Shows like “Say Yes to the Dress” and “Four Weddings” have sensationalized the big day. Brides (and grooms) plan, sweat and dream of the huge event where they tie the knot.
But will it tie a knot in your wallet?
TV shows give viewers a twisted representation of wealth, with some brides spending upwards of $34,000 on a dress. This makes others on the show who spend even $3,000 on a dress seem poor. The average American wedding costs around $30,000, with most money going towards venues, catering and rentals. Having a responsible wedding budget involves a fresh dose of reality - to put things in perspective, the average American wedding dress runs $1,000.
A good rule of thumb is to budget $100 for every wedding guest - $50 for catering and $50 for everything else. You should start off by using a wedding budget planner to figure out the basics, such as venue rental and arrangements. While going through this planner, you’ll figure out which items are more important to you. You may not want to rescind on having the best photographer in town, but you’ll be happy with a bargain dress. Likewise, if you’re having a small wedding, catering won’t eat up a huge percentage. You’ll readjust as you discover your priorities.
Now let’s run the numbers. The average marriage age is 27 years old. In 2011, 27 year-olds were more likely to be earning less than $15,000 than $40,000 or more. In fact, 80% of the 27ers earned less than $40,000 per year. This means that on average, their wedding will cost them AT LEAST 75% of their annual income. Suddenly that must-have floral arrangement isn’t so life-or-death, is it?
Consider yourself very lucky if your family can afford to pitch in, because a wedding’s cost is like strapping down another education loan for these 20-somethings.
Here are just a few tips to help cut costs
You’d be amazed at how quickly your savings add up if you negotiate all aspects of your big day. From catering to limo rentals, shaving off 10% here and there can mean big bucks.
2. Pick a different season.
The most popular (and expensive) season to get married is summer, so if you get married in the off-season you can save 20-30%. Also remember to pick in-season flowers to get the best deals. Tulips are more expensive in the summer because that’s their off-season and roses are just insanely expensive in February.
3. Serve lunch, not dinner.
Having lunch or brunch at your reception can save you 30% or more. Nix the chicken or steak for cake and light hors d’oeuvres.
If nothing else, you can always get the “Hound Dog” wedding package in Vegas. Elvis sings three songs and will walk the bride down the aisle, all for just $275.
If you want to learn more about saving money on your wedding, check out Meg Keene and her book about having a practical wedding. It's the wedding planning Bible for the budget-conscious and money-savvy bride.