OK, OK. I didn't mean you shouldn't get married. If you've found the love of your life, by all means, go right ahead. But don't spend gobs of greenbacks on the wedding.

I recently read that the average wedding in America these days costs around $28,000. That's more than half of what many millions of Americans earn each year. And that's just the average. So plenty of folks are spending $40,000, or even $50,000 or more, on weddings.

So here I am with a proposal for you: Cancel that wedding you have planned. Instead, have a different, less expensive one. Here's why: If you spend, say, $8,000, on the wedding and invest the $20,000 or $30,000 that you opt not to spend on it, you'll likely thank yourself later. Remember, the wedding is just one day (I know, it's a big one). But that investment can give you many happier golden years.

Run the numbers
Consider this. Imagine diverting $25,000 from your wedding into stocks like 3M (NYSE:MMM), Costco (NASDAQ:COST), and Paychex (NASDAQ:PAYX). Those are just a few of the companies you'll own when you buy shares of an S&P 500 index fund. If you earn the market's average annual long-term return of around 10%, your $25,000 will grow as follows:

Time 

Amount

10 years $65,000 

20 years

$168,000

30 years

$436,000

40 years

$1.1 million

If you're getting married at age 30, you can hit age 70 with a big nest egg. I've learned, via the Fool's Rule Your Retirement service, that in order to make it last, you should conservatively plan to withdraw about 4% per year in retirement. With $1.1 million, that amounts to a generous $44,000 annual payout. (Yes, inflation will make that worth considerably less, but still, it will likely be a huge help in retirement.) For more retirement advice, I encourage you to take advantage of a free trial of our Rule Your Retirement newsletter.

And remember that by investing in some carefully selected mutual funds, you may be able to earn even more than 10%, on average.

How to do it
Here are some ideas on how you can get away with spending a lot less than you planned on your wedding:

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Costco and 3M. 3M is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Costco is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Try any of our investing services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.