Money Matters: Wedding on a Budget

By Jason Alderman

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Have a tight wedding budget? Jason Alderman has some tips to help to stick to your price point without downgrading your big day. (Courtesy: Creative Commons)

Should a dream wedding mean delaying a down payment on a home? That’s a trade-off many couples make these days.

The Knot, a wedding planning and publishing company, recently released its Real Weddings Study of average wedding costs for 2014, announcing a national average price tag of $31,213 (not including the honeymoon).

The average cost of a wedding is a good point of comparison against other major financial goals in a new marriage. Considering that the average price of a new home in America is now $200,000, that wedding estimate would cover the majority of a 20 percent down payment—$40,000. Despite getting married to my wife at our family home 15 years ago, I still remember the sticker shock for all the wedding costs—a whopping $10,000 for the entire event from tux, dress, flowers, food and honeymoon.

Here are a few suggestions to plan a wedding that won’t break the bank:

Marry off-season. The most popular wedding months are now June and October, with longtime leader June losing a bit of ground. The most popular day to get married is Saturday and nighttime is the most competitive time slot for receptions. Consider a January wedding when the post-holiday rush is over – cold weather wedding venues are generally empty and priced to move. Weekday weddings have the potential added bonus of guests drinking less on a work night and weekend brunch weddings can be served buffet-style with more reasonably priced menu choices.

Find alternative venues. Farms, barns, warehouses, art galleries and of course, family property can be cheaper venues for a wedding, but make sure such spaces are properly insured for alcohol, food or other party-related risks. Also, in many communities, party venues must be properly licensed and/or zoned to avoid fines or legal action.

DIY if possible. Couples with a flair for party planning, decorating and cooking might be able to slash costs planning and executing their own event with minimal dependence on hired or volunteer help. From flowers to photography and wedding cake to wedding planners, check for affordable options. If a venue allows couples to supply their own flowers and decorations, it is wise to comparison shop. Consider professional photographers or skilled amateurs who meet your tastes and budget.

Use a gift registry to pay for the wedding. Couples can set up online gift registries that allow guests to directly fund honeymoon trips or specific expenses associated with the wedding.

Plan a destination wedding. Resorts around the world and well-known domestic wedding/travel destinations like Las Vegas or Hawaii offer wedding packages that blend a ceremony and vacation getaway. Planning a winter wedding? Research options for a warmer climate or snowy destination at a ski resort.

Finally, be flexible. Some venues have cancellations and if a couple is willing to put themselves on a waiting list and move quickly if they get the call, savings might be possible.

Before the planning a wedding, it’s wise to start with planning finances. A meeting with a qualified financial advisor might help put wedding costs in perspective with other major financial priorities. But the bottom line is that dream weddings don’t have to put a couple’s financial life on hold. Consider real financial priorities first and build a smart wedding budget from there.

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Jason Alderman directs Visa’s financial education programs. To Follow Jason Alderman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PracticalMoney.

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