How to cut the cost of your wedding
A wedding is one of life’s most special occasions — but one of the most expensive, too. The average wedding cost around $27,063 in 2021. At a time when money’s tight for many, lots of couples are looking to cut costs around the big day. Here are our top tips to help you save money and start married life in great financial shape — we bet you haven’t considered number five.
How to plan a wedding on a budget
Before you look at a single venue, dress or caterer's menu, it’s time for a frank conversation or two. Starting your married life on the same page financially will help you avoid conflict and set you up for a long, happy marriage.
It’s sensible to have a broader financial conversation so you’re prepared to share your lives for as long as possible. Think about topics like:
Pre-nuptial agreements: It’s sensible to consider if you’re marrying or re-marrying later in life and have assets like property, businesses or high-value heirlooms that you’d like to protect.
Your joint finances: If you aren’t living together yet, discuss how you’re going to manage your joint expenses, such as your home and bills.
Pensions: If one of you leaves your job to raise a child or due to illness, will you carry on contributing to both of your pension funds?
Financial goals: Post-wedding, what’s important to you financially? Do you want to prioritize big goals, like paying off your mortgage, or prioritize enjoying your dollars on vacations and belongings? It’s a sure-fire way to cause disagreements if you’re not clear about your approach to money from the get-go.
Create your wedding budget breakdown
Before you book a single vendor or venue, you need to work out a reasonable budget for your wedding. Here are some conversation starters to get your marriage budget discussion off to a good start:
What’s a sensible engagement ring budget?
What is the maximum amount you’d be happy to spend?
Which aspects of the wedding are most important to you? Where are you happy to compromise? E.g., you’d like a beautiful venue but are happy to have cheaper outfits and cater the event yourselves.
Do you feel comfortable using credit to fund your wedding, or would you prefer to wait until you can cover its cost with savings alone?
Should we get insurance? Post-covid, policies can be harder to secure.
How to cut wedding costs
1. Hit the sample sales
Your wedding outfits can be one of the costliest parts of a wedding. Lots of boutiques have sample sales or preview events a few times a year, where you can find dresses and suits for less. Follow local stores on social media or pop in to find out when the next event is.
If you’re not superstitious, make sure you check out secondhand sites too. Many used wedding dresses haven’t even been worn due to sizing issues or relationship breakdowns, so you could snag an outfit that’s essentially new.
2. Be realistic about costs
The cost of most goods and services has risen rapidly in just the last few years, with the average wedding increasing from around $20,000 to $27,000 in just one year. Sadly, your money won’t buy as much as it could five or ten years ago. A realistic budget will stop you underestimating costs and going wildly over budget.
Before you commit to anything, call around and get several quotes. Choose options that are good value, rather than going with the cheapest option automatically. That $1,000 venue may look cheaper than a $3,000 alternative, until you realize the more expensive option includes catering, flowers, a celebrant and space for both the ceremony and reception.
3. Skip the wedding registry
Lots of modern couples live together for years before marriage, meaning the traditional wedding registry gifts like toaster ovens and tea kettles aren’t the most useful. Instead, it’s become popular to ask for financial contributions. Monetary gifts can help you recoup some of the cost and pay down any lines of credit you’ve drawn on for the wedding itself.
It can feel a little awkward, but most guests will welcome the simplicity of a cash gift. Include a short message on your invite like:
“We’re lucky to have everything we need in our home. If you’d like to help us start married life, we’d welcome contributions to our honeymoon/home renovation/new car fund.”
4. Keep it intimate
Wedding guest lists can get political, particularly if you have an extended family or large circle of friends and acquaintances. One of the easiest ways to cut the cost of a wedding is to reduce the number of invitees. Sure, you attended Sandra from HR and your third cousin’s weddings — but are these the people you really want to celebrate with?
If you’re worried about offending people with a small guest list, honesty is the best policy. Alternatively, you could elope with just your closest family and friends present and host a laidback party for a larger crowd on another day, so you can have a bigger celebration without the cost.
5. Cater potluck style
If you’re keeping the wedding low-key and want to give people another way to contribute that isn’t cash, why not make your reception a potluck? Set a theme that matches your wedding, or simply ask everyone to bring their favorite crowd-pleaser.
To keep everyone organized, it’s best to draw up a plan. You could assign categories to guests, giving you a good balance of sweet and savory dishes. Or you could set up a Google sheet where guests can note down what they’re planning to bring — and any overlap or imbalances can be addressed before the event.
6. Get DIY’ing
The more you can do yourselves, the more money you’ll save to spend on things that need a professional touch. You can ask friends and family to help with a part of the day in lieu of a gift. Get your baking-crazy friend or relative to make your wedding cake. Snap high-quality photos on your smartphones. Use software and spreadsheets to help you plan your wedding. Gather wildflowers for your bouquet.
Outdoor wedding ideas on a budget
If you’re not drawn in by a traditional church wedding, an outdoor wedding is a seriously budget-friendly option. There are options to suit every kind of couple — from boho beaches to rustic farms to backyard barbeques to public park ceremonies. Some are free but you may need to get permission from the landowner or local officials to use the space for a wedding. By cutting out thousands on venue hire, you can devote more budget to other parts of the celebration.
Looking for more financial advice? Find a trustworthy professional right here at Unbiased.
Charlie Barton is a writer at Unbiased. He has been writing about personal finance and investing since 2017, with extensive knowledge of platforms and products. Charlie has a first-class degree from the London School of Economics.