How to Get Married Without Going Broke -- or Worse, Borrowing

by Christy Bieber | Sept. 13, 2019

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Tying the knot can be extremely expensive. Here are some tips for keeping costs down and avoiding debt due to your wedding. 

The average wedding in 2018 carried a price tag of $44,105 according to the Brides 2018 American Wedding Study. This astronomical cost is nearly $17,000 higher than the average price tag of nuptials the year before. And it’s a huge price to pay considering that the majority of weddings today have fewer than 200 attendees. 

Most people don’t just have $45,000 sitting around, which makes covering these wedding costs difficult. Paying such a huge amount for a wedding could clear out your savings and perhaps even prompt you to borrow. Unfortunately, this can be a big mistake because starting your married life in debt can lead to fights about money and make financial goals harder to reach. 

If you’re planning to tie the knot, here are some tips that can help you get married without breaking the bank. 

A hand-painted wedding sign pointing towards a lawn lit up with twinkle lights.

Image source: Getty Images

Consider getting married at a nontraditional time

The most popular months for a wedding are June, September, and October, and Saturday is the most popular day. Wedding venues and vendors charge more if you get married at a popular time, so consider an alternative instead. My husband and I got married on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. This gave friends and family time to travel to the wedding and then travel back home, while still keeping costs lower than they would’ve been had we opted for a Saturday night affair. 

Set a budget early on and stick to it

When you’re shopping with a bunch of different wedding vendors, it’s easy to lose track of the big picture -- and even easier to say “yes” to little upgrades that don’t seem to cost all that much all by themselves. Unfortunately, all these little add-ons can start to add a lot to your total price tag. 

To make sure you don’t overspend, decide up front exactly how much you want to spend on your big day and keep a running tally of expenses to make sure you don’t go over this. 

Prioritize what’s most important to you

Once you’ve decided on the total you’re willing to spend on your wedding, divide up your budget based on which aspects of the wedding matter to you most. 

Perhaps you’re a foodie and want fancy catering, for example -- you may be willing to get simpler and cheaper flowers so you can splurge on the food. You probably won't be able to get the very best of everything and still stay within a reasonable budget, so it’s helpful to know up front where you’re willing to sacrifice. 

Get creative about the venue

The venue is one of the biggest expenses for most couples, but you don’t need to spend a fortune on a fancy locale. My husband and I opted to get married at our house, so consider whether you or a friend or family member may have a scenic area you could use. If your college campus was pretty, you could also see if they offer weddings, or look into a national park that may allow you to get married there at an affordable rate. 

Rent your wedding dress instead of buying it

A fantastic designer wedding dress can significantly add to your wedding budget -- but there’s no rule that says you have to buy it. 

Instead, consider looking for a wedding dress rental service where you may be able to score a bargain on the dress of your dreams. You can also shop consignment stores or resale shops to see if you can find a bargain on a used dress there.

Ask for assistance instead of gifts

If you have talented friends, see if they’d be willing to put their skills to use instead of giving you a wedding gift. 

A friend with musical abilities could play, sing, or DJ the wedding, for example, while your friend who is a gifted baker could make a few desserts. In fact, one of my friends made my wedding cake as a gift and it was not only tasty, but also extra special because it had been made with love by someone we knew. 

Just be sure your friends are OK with being working guests and that they still have ample time to enjoy the festivities with the rest of you. 

You don’t have to spend a fortune on a wedding 

A wedding can be beautiful and memorable without costing more than a car. Make a budget, prioritize what matters, and look for ways to cut corners so you can have the wedding of your dreams without going into a ton of debt to do so. 

If you do need to borrow to fund your wedding, you may also wish to consider a personal loan instead of a credit card because personal loans have fixed repayment timetables and often have lower interest rates than credit cards. It’s best not to borrow at all, but when there is no other option, finding the cheapest debt available will at least help to make repaying it easier.

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