Weddings are an important rite of passage for many Americans, with 88% of U.S. residents marrying at least once during their lifetimes. But it can also be an astronomical expense. After all, the U.S. wedding industry was valued at $53.4 billion in 2013, so it should be of no surprise that those costs can add up quickly — and if you aren’t careful, you could find you’re in over your head.
In 2016, the average U.S. wedding cost $35,329, according to a survey conducted by The Knot. Things have gotten so extreme that a lot of couples are taking out personal loans — also known as “wedding loans” — to cover the expenses. But considering that more than 44.2 million Americans also had student loan debt totaling $1.44 trillion in 2016, it may be a huge mistake to take out an unsecured loan just to finance your wedding day.
Know Your Priorities
When it comes to side-stepping wedding overspending, it’s often helpful to know the most common wedding elements that couples regret splurging on. The tough part is that those elements aren’t always the same for every couple. According to a survey conducted by Zola, a wedding company that provides registry tools, the number one wedding element couples wish they’d spent less on was “flowers and decor.” Around 22% of survey participants said they spent too much on these items, which isn’t surprising when you know that the U.S. florist industry generates an estimated $7 billion in revenue each year. But interestingly enough, “flowers and decor” also nabbed fourth place in another survey question that asked couples which element they wish they’d spent more money on.
Clearly, it’s all about personal preferences and priorities.
Perhaps that’s why many wedding experts say that personalization is going to be the biggest wedding trend in 2018. A lot of couples are willing to spend more on something that’s personally meaningful to them for their wedding. But it’s also important to note that you can probably find something just as sentimentally significant at a lower price point if you put in the effort. That’s why it pays off to really zero in on your top priorities before starting your wedding planning. Otherwise, it’s too easy to downplay costs and end up paying more than you can afford. Decide on the elements that will bring you the most joy (like the venue choice, the photography, or the music) and give those financial priority.
Scratch Your Vendors’ Backs And They Might Scratch Yours
Although there are some expenses that may not be negotiable, you may be able to save more than you think. Many of your vendors might give you a break if you approach the subject in the right way. Of course, getting married in an unconventional locale or during certain times of the year (or even days of the week) could save you some cash. But you might also offer graphic design, public relations, or web design services to a vendor (granted that it’s your area of expertise) for a small discount. Keep in mind, of course, that this is their livelihood and they may not be in a position to offer you a better rate.
As long as you inquire with respect and bring something of value to the table — rather than simply asking for a “family and friends” discount — it won’t hurt to ask. It’s much better to have this conversation up front and before you hire them, rather than waiting until you receive their invoice. Ultimately, you should know that you get what you pay for, but the best vendors for the job may not always be the ones who charge the most.
Don’t Be Afraid To DIY
Remember what we said about personalization being the big wedding trend for 2018? The best way to give your wedding a personal touch (and save money in the process) is to go the DIY route when you can. Of course, planning a wedding is stressful enough without adding in a bunch of homemade elements and crafting your nights away. But if you’re up for it and don’t want to spend a bundle on wedding favors, you can make the big day even more memorable without being cliche or throwing your budget out of whack.
A 2016 survey conducted by The Knot found that scores of couples are embracing the do-it-yourself philosophy. Of the 78% of couples who gave out favors to their guests, the average investment ranged between $2 and $5 per attendee. If you’re looking to buy something ready-made, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something of value. But with DIY, the possibilities are endless. You can create cute welcome bags or edible favors that offer a special touch and really communicate who you are as a couple. And as a bonus, you may get the opportunity to support a small, local business. More advanced crafters may go so far as to create their own centerpieces and decor, but if you’re feeling apprehensive, this can be a small yet impactful way to save.
Use Social Media Thoughtfully
Ah, social media. It’s everywhere now, impacting everything from job interviews (did you know that 93% of recruiters look at a candidate’s social media profile?) to your family. It’s definitely secured its place in the wedding industry too. It’s made wedding-related sharing easier than ever before, allowing you to Pin your wedding inspiration or encourage your guests to post photos with your special wedding hashtag on Instagram. Some couples even enlist their friends to play wedding photog for the day to supplement (or even replace, in some cases) a professional’s touch.
It’s not all good, though. Overusing Pinterest and Instagram can give you a bad case of FOMO (or Fear Of Missing Out), encouraging many couples to buy too much for their wedding and spend more than necessary. Dying over that amazing flower wall you’ve seen in many a wedding (including Kim and Kanye’s)? It may seem like a feasible expense, but experts say that one piece of decor could set you back as much as $136,000.
Of course, you could DIY something like that if you’re so inclined. But don’t assume that the stylized weddings you see on social media are the norm. Bring yourself back to reality and limit your social media time if you’re getting carried away with the carefully curated images you see.
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Be Considerate Of Your Guests
If you’re concerned about your own wedding day budget, you might want to think about your guests’ expenses, too. In a survey conducted by a financial services firm called LendEDU, data shows that the average wedding guest paid $1,386.22 for expenses that included, travel, gifts, clothes, pampering, and more. While plane tickets, rental vehicles, hotel rooms, and gas accounted for the largest chunk, wedding gifts cost $329.55 on average and wedding clothes came in at $223.67 per guest, on average.
If you want to help your friends and family save a bit, you could consider asking for cash, check, or gift cards in lieu of putting together a traditional gift registry. Some couples ask for charitable donations instead, which can offer guests a tax write-off in return. And of course, hotel rate savings will be much-appreciated. After all, if you’re trying to stick to a budget, many of your guests probably will be too. And helping them save shouldn’t cost more on your end.
Keep An Open Mind
Finally, couples should try to keep an open mind when it comes to the details of their wedding. If you have your heart set on an expensive idea — whether it be a dress, a ring, or opulent centerpieces — can be tough to let that go. But there’s likely a less pricey option available that will allow you to achieve the look and feel you’re after without spending an arm and a leg. Remember: you’re getting married to your partner, not to your wedding day choices.
Attending wedding expos can be a great way to get a plethora of ideas for your big day without falling victim to stylized shoots and targeted ads. Although your mind should be relatively open, don’t open yourself up to heartbreak by not being cognizant of your budget. There’s nothing worse than falling head over heels for a dress only to find that it’s way outside your price range. So remind yourself that there’s always something else out there — but that it has to stay within certain financial parameters.
It may not always be easy to keep track of your wedding spending, but with all of the resources at your disposal — like wedding planners, financial apps, and tips like these — it’s entirely possible to experience the most beautiful day of your life without going overboard.