A recent article in Business Insider estimates that the “average” wedding in the U.S. is anywhere from $25,000 on up to $33,000+. Yikes! If you’re on the path to FI, that is likely not the plan you have for beginning your future together.
Some might suggest a FI-friendly wedding would be to go down to the courthouse; and your wedding will cost as much as it takes to file the paperwork and pay for parking. However, if you’d like a little bit more of a celebration (and a bigger guest list) than what a courthouse visit or elopement would cost, there are plenty of ways to have your wedding cake and eat it too!
Your dream wedding celebration can still be high in value, sentiment, and wonderful memories but low in cost. If you’re looking for a FI-friendly way to get married, read on!
First, Set YOUR Budget
Before you and your spouse-to-be get inundated with well-meaning “shoulds” from family and friends, sit down together and really get down to brass tacks about what matters most to the two of you. Starting with your priorities, and then adding your wish list, is vital before family, best friends and bridal parties get involved and feel they can weigh in without paying for it.
Your wedding wish list is highly unique to you and your partner–so first, discuss what you’re comfortable spending. Secondly, discuss what things you think you “have” to have. Not surprising, most things cost more than we think–but aligning your “I would have a stomachache if we spent X” with your “But we have to have a DJ!” ideals is a great way to get a gauge what truly, and sincerely matters.
Starting with an overall budget is key. Stick to that number and the vendors and expenses can align to fit it, not the other way around. If you approach wedding planning by Googling “what does X cost” you will quickly find that usually, it costs far more than what you want to spend overall, and frankly not every expense can be prioritized.
Trust your gut and use your budget as your anchor point for all vendors you book; otherwise, you’ll be paying all the way to the altar.
Secondly, Prioritize Your Joy
Only you and your spouse know what will give you the biggest bang for your nuptial buck. Yes, it's possible everyone will have an opinion. They might be aghast if you tell them you aren’t doing table favors or insist you really don't need fresh floral centerpieces, but they aren't paying for it.
Wedding planning will be a series of compromises, but if you know having a certain flower in your bouquet and boutonniere for the groomsmen and an open bar is essential, make that call.
Put everything on a tiered list from a “Top Prioritiy” to a “somewhat important” to “meh” and do this exercise before anyone else has a chance to influence you. Your second tier “musts” are much easier to compromise on, so if having a DJ would be helpful, but you’re not sold on who it is, you can cut costs in this area to pay for your favorite flowers or a great photographer you feel confident with. If anything ends up on your “meh” list, you can explore cutting it out completely.
Yes, it would be cool to have a limo for the wedding party, but if you’re not jazzed about it, cut it out. Table favors? Might not be necessary. Centerpieces? Can you DIY them with friends, if they don’t have to be Pinterest-worthy masterpieces, or would an alternative venue (like a restaurant or park) mean that this expense can be eliminated without any pain?
Identify Cost Effective Alternative Locations
Speaking from experience (Always a “day-of” coordinator, never a bride) some wedding venues will nickle and dime you to death with fees and hidden costs. You may love a location, but before you book–will you need to provide your own tables, chairs, cutlery, linens and even a licensed bar tender and wait staff? Many venues are simply event spaces without a running assortment of staff who are baked into the cost.
Be sure you think through the entire event–from start to finish. Double check what the venue provides, or the alternative location doesn't. Also, some venues require you to work with their list of approved vendors; this means you cannot compare prices and shop around–so be aware of this trend.
Exploring alternatives can save you thousands on staffing and rental costs. Getting married in a park or at the beach with minimal setup, but gorgeous views, and then finishing off your celebration at a local restaurant or bar, is becoming widely accepted. The more formal and traditional, the higher the cost. If you opt for a park wedding where guests can open their own beers, you will save hundreds on a bartender, glassware and mixers–plus your event will feel casual, not cheap.
Book A Package
Another alternative to avoid the hidden costs sometimes associated with event spaces that are essentially and endlessly customizable (read: expensive), is to find a resort or hotel that does wedding packages. With this option, you can plainly see what everything would cost up front.
Packages like this may not feel super personal, but you know the facility will run like clockwork and you may be able to avoid hiring a day-of coordinator to round up your various vendors to ensure they’re showing up on time. Plus, having set packages helps you really rein in your guest list–which, the more heads you have, the more expensive it gets.
You can save hours of time vetting vendors and tallying up costs by booking a location like a yacht or resort that has wedding packages that include everything from the DJ to the cleanup crew.
Plus, if you marry at a resort–you can easily coordinate a “day after” brunch for more face time with friends and family afterwards. It may even help you cut transportation costs significantly. You and your spouse-to-be can decide, whether or not, to stick around after your ceremony, but your guests may love being able to relax a bit longer at a location they’d actually enjoy.
Other Easy Ways To Cut Costs
The size of your guest list and the venue you pick are often the biggest expenses when trying to stick to your overall budget. Keeping the wedding intimate with only the closest people in your life will keep costs down, but also set expectations for those well-meaning family members who are aghast that you haven’t invited your mom’s longtime hairdresser or dad’s golf buddies to the big day.
You can also save by finding synergies with your celebrations.
- Can the bachelorette/bachelor parties be combined?
- Can they be done the weekend of the wedding instead of flying out somewhere?
- Can your hotel, ceremony, and reception be all in the same place to cut transportation costs and stress?
Focusing on making your big day a celebration and not a “wedding” will be a great framework to keep costs low. A wedding cake can cost double that of a regular sheet or even tiered cake. A wedding dress or tux can be double the price of a simple white dress or a suit you’d use again in the future. Also having your wedding in “shoulder season” or on a Friday or Sunday, even during the day versus at night can temper expectations with guests and save on costs.
Want to read more from Shannyn? Check out the rest of her articles here.