Plan Your Dream Wedding on a Down-to-Earth Budget

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Couples spent an average of $28,427 on their weddings in 2012, not counting honeymoon costs, according to The Knot. Of course, expenses vary by region—Alaskan couples spent an average of $15,504, while the average wedding in Manhattan set couples back a stunning $76,687. If you don’t want to spend your honeymoon worrying about how you’ll repay that debt (that is, if you can afford a honeymoon after all that), pay attention to these budget-friendly wedding planning tips.

Start With a Budget

The Wedding Channel recommends a three-step approach to budgeting:

  • First, decide on your theme and venue; these significantly determine your expenses
  • Second, consider your number of guests, which will also drive costs
  • Third, break down your expenses into itemized categories

The Knot provides a wedding budgeting tool to assist with these steps.

Create a Savings Strategy

With your estimates in hand, you can start developing a savings strategy. This should fit within an overall budgeting strategy. Consider following finance expert Elizabeth Warren’s 50/30/20 rule of thumb, which suggests:

  • 50 percent of your monthly take-home pay should be dedicated to “needs,” such as housing, food, utilities and insurance
  • 30 percent of your monthly take-home pay should be dedicated to “wants,” including cable TV, dining out and nice things
  • 20 percent of your monthly take-home pay should be dedicated to savings goals and debt repayment

A realistic wedding savings budget should fall into this last category, the 20 percent toward savings. One way to accelerate your savings timetable is to open a high-interest savings account dedicated to the big day. CNN Money provides a review of the top ones out there.

Think of ways you can boost this savings account. If you’re entitled to regular payments from a structured settlement or annuity, you may be able to sell your future payments to a company like J.G. Wentworth for a lump sum of cash now. You could then put this money toward your savings fund.

Look for Cost-Cutting Opportunities

According to the same survey by The Knot, the top wedding costs in descending order are: venue rental, engagement rings, reception band, photographer, florist, planner, ceremony site rental, videographer, wedding dress and rehearsal dinner, which all topped $1,000 apiece. These were followed by reception DJ, limousines, cakes, musicians and invitations, all of which exceeded $450 each. Catering, meanwhile, averaged $63 per person, adding to the total tab.

Cut costs in these high-ticket areas. Some ideas to get you started:

  • Look into low-cost or no-cost locations, such as backyards and national parks. Choosing a location that is already decorated can lower costs on things like flowers.
  • Limit the guest list, since many reception-related costs are charged on a per-person basis. Rev. Roger Coleman made this suggestion on BankRate.com: Don’t invite more guests than you can spend one minute of time with. For instance, spending a minute with 300 guests would take five hours.
  • Cut photography costs by hiring a student photographer.
  • Hiring a DJ is significantly less expensive than paying for a band.


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