According to The Knot's 2017 Real Wedding Study, the average cost of a wedding in the US in 2017 was $33,391. Holy Moly! When Mr. FIREat40 and I got engaged in February of 2017, wedding spending statistics like this filled our heads!
"No way are we spending that much on a wedding!" "Do you know what you can do with $33,000!?" These were the typical conversations we had. So we were immediately looking for ways to save money.
However, this is often difficult because the wedding industry drives you to spend money. They advertise that you need a photo booth, you need a donut wall, you need the fanciest flowers, dress, shoes, jewelry, etc. There are endless amounts of web sites, blogs, and vendors trying to sell you on something.
And there is the desire to "outdo" the last wedding that you went to. This builds the pressure to buy and spend on things and activities that will lead you to think that you will have the best wedding ever. Or it leads you to believe that you need all these "things" in order to have a lasting marriage.
What makes this thinking even more ridiculous is that there are now studies that show that couples who spend less on their wedding are more likely have longer-lasting marriages than those who splurge.
So we made a lot of decisions on how to spend money for our wedding. Our wedding ultimately ended up costing less than half of the cost of the average US wedding. So how did we do it? Here are some steps we took that anyone can apply to their own wedding.
- Decrease the number of people you invite. When trying to save on a wedding, the easiest and most effective way to save money is to cut the guest list. The less people you invite, the less meals served, drinks poured, and seats occupied. We only invited family and very close friends - the friends that would be in a typical wedding's bridal party. Bottom line - when it comes to the guest list, be ruthless and unwavering. If not, you can find yourself having a slow creep in the number of folks at your wedding.
- Opt for "non-peak" times. If you are willing to have your wedding during a "non-peak" time such as a Sunday afternoon, the cost of the venue is likely to be lower. The "non-peak" times I am referring to are all times, except Saturday night. Meaning you should be open to Friday or Sunday nights, or during the day. We had our wedding on a Saturday late morning/early afternoon, which cut costs.
- Look for venues less than 5 months out. Surprisingly, if you plan your wedding in a very quick timeline, you can get deals from the venues. The thought of planning and discussing a wedding for over year was something I was not interested in. So I decided that the wedding would be only 5 months after our engagement. Because venues were looking to fill up a date/time that was rapidly approaching, every venue I went to offered us a cut on the per head price and they usually threw in free items on top of that - free ice cream table, free cheese, free desserts. So we received a discounted price on the per head amount and some free food, which helped our bottom line.
- Cut down on invitations/save the dates. Another area we saved were invitations. Since we got married 5 months after we got engaged, we did not send out save the dates. That probably ended up saving us $200. For invitations I have seen some ridiculous things - wax seals on the back, paying people to address your invites with calligraphy, and really thick paper. So we went in exactly the opposite direction. We found our favorite picture of ourselves, went on Shutterfly, and made the invitations ourselves. They were not fancy at all but provided all necessary information. Honestly, does anyone save wedding invitations?
- Skip on favors. It is wedding etiquette to provide favors to your guests. They are often small trinkets that are thrown away shortly thereafter. Do everyone a favor and skip on the favors. No one will notice that they were not provided a small item to show your gratitude for them attending your wedding. Instead, why don't you have a smaller wedding? This way you can actually talk to the person and express your gratitude in their attendance. Trust me, this will mean a lot more to your friend from college that flew half way across the country to see you get married.
- Skip the wedding planner. Many of the wedding blogs suggest that a wedding planner will help you control costs and save money. That might be true, maybe they know cheaper vendors or have relationships with vendors that can get them a deal. But the internet allows you to compare costs of vendors and do your own research on what is out there. Also, you can skip the money it will cost to hire the wedding planner.
- Think of family heirlooms. There are many things your family members might have that you can use at your wedding or to solidify your marriage. Ours was my grandmother's engagement ring, which became my engagement ring. It is classic, humble and represents 48 years of marriage, 6 kids, 17 grandchildren, 5 great grandkids (and counting), and multiple businesses. So there is no price on what was saved there. If there isn't an engagement ring laying around your family, think about borrowing jewelry for the big day. I also borrowed a bracelet and earrings from an aunt.
- Stop caring what people think. This is the most important point here. Stop caring what other people think or want you to do for your wedding. It is your wedding, you must decide on how you want to spend your money. Don't have the wants and desires of others drive or peer pressure you to spend on things you do not need to.
Bottom Line: You are paying for a one-day party for your family and friends. Whether it costs you $5K, $15K, or $50K, they will love you and they will always say they had a great time. Everyone will leave happy and will go on with their lives. However, only one couple is left with the bill and that's you. It's up to you to decide how large or small that bill is.