“It’s my big day, but how can I cut costs and still throw a party to remember? (Or in Uncle John’s case, a party he’ll hazily remember?)”
You already know the average cost of an American wedding is around $31,000 - and if you didn’t, you can pick your jaw off the floor now. But let’s move away from that intimidating number for just a moment and put your wedding savings in perspective.
To get the dollar amount you should be saving every month, according to wedding website TheKnot, take the total projected cost of your wedding and divide it by the months until your wedding date. If that $31,000 wedding is next year (12 months from now), you’ll need to sock away $2,583 a month. Which is more than rent money for some of us. Ouch.
Whether you, your parents, or a combination of both will pay for the wedding, setting a budget shortly after you’re engaged will help keep your Big Day from turning into your Big Debt. Here are ten things to consider:
1. Before you even start calculating your wedding budget, take a hard look at your regular budget; you’ll see exactly where you can cut or reallocate funds long before your big day. If you’ve been meaning to cut your cable anyway, that’s $100 more per month you can put towards your reception. If you already budget $100 for regular Friday night antics with friends, cut that number by mixing nights out with BYOB nights in.
2. The reception and catering generally rack up half of your total wedding budget. Since most of these costs are generated per head, consider downsizing your guest list. You should also make sure your choice venue doesn’t require you to work with “preferred vendors”- they may be more expensive than outside vendors.
3. Oh, you want a Saturday night reception? So does everyone else. If you want to save thousands on the cost of a venue, consider a day other than Saturday; you’ll also potentially save with your vendors too. If you choose to host an afternoon reception instead of an evening reception, you’ll rack up even more savings.
4. Don’t go overboard with flowers. Flowers can actually create a massive bill - over $2,000 on average! Your florist can create elegant baby’s breath bouquets for your centerpieces, or you could give your tables a more personal touch by roping your artsy friends into helping you create etched vases or rustic planters.
5. Don’t forget to budget for tips. These can also really add up depending on how many vendors you need to show some love to: your hair and makeup team, venue set-up staff, reception attendants, bartenders, and the wedding band or DJ to name a few. Put some cash aside and task one of your groomsmen or bridesmaids to handle tips at the end of the night.
6. No one wants to pull the plug on a good party, but if you don’t, you might face some serious overtime charges from your venue, photographer, caterer or other vendors. If you think your family and friends will be partying long after midnight, budget for those potential charges. Otherwise, stick to a strict schedule or book an afterparty space at your favorite bar.
7. Event Insurance. You might be wondering, “Seriously, why would I spend money on this?” But you’ll be glad you have it in the event a vendor drops out suddenly and you want your deposit back. Most policies also include liability insurance, in the event a drunk party guest takes a tumble down the ballroom stairs. Total party foul.
8. Add your wedding and engagement rings to your homeowner's or renter's insurance policy. A rider on your existing insurance is usually cheaper and more comprehensive than coverage from your jeweler. And it’s something you’ll definitely wish you had if you or your spouse find yourself shining a flashlight down a subway grate, wondering if Pizza Rat is sporting some new bling.
9. If you went the DIY route and bought supplies like burlap runners or mason jars to decorate your tables, try selling them on eBay, Craigslist, or through local wedding forums. As lovely and original as you wanted your wedding to be, someone else is likely thinking about a similar decorative scheme, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can sell those items.
10. Have a cash registry and use some of your gifts to cover your wedding or honeymoon expenses.
Happy planning, and make it a great party!
Photo: Felipe Fernandes Photography