7 Steps to Paying for Your Dream Wedding

by Lyle Daly | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on April 29, 2019

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Happy Couple Embracing At Their Wedding While Surrounded By Friends And Family

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The wedding you want without a mountain of debt? Yes, you can have your (wedding) cake and eat it, too.

The wedding you want without a mountain of debt? Yes, you can have your (wedding) cake and eat it, too.

Your wedding is undoubtedly among the most important days of your life, but that special day can come with a big price tag. A 2017 survey by The Knot found that the average U.S. couple spent almost $34,000 on their wedding, and that's not even including the honeymoon.

Maybe you think that number sounds just about right -- or maybe it seems absolutely insane. Either way, no couple should begin their marriage by going into massive debt, so it's essential to figure out how to pay for your dream wedding.

1. Do the math on your wedding budget

The last thing you want is to set your heart on an ultra-luxurious wedding, only to later realize that it would take years to save enough money. That's why your first step should be calculating your wedding budget. And like every other step on this list, this is something you should do with your partner so you're both on the same page.

Start by seeing how much you two already have in savings that can go toward the wedding. This should be money that you've been saving specifically for a big expense, not money from your emergency fund or retirement accounts.

Next, determine how much you can realistically save per month. Then you'll know how much more you can have saved by your desired wedding date. By setting this amount as your wedding budget, you can fund your wedding entirely with your savings.

2. Decide what your dream wedding entails

With an approximate wedding budget, you and your partner can brainstorm what you want your wedding to be like. For couples who don't have a bottomless budget, this is also when you decide what your must-haves are and where you can cut costs.

Have your heart set on a costly venue? You may need to be selective with your guest list.

Love the style of a certain photographer? You could spring for their fee but save money by opting for a wedding playlist instead of a DJ or by sending digital invites.

3. Estimate your total wedding costs

The easiest way to do this is with a wedding budget app. There are many available, and since they list all the standard wedding expenses, you're less likely to forget anything.

Some apps also include cost estimates for those wedding expenses. You can use those estimates to come up with an approximate total cost for your wedding. Of course, as you talk to vendors and figure out the actual costs for everything, you can replace those estimates.

With your wedding's total cost, you'll know whether it's feasible within the budget you set earlier. Ideally you'll come in under budget, but don't freak out if you're not. There are ways to bridge the gap that we'll get to later.

4. Create a wedding bank account

Your wedding funds should not be touched for any unrelated expenses, so you should set up a separate bank account solely for wedding costs. It's a good idea to shop around for the best bank accounts when you do this. Here's why:

  • Better terms: You may find an account offering a high interest rate and no fees, especially if you look at the top savings accounts.
  • Account bonuses: With some banks, you can get bank account bonuses for opening a new account and depositing a minimum amount. You usually need to maintain a minimum balance for a certain amount of time to keep your bonus, but that likely won't be a problem if your wedding date is a year out or more.

You could end up earning some interest on that wedding fund and even getting a bonus that boosts your budget.

5. Set up automatic transfers to your wedding account

The most effective way to save money, no matter what you're saving it for, is to make the process automatic. If you do it manually, you give yourself the opportunity to either forget to make deposits or decide to spend your spare cash elsewhere.

Set up recurring transfers from your checking account to your wedding account for the amount you want to save with each paycheck. Ideally, the transfers should happen immediately after you get paid.

6. Negotiate with vendors

Whether you're on target with your budget or not, negotiating with vendors is a good way to save money. Not every vendor will give you a lower price, but you won't know unless you ask.

Weddings are a competitive industry, so many vendors will cut you a deal to land your business. Here are a few ways you can negotiate a lower price:

  • Ask if they're willing to give you a discount if you hire them that day and pay up front.
  • See if they can modify or remove anything from their quote to reduce the price.
  • Offer to purchase a package of services. For example, you could ask a photographer if you can get a lower rate by hiring them for your engagement and wedding photos.

Another simple negotiation option is to let the vendor know that your budget is a bit lower than their price. If they're charging $2,000, you could tell them that your limit is $1,800. Once they know how much you can spend, they can figure out a way to make a deal within your price range.

What's most important here is that you're polite and that you don't offer an insultingly low amount. Trying to negotiate a 10% discount is reasonable. Trying to get 50% off shows a lack of respect for the services that the vendor offers -- and is likely to be met with a firm "look elsewhere."

7. Use low-cost financing options if necessary

Borrowing money for your wedding isn't ideal, but it's an option if you're coming up short on funds. Considering how special your wedding day is, you may decide financing some costs are worth it. Here are some of the smartest ways to finance wedding costs:

  • 0% APR credit cards: The best 0% APR credit cards charge you no interest until the card's intro period ends. If you can pay off the balance during the intro period -- which tends to be 12 to 15 months -- then this is the most inexpensive financing option.
  • Payment plans with vendors: Some vendors may offer installment payment plans.
  • Personal loans: Low-interest personal loans can work well for paying wedding costs off over the course of a year or longer. However, because you'll immediately start paying interest on the outstanding amount, this should be the option of last resort.

Just make sure you pay for as much as possible out of your own pocket and only borrow what's absolutely necessary.

Your dream wedding at a price you can afford

You want to look back on your wedding day as one of the best days of your life, not the day when you spent a lot of money that you didn't have. With the right game plan, you'll be able to put money aside and have your dream wedding without any financial repercussions.

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