How Much Does It Cost to Get Married?

Americans spend an average of $33,391 on weddings, according to a study by The Knot. But depending on where you live, your wedding may cost more or less than that.

For instance, New Yorkers living in Manhattan spend an average of $76,944, and New Mexico residents spend only $17,584. Keep in mind that neither price-tag includes the honeymoon.

Does a $17,584 wedding bill still sound too steep for you? I’m here to tell you that it is possible to get hitched for much less than that. When my wife and I got married in Utah in 2010, for instance, we spent a tad more than $3,000 on the festivities.

Indeed, where there’s a will, there’s a way – so to speak. If you’re looking for a budget wedding but don’t want to skimp on the essentials, here are some tips on how to do it.

1. Start saving now

Roughly three-quarters of couples go into debt to pay for their wedding, according to a survey by Student Loan Hero. The sooner you start saving for your big day, the easier it will be to cover the costs without having to borrow money.

Set a goal to save with each paycheck. Also, consider automating your savings. Chime offers an Automatic Savings program that sets aside 10% of every paycheck in your savings account. What’s more, when you use your Chime Visa debit card, Chime will round up each transaction to the nearest dollar and transfer the round-up amount to your savings account.

2. Set a budget

For many people, their wedding day is the most important day of their lives. So, it can be easy to get carried away with the planning  – to the point of overspending.

The first thing you can do to limit your wedding spending is to set a budget. This includes:

Who’s going to contribute: According to the aforementioned study by The Knot, the bride and groom typically pay just 41.1% of their wedding costs on average. The rest is covered by the bride’s parents, the groom’s parents and other sources.

This may or may not align with your specific situation, but it’s important to know upfront who’s going to help pay for what.

A list of priorities: As you’re budgeting, it’s important to know where you should economize and where you shouldn’t. For example, avoid asking a friend or family member to do your photography or bake your cake for free or cheap. Why? This can end up backfiring on you, especially if your friend isn’t really up to the task. My sister, for example, had a friend make her wedding cake for free, and one of the tiers collapsed midway through the reception. In other words, don’t get so caught up in saving money that you end up regretting it.

While you’re figuring out your budget, make a list of your other priorities. There’s no right or wrong answer, and your priorities may be different than your parents’. It’s your day, so focus on what matters most to you.

Do your research: If you’ve never been married before, you likely don’t have a good idea of how much things cost. Do some research in your area to get an idea of what to expect. Get estimates from several different vendors to get a reasonable average.

3. Don’t be afraid to enlist amateurs

My wife and I were able to save on our wedding because we had connections with people with applicable skills. For example, my friend’s mom had experience making wedding cakes and offered to make ours as her gift to us. This saved us a few hundred dollars, and she knew what she was doing!

Another family friend had a hobby of designing floral arrangements and offered to do ours for a little more than her cost. I knew she did good work because she did the floral arrangements for my sister’s wedding.

Depending on where you live and the wedding culture in your area, getting help from amateurs can sound tacky. But as long as you get what you want for your special day, does it really matter if your vendor is a hobbyist or a professional? Of course, it’s important to make sure you’re still getting good quality products and services. Remember my sister’s cake story. You certainly don’t want to regret your frugal choices.

 4. Be picky about who you invite

My wife and I chose not to have a wedding dinner, instead offering hors d’oeuvres that we bought and prepared. Why? Catering can be expensive. The Knot estimates $70 per person on average — so it’s important to keep your guest list contained to the people you absolutely want at your wedding.

For example, consider making your reception an adult-only affair. Or, consider sending just an announcement to distant relatives you’ve never met. Trimming just 10 people off your list could save you $700.

5. Do it yourself

It’s easy to outsource most of the work in the wedding planning process, but there are some things you can easily do yourself for less money.

For example, my wife and I spent an evening designing our own wedding invitations, then another evening addressing the envelopes. While you may think you need superb handwriting to do this, this is simply not the case. You’d be surprised at the free help you’ll find via online calligraphy tutorials.

Alternatively, if you have the time and ambition, you can learn how to arrange your own wedding flowers or DIY another aspect of your wedding. Not only can a DIY approach help you save money, but it can also create an opportunity for you and your future spouse to spend time together working on a common goal.

6. Consider all the costs

When choosing your venue, it’s important to consider the full cost. You may think you’re saving money by opting for a raw space rather than a reception hall. But after renting tables, chairs, decorations, and equipment for the caterer, you could easily spend more than you bargained for.

Like everything else, this requires research. Get some estimates from venues that include all the basics, as well as quotes for a raw space plus all the extras. The same goes for every other aspect of your wedding. Look for hidden or extra costs you can avoid by choosing an alternative instead.

The bottom line

Your wedding day is one of the most important days of your life. To this end, if you don’t have tens of thousands of dollars to spend, you may need to be frugal. As you start planning your wedding, start walking through the financial side of things before you make any big decisions. With a budget in mind, it’ll be easier to avoid letting your emotions run the show.

Also, start saving now, and if you haven’t set a date yet, consider delaying your wedding day until you have enough cash saved up to pay for it.

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