Your wedding day is supposed to be the happiest day in your life. It’s a day you spend months, even years, planning for so that you can fulfill your childhood dreams of looking like a princess, or you show off your musical talent by putting your vows to a tune you composed. Whatever your dream consists of, the time and effort put into wedding planning is worth every minute.
However, the debt from having a guest list of 400, having an open bar reception, or flying your immediate family to the Caribbean for a destination wedding might have you conflicted on what to do. You might already have student loan debt, a car payment, or a mortgage. Maybe all three. Even worse, differing opinions between you and your partner might have you spending a bit more time alone than together.
Your wedding, your way
Wedding costs in the 21st century are higher than those in your parents’ and grandparents’ generations, but you have access to more opportunities for saving money than they did. You can have a backyard wedding or just elope and have a small celebration later. There’s no need for a pricy wedding dress and a $500-a-day tux rental. Wear what you want, even if it’s a gorgeous sundress you found on clearance at Target for $10.
Plus, traditional weddings, in general, are less common, so you can feel comfortable opting out of whatever you want, even those that certain family members believe are necessary. Sure Great Aunt Rose may fuss about it to your mom; let her. Go ahead and skip the four-course sit-down dinner in favor of having your favorite food truck provide catering for a casual dinner of wood-fired pizza while drinking wine slushies at the vineyard where you tie the knot.
There are three main tips to help you pay for your wedding so you go home excited about all the fun you had and gifts you got, rather than the bills that will start showing up next week. You need to create a budget, earn more money to cover costs you can’t cash flow and cut unnecessary expenses.
Budget for the Big Day
So many people shy away from this first step, usually for one of two reasons. To some, budgets feel restrictive. The mere mention of them is like hearing your future sister-in-law bring up your fiance’s ex. The other reason is, it’s your wedding! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event that will have you and your partner as the center of attention all day long. Society says you should spare no expense when it comes to this event. Do you fall into one of these categories? Read on to get a better understanding of how a budget gives you freedom.
Budgeting gives you a framework for you to make your spending plans. Let’s say that you decide to spend $15,000 on your wedding. You got to this number by calculating how much things will cost, plus the amount you will be able to afford. With that number, you need to divide it among categories such as clothing and accessories, venue, catering, entertainment, officiant, musicians, flowers, gifts for attendants, and honeymoon. Add or subtract from those as necessary for your situation.
If you allocate $1,500 to clothing but end up only spending $1,000, you can move the $500 extra to another category. Maybe buy an extra case of wine for the reception, or use it to tip your caterers generously. Put it where you want it.
As for what society says to do, well, that’s up to you to go with that train of thought or not. It’s your wedding day. Do what you want. But since you took the time to read up on paying for a wedding, you’re likely not going just to buy a diamond necklace that costs two month’s salary. You are smart and money savvy. Sit down with your partner and set your budget. Go from there, and if you do find a necklace that you want but it’s $100 more than you budgeted for dress and accessories, find a way to earn more.
Look for creative ways to build your wedding fund
The first place you’ll turn to for funding your wedding is any savings you’ve started for this purpose if any. Then look at your income and monthly budgets to see where you will pull money from to put in a separate joint fund. Open a new bank account
to keep the money for the wedding away from your daily living expenses, especially so you don’t mistakenly use the money for utility bills to pay the caterer’s deposit.
Each of you can commit to contributing a specific dollar amount each pay period. If the math doesn’t work out, and there’s not enough time to pay for it from your income alone, it’s time to get a side hustle
or three. Don’t worry; it’s only for a limited amount of time, and there’s nothing like taking a vacation that’s paid for upfront.
The natural starting point is to see if you have opportunities for overtime or extra work at your full-time job. If it makes sense, and you want to, pursue that since it’s something you already know. Maybe you have a chance to do overnight shifts as a nurse but want something a bit more relaxed. Go for it; these gigs aren’t long-term. Here are some of our favorite side hustles.
Rent out your car
This won’t work if you live out in the country or drive a car that’s older than you, but if you live near work, and you can carpool with your partner or someone else, this may result in serious money. List your vehicle on Turo or Drivy and on days when someone is paying you to use it, walk, bike, or carpool to work. If you’re both flexible with transportation options, list both of your vehicles to double your earning potential.
Try a house hack
No, this isn’t anything bad and can be a great way to pull in extra cash (but don’t do this if your lease or HOA doesn’t allow it). When you house hack, you rent out spare rooms to others. Let’s say you share a three-bedroom Cape Cod with an unused second floor. You can move your bedroom up there and rent out the other three rooms. If your rent is $1,200 a month and each room rents for $700 per month, then you are living for free plus earning another $900. Alternatively, you could list your place on Airbnb
and when you get a booking, crash with a friend for a few nights.
Resell second-hand items
Love a good thrift store? Then this is for you! Spend your free time hitting up Goodwill, Salvation Army, local thrift stores, estate sales, and garage sales to find items in excellent condition that you can resell or “flip” on eBay or Facebook Marketplace. It’s not unheard of to buy a $10 nightstand and turn around and sell it for $35 the next day, or a box of books for $5 at a rummage sale can turn into $100 or more selling them individually on eBay.
Become a notary signing agent
A year ago, few people knew that just about anyone can become a notary in a matter of weeks with very little investment by way of training classes and certifications. Expect to spend a few hundred dollars to get started, but once you start meeting clients to notarize their paperwork, you can get $50 to $200 per job. Folks that do this as their side hustle can do four to six a week. The best part? You take the jobs that fit into your schedule.
Deliver for DoorDash or Instacart
For those that thrive on action and don’t mind driving, delivering food with DoorDash or groceries with Instacart can be a fun moneymaker that doesn’t require much training and allows you to do as much or as little as you want. You could even do this together to make the hours, and miles, fly by.
Cut costs on low-priority items
So what happens if you’re in grad school, working 10 hours a week, and planning your wedding? Maybe you’ve got a little one, and you both work opposite schedules to avoid childcare, which means you can’t do a side hustle that’s outside the home? It’s time to look at cutting costs on the things that are a bit more negotiable.
Everyone’s priorities are different, and there’s no need to scale back so far that your friends start calling you Scrooge. The key is to find one or two things where you can find lower-cost options or even skip altogether to stay within your wedding budget. These need to be things that you both agree upon. And if negotiations on cutting costs aren’t fruitful, short-term loans are an option.
Here are a few cost-cutting ideas that couples have used to save significantly on wedding expenses.
Rethink your rings
Financial guru Dave Ramsey loves to tell couples that there’s no correlation between the size of your diamond and the length of your marriage. Blunt as the statement is, it’s true. You can probably think of a couple or two who got married with hardly anything to their names and had a long, happy marriage. You can skip the jewelry stores and find wedding rings at a discount store, pawnshop, or online jewelry store that creates unique, affordable pieces. It may not match your engagement ring, but that’s what will make your jewelry one-of-a-kind.
Go with fewer flowers
Contrary to what a florist tells you, less can be more. Opt for smaller arrangements on the tables, or use fake flowers from a party rental store to save money and reduce the environmental impact. Another way to save on flowers without breaking the bank is to get them from someone with a green thumb. You won’t have the variety, but it would thrill your aunt’s neighbor to be able to help you out and get a bit of cash for doing something she loves.
Opt for a weekday wedding
Many guests can arrange their schedules and vacation time to attend a wedding on Thursday, Friday, Sunday, or Monday with enough notice. Since few people choose these days, you’ll be able to get your first choice of venues, photographers, DJs, and caterers. Even better is that they usually offer off-peak pricing so that you can slash costs across the board.
Dial back on the drinks
Cutting out the alcohol is one way to save big, but if you want it, get a few kegs from a local brewery and buy bulk cases of wine from your favorite vineyard.
Cut the rehearsal dinner
Unless the in-laws are paying for this, there’s no reason why you can’t skip the fancy dinner with all the bridesmaids and groomsmen. Or, order pizzas for everyone to help stay within your wedding budget.
Financing your wedding
When your salary and extra cash from side hustles aren’t enough to cover your expenses, you can borrow the money. Most will agree that it’s not ideal, but if you’ve decided on a reasonable budget and feel so strongly about these expenses, there’s no reason not to pay with your credit card or take out a personal loan.
Put wedding expenses on a credit card
Using a rewards credit card to pay for wedding expenses has its benefits. You could quickly put off handing over your hard-earned cash until the bill comes due the next month, and you earn cash back or travel rewards
The downside of using a credit card is that you’ll start accruing interest if you can’t pay off your balance in full. The best rule of thumb is to charge only what you know you can pay off. But if expenses are going to be more than what you can pay off in a month or two following “I do,” you have two options. Call your credit card company to see if they have any promotional offers that you can sign up for.
I get emails from my credit cards every other month, letting me know I qualify for a 0.9% interest rate on new purchases for the next nine to 12 months. That’s a great rate if you know you can get your balance back to $0 by the end of the promo.
The other option is to search for a new credit card with a great introductory offer. You might get lucky and snag an 18-month 0% interest rate offer, but even 1% for 6 to 12 months is reasonable.
Take out a loan for your wedding
One other option is to get a loan
from your bank or credit union to pay for your wedding expenses. You’ll almost certainly get a lower interest rate than using your credit card with the regular interest rate. The downside is that you will need to go through an application and approval process.
This could take a few weeks to more than a month. You also will need to put down something as collateral. Depending on your credit score and history, you may need a cosigner.
A final option for getting a loan is to borrow from a friend or relative who can help alleviate the financial burden. Beware, being in debt to your younger brother or a friend could get weird if you don’t carefully outline the loan terms.
Make it a priority to pay them off before any other outstanding debts, and expect to feel a little uncomfortable when you mention any new, nonessential purchases to them. They probably aren’t judging you and are happy to give you some financial help. Still, you will probably be extra motivated to pay them off ASAP to remove the borrower/lender distinction from your relationship.
And if you’re in the enviable position where the bride’s family is paying for your wedding ceremony and reception, that’s amazing. Accept their gift with gratefulness and open communication so that you and your wedding planner can create the wedding you want.
Start married life with memories, not debt
Every couple is coming to their impending nuptials from different places in life. You may be starting over after divorce with little cash to spend, or maybe you’re both earning six figures and will be able to cash flow your dream wedding without much effort. Perhaps you’re both still in grad school, with your collection of textbooks being the most valuable items you own thus far in life.
Besides getting the marriage license signed, the most important thing is to have an abundance of great memories of your wedding day. If taking out a rewards credit card to pay for the dinner and entertainment means you will still be laughing at your dad’s crazy dance moves 20 years from now, or how much it meant to be able to get your BFFs band to come and play that night, it’s worth the temporary financial setback.
What you don’t want is giving in to the pressure of the wedding industry, your mom, your soon-to-be mother-in-law, and all the aunties regarding things you don’t have strong feelings about. Don’t decorate the wedding venue with exotic flowers when you’d rather rent some from a party supply store. Let your former boss-turned-photographer take the photographs in exchange for you helping her with a few projects. Ask your grandma to bake your wedding cake.
Use the ideas above to help you pay for your dream wedding so that you wake up every morning excited to start another day as a newlywed rather than dread the day because it means going to work to pay for a massive pile of wedding bills.