Guest Blog: Planning Your Wedding on a Budget

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Wedding season has arrived once again, and the planning has begun for many engaged couples. This awesome guest blog from Nerd Wallet is filled with great tips to keep you from going over budget.

You’ve probably heard the estimate that the “average” wedding costs more than $25,000 — and perhaps cringed. Who wants their Big Day to lead to Big Debt? It’s not the ceremony to blame; usually most of the costs are related to the reception. Let’s consider areas where we save money without losing the magic.

Invitations

Unique wedding invitations don’t have to be expensive. Try to avoid boxed invitations, custom shapes or bulky, multilayered cards that cost more to produce, and are also more expensive to mail. Use a creative or elegant design to make your invitations pop, not expensive printing processes. And rather than including reply cards, which will incur even more printing and postage costs, have guests RSVP online, via email or by phone.

Location

Considering a home wedding? It may not be as inexpensive as you think. When you total up the additional costs you’ll incur, including off-site catering, temporary seating and possibly a tent, you may decide against it.

And look into combining the location of the wedding and reception for further savings. A candlelit church wedding with after-ceremony festivities in an adjacent reception hall can be romantic, fun, cost-efficient and convenient. And save the $500 limo rental to get the bride and groom from “Point A” to “Point B.”

If you rent a venue for your event, beware of “add-ons.” There can be fees for set up, linens, cleaning, and more. If that is the case, it might make sense to get a quote from an all-inclusive wedding venue, such as a hotel. With event-ready banquet rooms and staff, you won’t have to rent chairs, tables and dinnerware – and incur the accompanying costs of setup.

Some venues may offer package amenity discounts that will save you even more. Plus, get estimates from more than one hotel or venue provider. Having them compete for your business may trigger a bidding process that can further reduce your total bill.

Reception alternatives

Other than reducing the head count, the most effective way to lower your reception’s cost will be with careful planning regarding the food and drinks served. A typical reception’s food cost tops $4,000, with bar service tacking on another $2,000, according to the Association of Bridal Consultants – there is plenty of money to be saved here!

You don’t have to offer a full course meal and open bar. Some stylish after-wedding events have been hosted as “dessert receptions,” while others have served only appetizers and drinks. One way to save at the bar is to offer only beer, wine and perhaps a “signature” cocktail.

The wedding cake can be a serious expense, as well. Rather than buying an elaborate cake to serve 100+ guests, which can cost from $4 to $12 per slice, use a smaller “cutting cake” for the bride and groom’s photo op, but a sheet cake to serve guests – at a cost of only around $1 per slice.

Ask friends for help in lieu of gifts

If a friend or family member is a talented amateur photographer, ask them to take candid shots at the reception, instead of buying a gift. Entertainment doesn’t necessarily have to be provided by a band (with a typical cost of $1,700) or deejay (over $700), either. These days your iPod or Spotify app can provide all the music you need, if linked to a decent sound system with speakers strategically placed near the dance floor.

“Handy” friends can assist with a number of tasks: decorations, centerpieces, favors, cupcakes, invitations, flowers and so much more.

Be creative, not costly

You can save even more money by going “indie.” Look for wedding-related coupons offering discounts on hand crafted or unique items that independent or online retailers sell that might not be available locally. Flowers, favors, wedding bands and even wedding dresses can be found online, often at substantial savings.

Tuxedos for the groomsmen can be another point of negotiation. Place your order for all of them at once, and ask for the groom’s tux to be included at no additional charge.

A sensibly planned wedding and reception can save a great deal of money, without compromising the happy couple’s sense of style. You can even use your credit union to your advantage: After you get engaged set up a special savings account dedicated solely to wedding expenses and contribute as much money as you can each month. This way you’ll have a nice tidy sum to help offset some of your wedding costs by the time the big day rolls around.

Hal Bundrick, NerdWallet

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