How to Save for a Wedding in a Year (or Less)

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Just how much does the average wedding cost today? $10,000? $20,000? $50,000? In point of fact, a wedding can cost whatever you want it to cost. But if you’re interested in statistics as a means of comparison, the average wedding in America today costs about $27,800 (according to The Knot). That’s a lot of money to…

Just how much does the average wedding cost today? $10,000? $20,000? $50,000? In point of fact, a wedding can cost whatever you want it to cost. But if you’re interested in statistics as a means of comparison, the average wedding in America today costs about $27,800 (according to The Knot). That’s a lot of money to save for a wedding!

Saving on Wedding CostsI don’t know if that number has been scientifically arrived at, or if it was embellished by what we might loosely call the wedding industry. Though the exact amount of the average may vary from one part of the country to another, based on what I’ve seen, I think that figure is about right.

If you’re planning to get married in the not-too-distant future, and you’ll largely be paying for your wedding yourself, you’ve got a lot of saving to do between now and then. What are some ways you can save for a wedding in one year – or less? Here are some tips.

How Much Should a Wedding Cost? – Coming Up with Your Wedding Budget

Weddings are such a personal event that you can’t really use one person’s wedding budget as a guide for your wedding. Each person values certain aspects of the wedding differently, making each wedding and its associated costs as unique as the couple being wed. In my opinion, the best way to go is to spend money on those things which are most important to you and find ways to save on the areas which aren’t as important.

You can have a beautiful wedding without breaking the bank. You can save a lot of money by involving friends and family, booking in advance, using coupons, and a being creative with scheduling, substituting more expensive options for less expensive options, etc.

Perhaps the best piece of advice would be not to go into debt for a wedding. I understand that weddings are one of the most important days you will have, but starting married life in debt is an added pressure newlyweds don’t need. It’s more important to have a day where you can relax and have fun, and enjoy the moment without having to worry about having the debt hanging over you for months or years to come.

These tips can help you save enough for your wedding without breaking the bank.

Have a Beautiful Wedding on a Tight Budget

Here are some ideas for brides and grooms on very tight budgets.

1. Location

The venue for your wedding can often be one of the most expensive components of your budget. Why not book your wedding for a weekday? One of the most fun and beautiful weddings I’ve ever attended was held on a non-holiday Monday at an historic house in Boston. The bride confided that the rental cost was 1/5th the price if she held her wedding on any day other than Friday, Saturday or Sunday. In addition, the guest list was understandably much shorter since not everyone could come to a wedding on a weekday. All of the people closest to the bridal couple were there, and the entire wedding had no more 60 guests, saving the bride and groom on food and alcohol costs.

2. Food and drinks

Speaking of food and alcohol, this is another huge expense when planning a wedding. Some ways to save on food is to serve a meal other than dinner. A brunch reception held early in the day could be a great way to save on food costs, as fruit, eggs, pastries, and juice are going to be a great deal cheaper than a prime rib dinner.

Similarly, a cold lunch reception with sandwiches, salads, and fruit will make a lovely spread without being a huge budget drain. Even if you’re having your wedding ceremony later in the day, you can still have a lovely afternoon tea with sandwiches and salads.

Another positive aspect to serving an early meal is that it can save you on alcohol costs. I would personally prefer not to have a cash bar at a wedding, but I know that the alcohol costs can often overwhelm a wedding budget. Having an early reception and meal means that offering only beer and wine—and possibly a signature cocktail, like a mimosa with brunch—will be much more in keeping with the style of the reception.

3. Wedding cake

wedding cakeEspecially with the recent popularity in art cakes on television, wedding cakes are a very important part of the reception. Unfortunately, all that sugary beauty comes at a cost. There are several ways to cut costs on your wedding cake. One popular option is to order a small display cake and get a matching sheet cake to serve to your guests.

Similarly, you can create a Styrofoam cake yourself and serve sheet cakes. Finally, if you have a friend or family member who likes to bake, enlist their help in making your own cake. Ice it with simple white frosting and decorate it with real flowers, candy or even heirloom pearls.

4. Invitations

Just because the wedding magazines suggest you have engraved invitations doesn’t mean you have to have them. For example, you can design your invitation on your home computer and take the design to an office store to create. The postage for your beautiful invitations will most likely be the most expensive part of inviting our friends and family to the wedding. To save even more money, print your own invitations at home, or even use Evite to invite your guests. That will save money (it’s free!) and is environmentally friendly.

5. Dresses

Wedding dresses (and bridesmaids dresses) do not have to cost a mint. The bride who got married on a Monday wore a white dress she found in a J. Crew catalog—and she looked absolutely lovely.

Love your mom or grandmother’s dress? Have it altered to fit you and continue a lovely tradition. If your wedding or your tastes run a little more modern, why not buy used? You can find designer dresses in your size that have literally only been worn once—for a fraction of the price. Check out www.preownedweddingdresses.com or www.oncewed.com to find dresses (some of them never worn!) that will make you look beautiful on your special day.

As for bridesmaids dresses, remember that it is not necessary for all of your friends to match. Weddings, where brides ask their bridesmaids to wear a specific color but choose any dress they like within that color, are just as lovely as the matchy nuptials. And it helps your friends to save money as they can actually re-wear their dresses on other occasions.

6. Involve Your Family Members & Close Friends

Many people have close friends and relatives who can lend their talents to your wedding ceremony.

Ryan Guina, the founder of this site, writes,

“My wife’s family is very musical and several family members performed before and during our wedding ceremony. Before the service, my wife’s cousins played the flute, and her brother played the piano. During the wedding ceremony my wife’s sister and sister-in-law sang a beautiful song while accompanied by my wife’s brother. The gift of music they gave us added a personal touch that we will always remember.”

Talents can extend far beyond music. Take some time to think about who may be able to lend a hand and ask if they would be willing to do so. More often than not, they will be happy to participate in your special day.

7. Save Money on Flowers

bride's bouquetThese tips might be able to help you save a bundle on your wedding bouquet and bridesmaid’s flowers.

Get to know your florist. Being a loyal and frequent customer can get you great deals throughout all seasons, especially if you get to know your florist personally. If you have an established relationship, you are much more likely to get a discount when you need a nice bouquet or make a large order.

Buy seasonal flowers. Many flowers are less expensive when they are in season. You can save a lot of money if you go to the florist with a color scheme in mind instead of a particular flower. Giving the florist the option to choose the exact flowers can save you a lot of money.

Reuse vases or baskets. You can save a lot of money by reusing vases, baskets, or other presentation items. You can also consider buying your own and bringing it to the florist if you don’t have one at home.

Ask for arrangements with larger flowers. Larger flowers create a striking arrangement, but often require fewer stems per bouquet, which can cut the price.

Order early. The earlier you place your order, the easier it will be for the florist or flower company to plan and fill your order. If you wait until the last minute, you will probably find prices up to 30-40% higher than if you would have ordered earlier. This usually applies to both online shopping and buying flowers at a florist.

The thing to remember about wedding planning is that many of the “traditional” elements that you think you must have were introduced by the wedding industry. All you have to have on your wedding day is the opportunity to marry your best friend in front of the people you both love best. Everything after that is simply fondant on the cake.

Tips to Save for Your Wedding in One Year, or Less

1. Live on one paycheck and save the other.

There is a growing trend in couples living together before getting married. If that is your situation, then perhaps the fastest and easiest way to save for your wedding is to bank one paycheck. If you’re already a two income household, you can live on one paycheck and save everything from the other until you reach your goal of paying for your wedding.

If you are not living together then maybe one partner can move back in with family, and save as much of his or her paycheck as possible before the wedding. That isn’t a perfect situation, but it’s a whole lot better than paying for the wedding with credit cards, and then spending years paying them back afterward.

2. Sell everything you can.

If banking a full paycheck is impossible, then you may be able to save part of it and supplement your savings from other sources. One of the best ways is by selling anything that you have that you no longer need (Craigslist is one way to sell items quickly).

This can be even more practical when you consider that you will be combining households with your new spouse and much of what each of you has individually will longer be needed. Exercise equipment, a sound system and even a widescreen TV may no longer be needed once you are married. They can be sold to raise hundreds – and maybe thousands – of dollars that can be used for your wedding.

3. Get additional part-time jobs.

You could also consider each of you getting an extra part-time job. It’s better that you both do it, rather than putting the burden entirely on one. That will reduce the number of hours each of you need to work in order to reach your wedding savings goal.

If each of you take a part-time job working roughly 50 hours per month at $8 per hour, that will represent an income of $400 per month for each of you. Even if $200 goes to taxes, that will be $600 per month, and in one year’s time that will be well over $7,000.

It may not get you all of the money that you need for the wedding you are planning, but it’ll be a big chunk right there.

4. Cut down on the size and cost of your wedding.

If you are planning on a high-end wedding, not expecting to get much help from family, and also pretty sure that you will be unable to save enough money between now and then, you still have one other option. Cut down on the size and cost of your wedding.

That may not be the preferred choice, but you’ll keep yourself out of debt and that may be the wisest choice of all. This is especially true if each of you are bringing student loan debt, credit cards, and car payments into the marriage. Too much debt can doom a marriage, so you might want to opt for a less opulent celebration in the short run in favor of a more successful marriage in the long run.

Since wedding celebrations are so diverse these days, you should be able cut back on – or eliminate – some less critical plans. For example, an obvious first step would be to cut back on the guest list. When it comes to weddings, people often expand the guest list to include second cousins, former neighbors and acquaintances from work. But if you cannot afford it, some of them will have to go.

Other possibilities include having the celebration at a less expensive venue, cutting back on the number of photos or flowers, offering a limited bar, or even having a less expensive honeymoon. Since the possibilities here are endless, you should be able to reduce the cost of your wedding without having to rearrange it completely.

Do you know of other ways to save for a wedding – other than relying on credit or hitting your parents up for a loan? Leave a comment!



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About Kevin Mercadante

Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, OutOfYourRut.com. He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two teenage kids and can be followed on Twitter at @OutOfYourRut.

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  1. Josh @ Live Well Simply says

    I would venture to say that $10k is a good ball park figure for a wedding. The ‘average’ is in the 20’s I believe, which seems extravagant to me.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Josh, I think a lot of it depends on where you live and what kind of wedding and reception you have. The cost of renting a reception hall, for example, can vary widely by city, state, or region, as can the cost of wedding photographers, food, and even flowers. My wife and I had what I believe to be a simple wedding, which was by no means extravagant – but it cost in the $20k range. We had just over 60 guests, and were married on a Saturday morning, with an early afternoon reception (both of which helped keep costs down compared to an evening reception). Probably the largest expense was the wedding reception which we held at a hotel where we had to use their catering for food. We could have saved a lot of money there if we held the reception at someone’s home, or somewhere like a church or community center. But it also would have made for a different event. In the end, I think it’s best to settle into what feels best for you and spend on those things which are most important, and look for ways to save on those items which aren’t as important.

  2. Randy says

    Some friends of mine got married for under a grand. They rented space in a park for about $200.00 They brought a laptop and nice speakers for the music. They got trays of food from COSTCO for about $200.00 There was no booze. The wedding gown was just a white dress and the groom wore a white tropical shirt over black pants. Everybody owns a camera so they just had friends send them whatever photos were taken. A friend volunteered to officiate for free.

    I had a great time myself and congratulated them on doing it right for not so much money.

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