and saving your dimes, you shouldn't have to resort to outside help to pay for your wedding.
7. They foot the bill for their honeymoon with a little help from their friends
How to pay for a wedding is one thing. How to pay for a honeymoon is quite another.
Your wedding budget should include your honeymoon. Why? Because you don't want to go into debt or miss out on an experience that is integral to feeling like you've successfully gotten married.
But let's slow down here, do you need a honeymoon?
The short answer is "no," but you both deserve one.
First, a honeymoon doesn't have to be right after the wedding. Nor does it have to be a trip of a lifetime.
As Liz Moorhead says at A Practical Wedding, "If it happens long after the wedding, it turns out to be… a really nice vacation… what you really need is a good breather with your partner. And maybe a hot tub."
Liz is right. Call it a mini-moon or just a period of time where you and your now, spouse, can, ahem, capitalize on that newlywed joy, and enjoy some time away from the madness (and relatives who are hanging around), you'll want to set aside money and time for it.
Bare minimum, immediately after the reception (or whatever is last), make sure you get a private space for you and new spouse to decompress and appreciate what you just experienced.
If that's a honeymoon suite or Airbnb in town, or a fancy hotel in San Francisco en route to Tahiti, then great. Just make sure you set aside time alone to decompress and privately celebrate.
Create a honeymoon registry
Finance the trip of a lifetime or just that much needed 36-hour "grace period" by creating a honeymoon registry.
These sites can help you say "no, thanks" to glassware and "yes, please" to Paris or beyond:
Honeyfund: Make a free dream honeymoon registry and accept monetary gifts online or offline.
Travelers Joy: Guests can contribute to dream honeymoon activities. Funds delivered via check or PayPal.
Newlywish: Register for a night in the honeymoon suite to dinner at a five-star restaurant that your guests can fund.
Honeymoon Wishes: Sign up for a full-service honeymoon registry for resorts and cruise lines, from Disney to Venice.
Tendr: Branded as the elegant way to give and receive money to use as the couple sees fit.
If you consider honeymoon registries a wedding faux pas, earmark any cash wedding gifts as honeymoon funds. But, just like the wedding itself, your honeymoon should never be a trip you can't afford.
Don't assume guests are going to foot the whole bill. Save and budget so you can fully appreciate the reward after wedding madness.
Save money while relaxing
The last thing you want to worry about on your honeymoon is getting the bill at the end of the trip, and figuring out how to pay for a honeymoon when you get home. These tips will save you money before, during, and after the fact.
Work with a travel agent. Leave honeymoon deets to a travel agent for one-stop, stress-free planning. An expert stays within your budget and lands you discounts. (AAA member? You can get travel help for free.) |The Knot
Buy a package deal. Bundling hotel and air can save you big bucks, as can booking through an all-inclusive resort. |Brides
Travel in the off-season. The shoulder season (time between peak and off-peak travel) can get you to your destination during non-busy, good-weather times. Plan your wedding around dates like this, or be willing to honeymoon later to get the best deal. |Mental Floss
Book early. Once your wedding is set in stone there is no reason to drag your feet on airfare or hotel reservations, especially if you're going to a popular destination. |Destination Weddings & Honeymoons
Take a mini-moon. If money is tight, or you can only get married during peak tourist season in your honeymoon destination, consider just a few days and nights away. Plan a repeat trip or bigger splurge for your one-year anniversary. |Wedding Wire
Go off the beaten path. You could go to the City of Lights or witness the Northern Lights. In other words, go where the currency exchange benefits you, like Iceland. | The Knot
Tell everyone "we are on our honeymoon"
Most of all, always mention that you are on your honeymoon.
Tell the concierge, porter, stewardess, hostess, wait staff, cab driver, and the folks in the cabana next to yours.
You never know what delightful perks or freebies you could get out of newlywed bliss.
8. Smart couples save for the wedding (even if they really suck at saving) and look for savings
Weddings are an indulgence for many, and it's not difficult for spending to get out of control. But if you think of a wedding as an investment, you are more likely to handle the financial aspect responsibly.
If you want to give yourself the best chance to pay for your wedding without financial strain, plan a long engagement so you aren't facing rush fees (dress alterations) or last-minute changes (fish instead of chicken) and, of course, so you can save for as long as possible.
5 ways you can start saving for your wedding right now
When wedding budget discussion begins, couples are forced to look at how they handle their existing cost of living. Any money conversation can be painful, but if you want to stay out of debt as your marriage kicks off, you gotta start talking numbers and taking action, starting right now:
Cut down on monthly expenses. Slim the usual suspects: overly large data plan, too many premium cable channels, the gym membership you rarely use. |The Knot
Sell, sell, sell. eBay and Craigslist are standbys for big-ticket items. Unload clothes (ThredUP), books, video games (DeCluttr), furniture, electronics (Gazelle), and more online or with an app. | Money Talks News
Get a second gig. Whether you hostess, bartend, or freelance in your field, the salary from a side hustle can build your wedding fund quickly. |Brides
Eliminate mindless spending. Your daily latte, lunch out twice a week, takeout every night, grabbing a cab when you could walk—what seems like nothing, altogether adds up to something.
Open a wedding savings account. Have a dedicated place to put your wedding money. Seeing a zero balance in that account will guilt you into setting aside money regularly. |Get Rich Slowly
Bankroll your wedding
A DIY wedding is a serious possibility if you're crafty and willing to do the work.
There are places you can hold a ceremony or reception that won't cost you a dime.
Also consider the innate skills you have at your fingertips that could help bankroll your big day:
- Do you have some social cache? A popular YouTube channel? A major Twitter following? Get a sponsor for your wedding in return for using a product of theirs and boasting about it effusively on social media. If there is a great deal of buzz about your wedding, some sponsors will want to take part simply to have that anecdote on their resume, like the big-name sponsors (e.g., 1-800-Flowers) of Dave and Carrie's wedding held at a baseball stadium.
- Agree to pass out product samples to guests as wedding favors. This could help a new business looking for free advertising or an opportunity to break into the wedding industry. | Ready for Zero
- Volunteer to write a monthly wedding blog or column about your journey while promoting products and services in exchange for wedding freebies. One couple volunteered to plaster their wedding formalwear with corporate logos, like racecars, so they could finance their destination wedding.
- Or simply consider reaching out to the company or individual who seems the most logical option to foot the bill and get some publicity for themselves at the same time. For Joel BURGER and Ashley KING, their outreach was a no-brainer.
9. Smart couples make technology their wedding-planning (and budget-planning) best friend
If you're a modern player planning a modern wedding, your smartphone is riding shotgun. Here are just some of the platforms that garner rave reviews.
"Follow the money"
When you start planning with a wedding budget calculator or app, keep using it. Don't allow your wedding costs to balloon because you aren't keeping track of where the money is going.
Set up weekly reminder to add in any new purchases, estimate the next big expenses, do some math, and make sure you're keeping yourself accountable. Here are some helpful tools set you on your way:
Mint: You may already use it to track daily spending. Call on Mint to create a wedding budget and stay on track with paying (text reminders) and spending (email summaries of activity).
Wedding Budget Calculator: The Knot's app itemizes over 50 wedding expenses so you can track deposits, final payments, and overspending.
Wedding Paper Divas' wedding budget allocator lets you enter the total amount you want to spend, then suggests how to allocate funds for common wedding expenditures.
Websites to showcase your wedding
Riley & Grey: If design is important to you, create a gorgeous, user-friendly wedding website and populate it with your wedding's unique details for guests to access.
Appy Couple: This stylish site lets you create a wedding website that syncs with the app for photo sharing, socializing with your bridal party, and RSVPs.Inspirational wedding sites and apps
Carats & Cake: Pinterest might have inspiration, but Carats & Cake has visual glory and the opportunity to book the makers of wedding beauty on the spot. Enjoy the photos of real weddings, get the rundown of vendors used, and check out their portfolios.
Wedding LookBook: Busy brides can browse and bookmark in The Knot's dress-dedicated app.
Best wedding planning apps
Wedding Happy: You will be supremely organized with a pocket wedding planner that notifies you about when to research a wedding aspect, book a vendor, and tackle a task.
The Venue Report: Having a destination wedding? Getting married in your hometown where you haven't lived for decades? Find the ideal venue on this thorough website.
Don't get lost in the minutiae and the many techie wedding resources available. Dedicate an hour to doing research, pick your top finalists, and, after a test run, choose your winners and stick with them.
The big day has arrived.
This is your wedding. Keep your head on straight and your budget tightly drawn and don't be swayed by others.
Stay true to your ideas and wants—it's your wedding after all. Do it your way, even if you repeat someone else's idea, even if you do it smaller, even if you don't do something at all.
The most important takeaway from your wedding day should be the memories you create, not the debt you've developed. Don't get caught up in the vanity.
This is your amazing opportunity to shine a spotlight on your love for another human, in the presence of people who are also important to you.
No one will ever remember that the bride had a veil made of Brussels lace or that the couple served filet mignon or roast chicken (and neither will you, since you probably won't even eat your wedding meal you'll be so busy).
But seeing the groom beam at his bride with tears in his eyes—that's the good stuff.
As long as you can pay for the wedding day without going overboard or into major debt, and you're so delighted about the experience that you'd do it all over again exactly the same way, then you've won. And hey, you're getting hitched—go shout your love from the rooftops!