Weddings have become big business. According to The Knot, which is one the most popular wedding websites, the average wedding costs about $35,000. Cost of Wedding.com has the average price at about $26,000, and neither of those estimates include the cost of a honeymoon.
The challenge of both of these websites is that their budget includes everything you may dream of having, which may be overkill for the type of wedding you really want, or the budget available to you.
We suggest you start planning your wedding by asking yourself some questions:
- Am I paying more attention to the wedding day or the marriage?
- What is really important to us on our wedding day?
- Am I getting caught up in non-essential details?
- How much money do we really want to spend (or have our parents spend) on our wedding?
The most important part of a Catholic wedding is what is commonly known as the exchange of vows. These words are the heart—the essential element—of the sacrament of marriage; they form the covenant that establishes the couple’s marriage. The Church calls the exchange of vows consent—that is, the act of will by which a man and a woman give themselves to each other, and accept the gift of the other. This is the only thing that is really important at a Catholic wedding.
If you can focus on that one truly important thing you can put the reception, food, flowers and everything else into perspective. Here are some tips to have a lovely wedding without driving yourself to exhaustion, going broke, or having your parents spend their retirement funds on your wedding.
Start your marriage debt free by setting a realistic budget and sticking to it. Be sure your budget includes everything you want and excludes those items you decide not to have. Just because there is an idea on a wedding planning website or app doesn’t mean it’s something you need to have or do. If there is something important to you and you are willing to splurge on that item, cut back on something else.
Save money by looking at dates and times that may be less expensive than others. WeddingWire’s wedding date calendar shows you the most popular days and dates, based on your location. Those most popular dates are also going to be the ones that are most expensive.
Saturday is generally the most expensive day to get married. People may expect a wedding and reception to be held in the evening, which is a much more formal affair than in the daytime. But you’ll still be just as married if you do it mid-day, and having a daytime reception can be more cost effective. A brunch reception may save you 30% over an evening reception and you can save even more by not getting married on Saturday.
Keep your guest list limited to the people who mean the most to you. If you haven’t seen someone for 2 years, why invite them to the wedding? And don’t include “plus ones” on your invitations. If you and your fiancée socialize with a couple, invite the couple to the wedding, but if you don’t even know your friend’s “other half” why invite a stranger to your special day?
The average bride spends about $1,500 on a wedding dress. A simple Google search for white prom dresses pulls up hundreds of beautiful white dresses that cost a fraction of that. You may also be able to buy a white dress in the party dress section of any department store. Ask your bridal salon if they offer any discounts for paying the full price of your gown upfront. When budgeting for your dress, take into account the extras such as alteration fees, shoes, jewelry and your veil. You may be able to borrow some of these items from a friend or family member, making it your “something borrowed” and saving you money.
You may want to mail out traditional wedding invitations, but there are a lot of things you can communicate electronically. Instead of “Save the Date” cards, send them electronically and at the same time, ask for mailing addresses, saving you the time and trouble of tracking them down when it comes time to send the invitations.
Bridesmaids and groomsmen are one more thing to coordinate. You can avoid choosing which of your six friends you want as bridesmaids, by eliminating the whole thing. And, you’ll eliminate all the additional costs for flowers, hair, makeup and gifts. Your friends will probably be relieved that they aren’t taking on a financial obligation and can just enjoy the wedding as guests.
Wedding cakes are priced by the slice and can range from $1.50 to $12 a slice. The more complicated the wedding cake, the more you’ll pay. A good cost-cutting option is to have the wedding cake of your dreams made on a small scale for a price you can comfortably afford, and then order sheet cakes of the same flavor to be cut in the kitchen. Serving “half-portions” will also save money as people always leave half-eaten slices on their plates anyway.
Local blooms that are in season at the time of your wedding are going to be much less expensive than exotic imported flowers. Plus, local flowers tend to look fresher because they weren’t in transit for days. Another option is to use a single large flower, such as a hydrangea, which naturally looks fuller and takes up more space with fewer stems. Flowers from the wedding ceremony can also be used as decorations at the reception with some preplanning.
Do it yourself projects can cut costs, especially when it comes to invitations and decorations. Or you may be able to borrow items from friends who have recently gotten married. If you are going the ‘do-it-yourself’ route, be sure to keep it simple and only tackle the projects you can comfortably handle with a minimum of help.
If you are using vendors or caterers, read the contract carefully so you know exactly what is and isn’t included. And keep an eye out for requirements such as a venue requiring you to use a certain caterer. Reviewing contacts in detail will avoid unexpected expenses, including cake-cutting and corkage fees or power for your DJ and photo booth. If a cost seems unreasonable, or you feel that you are paying for something you don’t want, respectfully request to have it removed.
Save money by cutting down on the amount of time your photographer and videographer are present. You’ll likely want them there for the ceremony, and part of the reception, but you might not need them for the ENTIRE reception.
There’s no reason to purchase something if you truly would prefer not to have it. Do you really need wedding favors which will just be thrown away? Things like wedding programs, and menu cards take time to create and the wedding guests probably don’t really notice them. If you don’t want a three-tier cake or a skyscraper-like centerpiece, then skip it! Do you really need a limousine or can a friend with a nice car transport you to the wedding ceremony and reception?
A wedding should be more about what it means to the couple getting married, not what our culture dictates as far as what kind of party to have. After all, the wedding is a point in time and the marriage is the rest of your life.
Bottom line, anybody who is in the wedding business will probably try to upsell you on products and services. Your job is to devote the biggest parts of your budget to the areas that are most important to you and be willing to compromise on the rest. When analyzing what you want or don’t want at your wedding, consider if (and how) it’ll impact you and your spouse years from now. Concentrate on those things that you will fondly remember 10, 15 or 25 years down the road.
Everybody’s different and just because your friend did something at their wedding does not mean you should do it at yours. Don’t say yes to anything just because you feel pressured to, or because that’s what “you’re supposed to do.”
Your wallet, and future marriage, will thank you for it.
Listen to the Compass Catholic podcast for more on this topic.