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“It is a truth universally acknowledged” that every bride and groom in possession of engagement promises must be in want of ways to make their wedding actually affordable.
While Jane Austen’s novels always end in marriage, we rarely see her characters get their bonnets in a bunch over wedding costs.
By contrast, 74% of couples today will take on debt to get married.
Sure, you may have found your Lizzie Bennet or Mr. Darcy, but you probably don’t have “a large fortune” to pay for an extravagant regency-style wedding.
Thankfully, this guide will teach you how to pay for a wedding on a budget, and declare your love for each other without declaring bankruptcy to pay for it.
Here are 10 tips to help you start your life together in the green.
Tips How to Pay for a Wedding:
1. Borrowing from your parents (and why you shouldn’t do it)
Let’s get the most obvious answer out of the way first. The most common answer to the question of how to pay for a wedding has long been asking your parents to foot the bill. But, as Austen’s novels point out time and again, money and family just don’t mix, especially around the topic of marriage.
For one thing, monetary independence is personal independence. The sexism of patriarchs paying grooms to wed their daughters on “the marriage market” was a target of Austen’s when she wrote, and is, today, an entirely antiquated approach. You don’t want your parents’ money controlling your marriage or your lifestyle choices.
Aside from establishing personal independence, asking your parents to pay for such a large expense can sour your relationship with them. While the average cost of a wedding varies from state to state, according to The Knot, it can range anywhere from $15K to $33K.
Asking anyone to pay that much for your “I do’s” will naturally lead to them saying, “we won’t.”
2. Favors and favorability
Wedding favors are a mainstay of many weddings—but should they be? On the one hand, they’re a lovely way of thanking guests for attending your celebration. On the other hand, according to The Knot, that can quickly add up to between $200 and $500.
Nixing these little items can save lots of money for bigger and better elements of your wedding.
If you do want to keep them, coupons from sites such as Groupon can help you save big with deals on favors and other items for your wedding.
3. Shrinking gargantuan guest lists
How do those little favors end up costing so much? Part of the answer lies in the huge guest lists we so often see at modern weddings. As Moneywise points out, even if you spend just $2 per favor, with a guest list in the hundreds, the price of furnishing them skyrockets.
The same idea applies to almost every other element of your wedding, as well. Inviting hundreds of guests means seating and serving them all, which means renting more tables and chairs, ordering more food, and perhaps springing for a bigger venue.
When assembling your guest list, ask yourself—is that friend of a friend’s second-cousin you met that one time at your sister’s party really worth inviting? Or, to put it another way, is that person crucial enough to your life that you are willing to take on debt to invite them?
4. Should You “say yes to the dress?”
Most of us have this image of our weddings as the perfect romantic fantasy, and shows like Say Yes to the Dress feed right into that sense of escapism. That said, the affordability of that fantasy is perhaps its most impossibly fantastic element.
According to Wedding Wire, the average cost of a wedding dress is $1000. Some of the most expensive gowns can top $1600. And that’s before you factor in bridesmaids’ dresses which, according to The Spruce, can range from $150 for the dress alone to a whopping $500 with hair, shoes, and accessories.
Lest we only pick on the ladies, tuxedos for grooms and groomsmen can add up quickly as well.
The Simple Dollar recommends purchasing groom tuxedos in a group package for discounts and having bridesmaids pick a dress they already own that matches the wedding’s color theme to save on costs.
Now, let’s make something clear – there’s nothing wrong with having a keen fashion sense, or wanting to look and feel your best on your big day. That said, if a wedding dress you’ll (hopefully) only wear once costs more than a round trip flight from LA to London, that may be a bit much for a “budget” wedding.
Why not save that money and go to London or somewhere else you love for your honeymoon instead? Why not save it for other costs supporting your wedding, or to help you start your married life together?
5. Of petals and prices
Chances are you won’t be cutting out the bridal bouquet, but you may want to consider pruning away some other pricey wedding petals.
“But what about the flower girls? They’ll look so cute!”
They’re flower girls. They’ll look cute no matter what.
By cutting professionally-picked wedding petals and not including them in your wedding or passing on a few baskets’ worth of flower petals for the flower girls, you can save another couple hundred dollars.
6. Venues, Peerspace, credit cards, and discounts
We’ve been slashing costs throughout this list, and that’s partly because, as Brides.com points out, you can throw together an immaculate wedding for as little as $10,000 using proper budgeting and taking advantage of deals. As they point out, venues are the biggest cost that most engaged couples face.
In looking at how to pay for a $10,000 wedding, sites such as Peerspace can help immensely.
Peerspace is a venue renting service that allows you to search, compare, and rent out high-quality venues for weddings, business meetings, seminars, and other events at low rates.
With Peerspace’s game-changing features, you can:
- Browse venues across the world
- Compare prices
- Connect and negotiate directly with hosts
- Book your venue with a few simple clicks
You will want to be aware of potential credit card limitations when searching for venues, as some vendors do not accept credit cards. What’s more, when it comes to collecting wedding benefits, not all credit cards are created equal.
According to CardRates.com, these credit cards are the best for wedding expenses:
- Chase Freedom
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Capital One Savor
- Capital One VentureOne
- Discover It
7. Timing is everything
Getting married at the most popular times of the year will cost you more. Spring and autumn are the most popular seasons during which to get married, and between Valentine’s Day and the holidays with the most scenic snow, you can throw February and December in there as well.
As per BrideBox, that leaves “January, March, April, and November” as the most affordable months wedding planning-wise.
8. Wedding planners’ real plan
Speaking of wedding planners—ditch them. They can cost a ton on their own, and, while there are plenty of good ones out there, less than scrupulous wedding planners with ties within the industry can talk you into spending way more than you want or need.
Instead, plan your own wedding. While that may seem daunting, it will save you a ton of money, and since you’re cutting costs and items already, there will be less to plan anyway. That won’t make wedding planning easy, but it will, at least, make it far more affordable.
9. Cut a rug (and costs) by doing the (side) hustle
Maybe you’ve followed some or all of these pieces of wedding advice, but still find yourself coming up short. If so, you might want to consider cutting back temporarily on luxury expenditures such as new clothes, cars, and vacations so as to save that money for your wedding.
If you’re thinking of how you can get money to pay for a wedding, you might want to consider taking on a little “side hustle.” Doing freelance work that suits your skills can help you earn a little extra cash to make your wedding more affordable.
According to BrideChilla, freelancing sites such as Upwork can help you afford weddings upfront or pay off credit card debt.
10. Call on your friends
When all else fails, you can always count on your friends to help you cut costs and make your wedding more affordable. One of the best ways of reducing wedding costs is by asking for favors rather than wedding gifts.
Do you have a friend who’s particularly good at arts and crafts? Maybe they can help you design some of your invitations and decorations.
Do you have a friend who’s an absolute whiz at doing hair? Maybe you can cut out an expensive bridal stylist and have them do your hair instead.
Do you have friends who are singers or musicians? Maybe they can play at your wedding and during the reception.
Calling on your friends for wedding favors has the added benefit of making the whole thing feel less like an over-planned, overpriced event and more like a communal celebration.
Afford Your Wedding
As Polonius bids Laertes farewell in Hamlet, he gives him many famous pieces of advice, among which is to be “rich, not gaudy,” which is a pretty good tip when it comes to how to save for a wedding.
Many of the cost-cutting measures listed above involve cutting out gaudy, potentially showoff-ish extravagances in favor of what matters most to you and your guests.
It’s true in Austen as well.