Don’t let your wedding break the bank

4 tips to an affordable wedding

By Becky Larsen

My best friend’s daughter is getting married.

I listened with growing concern as the mother of the bride ran through her wedding list over coffee. “Wedding dress, church, invitations, photographer,” she happily ticked off each item. “Reception venue, caterer, flowers, decorator….”

She kept talking but my mind was stuck on decorator. Decorator? Holey moley! The list she was recounting was huge and, in my mind, wildly expensive. I’m concerned. Not about her or her daughter. But about me and my daughters. I have three. Two are of marriageable age and one is in college.

Here’s my question. How do people pay for college, save for retirement and then throw in a wedding or two or three? Because I’m thinking fathers walking their daughters down the aisle may be choking up more due to their drained bank account than sentimental feelings.

With wedding costs for the joyous occasion soaring beyond belief, couples and their families are hard pressed to keep costs down to a reasonable level. Gone are the days when a couple exchanged vows in their home or church, with a simple cake, punch and a few wedding mints thrown in. Today, the average cost of a wedding tops $31,000 (The Knot 2014 Real Weddings Study). Holey moley! I repeat myself.

It’s not just the parents who pay for the wedding anymore. With people getting married later in life, more couples are sharing or completely taking on the cost (feeling better!). Regardless of who is footing the bill, following a few money saving tips can help deflect the enormous financial hit a wedding can wield.

1. Before anything else, create a budget

This means everybody needs to talk. Couples and parents need to sit down and have an honest conversation about the awkward subject of money. Who is paying for what? What can everybody afford? Decide on an amount and do your best to stick to it. The unhappy alternative is starting your married life burdened with wedding debt.

2. Choose a less popular date

Weddings traditionally happen on a Saturday in the summer. By choosing a date in the off-season, like say, March, you could score a healthy price break on your venue and catering. My niece recently did this and was able to reduce her cost by at least 20%. If you’re stuck on summer, even opting for a Friday evening or Sunday can still significantly cut your cost.

3. Trim your guest list

This is painful, I know. Excluding people from your wedding just feels, well, cold. If you had Warren Buffett’s bank account at your disposal it wouldn’t matter, you could invite the world. But since you probably don’t, this is the single best way to keep costs down, according to those in the wedding business.

4. Downsize your food

Food can easily eat up your budget. Do you really need a full-blown catered dinner? How about opting for fun finger food instead. (Doesn’t everybody like sliders?) And that open bar? Cha-ching cha-ching! The cost of alcohol alone can easily topple the budget. Go easy on the drinks and do what my niece did — save the champagne for a toast to the bride and groom.


In the end, my best advice is to create a budget, stick to it and spend your money on things that mean the most to you. For some that means fewer guests so you can give them an amazing celebration they won’t soon forget. Others would rather have a simpler celebration so they can invite everyone they want to join in their special day.

Whatever you decide, remember this. Keep your eyes on the prize. This day is not about the stuff — flowers, food or that fabulous band. It’s about what you’re doing. Marrying the one you love. And no ice sculpture can top that.

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