A wedding is the start of a new chapter and a special event many people look forward to their entire life. As a major milestone, it’s no surprise a typical wedding also comes with a significant price tag. In 2020, the average cost of a wedding was $19,000 – lower than recent years as a result of many couples hosting smaller-than-normal weddings to comply with pandemic health and safety measures.
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While planning a wedding is a large financial endeavor, you don’t have to sacrifice your long-term financial goals to have the celebration of your dreams. Brooke Harycki, VP Consumer Banking Regional Manager at Johnson Financial Group, shares a few saving strategies and planning tips for newly engaged couples.
Set your budget
Before diving into planning, the first step is outlining your budget. Define a budget for each category of the day – location, attire, food, entertainment, and so on. Setting a budget upfront will establish certain parameters to ensure you stay on track throughout planning.
Determine your guest list
Early in the process, determine an estimate number of guests you plan to invite. This number will greatly impact the rest of your wedding budget and decisions. Many expenses like food and invitations will be multiplied by your guest list.
Research, research, research
A wedding is not the time to make impulse purchases. Make sure to research different vendors so you can make well-informed decisions. This can help minimize the “shock” factor by painting a realistic picture of the average pricing you can expect for different vendor categories and must-have items.
Map out your options
Consider creating a high and low budget option for each category of your budget. For example, how would overall cost be impacted with 100 attendees versus 200? Or, how would the budget change if you choose to host plated meals versus a buffet? Play around with your options to see what’s best for you and your future spouse.
Be sure to factor in potential contributions from friends or family who may wish to contribute to your special day. Have these conversations early to understand expectations and to let them know their contribution is valued.
Unexpected expenses will likely pop up, so you may want to add some miscellaneous “wiggle room” to your budget.
Stick to your budget
- Get a planner– Templates and planning tools can provide recommended guidelines to keep you organized. Many include checklists to help you determine what priorities to focus on during each stage of your timeline.
- Utilize free online tools and resources– If you’re not spreadsheet savvy, download or print a templated budget from one of the many free online wedding planning websites. There’s no need to recreate the wheel.
- Make it fun!Write down your goals and check in with your partner frequently to see how your day is coming to life. Take breaks and remember – this is a time to enjoy!
Select your venue
The venue is often a large part of the budget. Here are a few helpful questions to keep in mind when evaluating your potential venue.
Your personal style
Is the location sentimental to you as a couple? What is the travel time for guests to attend? Do the aesthetics fit the wedding theme and style?
Your budget and financial goals
One simple, but critical, question is “What’s included?” For example, are decorations part of the package? Is staff responsible for set-up and clean-up? Will you need to rent tables, chairs and silverware? Is food included, or will you need to hire an outside caterer? These finer details could mean the difference between $500 and $5,000 dollars.
After the venue, other key vendors may include a photographer and/or videographer, entertainment for the ceremony and reception, and floral arrangements.
Don’t hesitate to ask for samples or portfolios of previous work. Is the price tag worth it?
Who do you know?
Do you have friends or family who could provide services at a lesser cost? For example, instead of paying a musician for the ceremony, do you know someone who plays the piano? Or, maybe a family member has a great backyard for hosting, potentially saving you money on the venue. Besides cost savings, your day will be even more special having friends and family part of the day.
Establish Your Priorities
This is the first day of building a life together. The decisions you make and how you work through the budgeting process will be an important stepping-stone in your financial planning journey. Starting off on the right foot with open and honest communication can ensure both of you are comfortable with the process and fully understand each other's expectations.
Some wedding traditions may be important to you and your future spouse, while some you may choose to forgo. Talk to your partner about what’s top-of-list for each of you. With items that are less important, consider shopping for discounts or better deals. Suppose you’ve both dreamed of having a live band, but you don’t prioritize traditional paper invitations. Consider saving on postage with digital invitations and put the cost savings toward the entertainment budget.
- Wedding Favors and Gifts– Wedding favors for guests can add up quickly, depending on the number of guests and the type of gift. Additionally, some couples may choose to give the wedding party and key family members a gift as a token of appreciation.
- Gratuities– Remember to factor in gratuities for various vendors, including your officiant, musicians, caterers, and servers.
- Pre-wedding festivities– Don’t forget about any pre-wedding festivities and how these may impact your overall budget.
- Honeymoon– If you and your partner plan to travel on a honeymoon, review how this fits into your finances too.
Other Saving Tips
- Something borrowed, something blue…Consider borrowing or shopping secondhand from family and friends who are willing to lend or sell decorations at a discounted price.
- Seek help and advice –Talk to those you trust who were recently married. Is there anything they wish they had done differently or expenses that caught them by surprise? Where did they find deals?
- DIY– Enlist the help of family or friends and make memories with DIY projects. For example, instead of ordering centerpieces, can you make a unique variation of your own? Do you have a handy family member who can build a photo booth instead of renting from your photographer?
- Alternative timing– Certain seasons, like summer or autumn, may be more expensive for hosting a wedding. Picking a less popular season or day of the week may be a cheaper alternative. As an example, Saturdays have conventionally been the most popular wedding day, but choosing a Friday or Sunday could result in cost savings.
- Recoup your expenses– If you don’t want your wedding décor to sit in a closet after the wedding, sell the items online or to someone you know.
- Plan a more intimate event– If you’re willing to cut down your guest list, an intimate wedding with your closest family members and friends can be one of the best ways to save money.
Beyond the Big Day
How does your wedding fit into your overall financial picture as a newly married couple? Discuss other short and long-term goals such as buying a home, starting a family and saving for retirement. Keep in mind the wedding is just one piece of your financial future together.
Financial tools to help you save
- Automate savings– Set up automatic transfers from your checking to savings account and set aside these funds for wedding expenses only.
- Cash Back Rewards– Designate spending categories and take advantage of reward points with a cash back credit card. Some couples may even choose to strategically use these rewards to pay for a honeymoon.
Your Johnson Financial Group advisor can provide information on other options that may fit your personal financial situation, like a personal loan, Certificate of Deposit (CD) or a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC).
For more saving and budgeting tips to help you plan for the wedding of your dreams, contact an advisor today.
Article By Brooke Harycki, Johnson Financial Group
About the Author
Brooke Harycki, is the VP Consumer Banking Regional Manager at Johnson Financial Group. As Vice President, Consumer Banking Regional Manager, Brooke is responsible for providing exceptional service to clients in Northwest Wisconsin. She encourages her team to develop long-term relationships and develop a true understanding of your needs.