In case you missed it, I partnered with Mint.com to host a #MintBrides Twitter chat. We discussed wedding-related budget advice with two of my favorite bridal bloggers, Broke Ass Bride & Junebug Weddings.
Whether you have $1,000, $10,000, or $100,000 to spend, you can have the wedding you always wanted with careful organization, zealous budgeting, and a few money-saving tricks. Read on to learn Budget 101 for the wedding of your dreams!
Q. When should couples start saving for a wedding?
A. ASAP! Anytime within 2 years of a wedding date is a good time to start planning. You really don’t need to start farther ahead than that unless you must have specific room, hotel or country club that regularly books out farther than that. And believe me; ALL of them still have dates available too.
Q. What are some easy and creative ways to save on common wedding expenses like venue, food, music and invitations?
A. Some couples save when they work in short timeframes because it forces them to go simple and streamline. Here are additional tips to avoid overspending on the big day:
Schedule your wedding during off peak times when there’s less competition for dates and you have more negotiating power! You can save 20-30% just by getting married in November or January – March (with the exception of Valentine’s Day, of course). Also, getting married mid-week will save you some money.
Choose a nontraditional venue rather than a dedicated wedding reception hall or country club. For example, look into less costly facilities like your parent’s back yard. Just make sure you calculate extra costs for tables, toilets and more.
It’s always cheaper to serve lunch or brunch than dinner, so take that into consideration. You might also want to try a combination plate–eliminate a choice of entrée to save on your food bill. For example, you could serve grilled shrimp with a couple of beef medallions or just go with an inexpensive dish like chicken or pasta and have some really good, delicious sauces.
The Wedding Cake
The cost of a wedding cake is all about the labor, so forget fancy flowers or matching the lace from your gown, etc… That’s too elaborate, which means $$$$.
Consider making your own centerpiece. Use a site like freshroses.com, where you can order flowers wholesale and then make your own centerpieces. Another way to save is to choose seasonal and local flowers instead of exotic or out of season blooms!
Photographers usually offer packages based on the hours they’ll work. To buy a less expensive (shorter) package, do your at-home, getting-ready pictures as candids. They’re fun and cheap.
Q. Besides the wedding gift, should I be expected to buy a gift for other events like an engagement party, bridal shower, etc?
A. This depends on your relationship with the bride and whether or not you can afford it. No one wants you to break the bank (especially a friend) so if you’re financially stretched, then write a hand-written note explaining your predicament, express how happy you are for them and do something nice when you are more financially fit.
Q. What are some of the “hidden” wedding expenses that brides and grooms don’t typically plan ahead for?
A. There are a number of “hidden” wedding expenses including wedding dress alterations and steaming, pre-wedding beauty treatments, tents, postage stamps, welcome bags, overtime costs (for band, DJ, photographer, videographer), taxes and gratuities, cutting and corkage fees, cleanup and breakdown costs, vendors that aren’t affiliated/don’t work with the venue you have chosen.
Q. What is the average cost of a honeymoon? Are there ways to afford an exotic trip without breaking the bank?
A. You should consider going somewhere off season, also — skip the hotel! Do you have friends that have a place in a nice location? Maybe do a swap? Cut back on length of trip…are there miles you have accumulated you could use?
- Average Cost of Honeymoon: $4,466
- Who’s Paying: 62% of couples pay for most (at least 90%) of their honeymoon on their own
- When They Book the Honeymoon: 4 months before the wedding date, on average
- Estimated Number of Honeymooners: 1.4 million U.S. couples per year
- Honeymoon Length: 8 days, on average (excluding travel time)
Q. How do you plan a budget-friendly wedding, but still keep it elegant and “high-end?”
A. Try thinking outside the box! Make it unique with personal touches — small touches go a long way. Having a friend sing, using a local florist, taking advantage of a house swap (for a honeymoon) are all great ideas.
Q. Alcohol is a huge expense, but also a huge draw for guests. Are there any frugal ways to cut costs, but keep the booze?
A. Serve signature cocktails. Alcohol is one of the biggest expenses of a wedding and can burn a hole in your budget fast. Most reception sites charge for every bottle opened, even if it was for just one drink so consider offering a limited bar. Another option is to serve just beer, wine, and enough champagne for toasts.
Q. What are some affordable, cute, and creative gifts to give to the bridal party and groomsmen?
A. Something personal is always good. Perhaps a gift basket with some of their favorite things or a little goodie bag of necessities for the wedding day.
Q. How do you find a wedding dress for less? What are some creative tips to keep in mind while on the hunt?
A. Shop designer or sample sales. Find out the dates of well-known annual sales at places like Filene’s, where you might snag a $2,000 dress for $249, or the sample sales at Vera Wang. You can save up to 70% on gowns, headpieces, veils, and shoes at a sample sale.
Q. Should you combine your finances as soon as you’re married?
A. You need a “his, hers and ours” account. You also need to divvy up financial responsibilities — who will to take care of the day-to-day expenses and who will be responsible for the fixed costs? Have a plan and decide what percent of your income is going into the “ours” account and have this settled in advance of the wedding! Money is the #1 stress in a marriage, so create a plan before you say “I do.”
There are many fun and easy ways to save on your wedding! Be creative and have fun when planning your big day.
—Vera Gibbons, Mint Contributor and Personal Finance expert