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How to Save for a Wedding: 6 Expert Strategies

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updated: June 13, 2024

As joyful as the chime of wedding bells may be, it could easily be replaced by another sound: cha-ching. From big-ticket outlays—the venue, for starters—to items that seem like they wouldn’t be big-ticket but somehow are, such as flowers and invitations, weddings these days are basically synonymous with expense.

According to wedding website The Knot, the average cost of a wedding increased by almost $10,000 over the last decade and by $5,000 between 2022 and 2023 alone. In short, happy couples who want to stay that way, and avoid wiping out their savings, may need to get creative when it comes to saving up for their (hopefully)-once-in-a-lifetime celebration. Fortunately, when it comes to figuring out how to save for a wedding, a little bit of planning can go a long way.

How much does a wedding cost?

First things first: How much cha-ching are we talking?

Also according to “The Knot,” which surveys 10,000 couples across the United States each year, the average cost of a wedding in 2023 was $35,000. Zola, a wedding-planning site, sets the average 2024 cost at $33,000. And you can’t get a scholarship to help defray the cost.

Of course, the specific cost varies wildly depending on such factors as where the wedding is held and how many people are invited: The average domestic destination cost was fully $10,000 more expensive than a hometown wedding in 2023, and a wedding with one to 50 guests cost $16,700 on average, as opposed to a 150-person wedding’s $45,600.

That variability is good news for the betrothed because it points to the controllability the couple has when it comes to the matrimonial bottom line.

How to save for wedding expenses: 6 simple steps

Without further ado, let’s dive into some proven ways to save up money for your big day and save money on the big day itself, too.

1. Talk it out

If you’re engaged, you’ve (one hopes) figured out the fine art of honest and open communication. Wedding planning is a great time to put that skill to work. Along with being great practice for future quandaries, coming up with a shared vision for your wedding day is an important first step toward figuring out the budget you’ll need and how to save up for it.

Just as every relationship is different, so is every wedding. What might be a “must” for some (like an Instagram-ready flower wall) will be a “no way” for others, who might prefer to spend that cash on an open bar. Do you want to get married at a church, brewery, beach, or wherever’s cheapest? Is it a higher priority to offer your guests a Michelin Star-worthy meal, or would you rather spring for world-class entertainment? Or maybe, just maybe, you’d rather slash the guest list entirely in favor of splurging on an unforgettable honeymoon for the two of you.

It’s also helpful to start researching worthwhile cost-saving swaps on similar services. For example—yet again according to “The Knot”—the average cost of a live wedding band is $4,300, compared to $1,700 for a DJ. Along with relying on sources like wedding-planning publications, you can also check in with friends and family who’ve been married recently and scout out prices online.

Sit down with your soon-to-be spouse and figure out which expenses are worth saying “I do” to and which ones are a firm “I don’t.” You’ll have a better idea of what your perfect celebration will look like and, more important, how much it might cost.

2. Compare your budget and expenses

Once you have the blueprint for your ideal day, you’ll be able to start putting firmer price tags, or at least price ranges, on each of its components. While you don’t have to know the final cost of every good and service at this point, you can start figuring out the overall ballpark figure your choices add up to. Then, compare that figure to your existing wedding savings and—if you find you still have more to save to reach your goal—your day-to-day budget.

After learning how much your picture-perfect wedding would cost, you might decide that you’d rather eliminate some features or reallocate your spending in one category or another to make the party work with less. Or, you may decide you need to find ways to save additional funds in the time left before the ceremony so you can have the bash you’ve always dreamed of. We’ll talk more below about both strategies.

In any case, understanding which wedding expenses are the costliest in your case is critical information. It’ll help sharpen your priorities in either direction. Don’t forget to reach out to various vendors and ask for quotes to ensure the best price available for the services closest to your ideal. If they’re all out of reach, move on to the next-best, Plan-B version.

3. Don’t forget about inflation

Many couples announce their engagement a year or more before the wedding day. This means months and months of planning and ample time for inflation to do its thing. You probably remember that inflation rose steeply in 2021 and 2022, skyrocketing as high as 7%. While 2023 and 2024 (so far) have been better, the post-pandemic economy has shown itself to be somewhat unpredictable.

By the time you book your venue or your caterer, chances are the price they quote for you will be written in stone—or at least on a contract signed by both parties. But if you’re still in the stages of planning to plan a wedding sometime in the next few years, keep in mind that inflation (among other factors) will likely continue making wedding costs rise. Build an inflation factor into your savings plan.

4. Consider cuts before and during the big day

Now, for the fun part: actually saving up the money you’ll need to get hitched in style. Which, of course, mostly translates to spending less money—both in the lead-up to the wedding day and on it.

Start with finding ways to minimize your monthly expenses, so you can increase your wedding savings and get more of what you want. The same tried-and-true tips apply here as in any money-saving scenario, be it dialing down debt or saving for a big purchase. The first place to look in your budget is in your discretionary spending on non-critical expenses—think restaurant meals, subscription streaming services, and gym memberships. Making more meals at home could become a romantic activity if you both know it’s in the interest of saving enough cash to have an incredible wedding bash.

Making cuts to the wedding budget is more than a financial decision, given the emotional heft of the day. Maybe trying to trim your guest list feels like Sophie’s Choice, but you could minimize on food and drink by opting for a cash bar or passed hors d'oeuvres plus a cake, instead of a sit-down dinner. Maybe you can forego the physically mailed, paper invitations in favor of free (or nearly-free) digital ones.

There are other, less well known ways to save money on weddings—and their peripheral expenses. You may be shocked at how much you’ll save on goods and services by having a wedding during the off-season, when vendors are hungrier for clients. Renting items like a wedding dress, and even the jewelry that accompanies the outfit, can save some couples hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Finally, consider turning to the people around you in a time of need. Do you have a friend who’s a photographer or who moonlights as a DJ? Maybe crafting table decorations or arranging flowers could be a group activity at your bridal shower or rehearsal dinner. Every dollar saved counts. While you know your loved ones best—and some may not take an invitation to work for free kindly—others might feel honored to be able to help make your special day memorable. A wedding is supposed to be a community celebration, after all.

5. Find ways to increase your income

When it comes to saving money, there are really two primary options: spending less of it and earning more. Given that planning a wedding can, in itself, feel like a full-time job, the idea of adding a side hustle at this time might feel truly overwhelming. But there may be other ways to earn more at your disposal.

For instance, if you or your spouse-to-be are full-time employees in good standing, the pre-wedding period may be a great time to ask for a raise. You could also look into easy ways to make money at home, including activities like taking surveys and—more fun if you wish you had one—pet-sitting.

Investing can put your money to work for you passively, which means it’s growing without your needing to do anything actively to aid in the process. Of course, investments always come with risk, but they also often pay off, especially if you buy and hold for longer periods of time. Just be sure you’re investing in a regular brokerage account or some form of high-yield savings, rather than a tax-incentivized one designed for retirement like an IRA. Taking out retirement funds before you reach age 59½ will likely subject you to steep penalties.

6. Carefully consider a wedding loan

Yes, wedding loans are a thing and yes, getting one could help you make the wedding of your dreams a reality sooner than later. But like all unsecured personal loans, wedding loans usually come with steeper price tags and more stringent eligibility requirements than loans secured by collateral, like your mortgage or car payment.

Plus, for most couples, paying off a 10-year loan spent on a single day isn’t a start to happily ever after no matter how amazing that day was. However, if you’re in a position where you’re confident in your ability to earn enough and pay back the loan within a reasonable time frame—and you’re facing other time constraints that make it impossible to wait to save the cash—a wedding loan might be worth considering.

TIME Stamp: A little planning can go a long way

Although the average wedding in America rings up a five-figure price tag, it doesn’t have to. Even if it does, saving the money you need to foot the bill is possible. Just remember, when the time comes, to relax and enjoy what all this planning and saving has brought you. After all, it’s not about the wedding, really. It’s about the marriage.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Is $5,000 enough for a wedding?

While the average wedding in the United States costs far more than $5,000—$30,000 more, to be exact—it is possible to get married for as little as the fee charged by your local courthouse. (In Oregon, where this writer lives, that fee is $117). Of course, most people want a bit more hubbub around their big day. But if you threw the bash in your backyard, did a lot of the cooking and decorating yourself, and had a friend as a photographer, a $5,000 wedding might be within the realm of possibility. And could be a lot of fun.

What’s a realistic budget for a wedding?

As already noted, data from “The Knot,” put the cost of the average wedding in the United States at $35,000 in 2023. A total that high might not be feasible. According to the same data, the average cost of a very small wedding (one to 50 guests) was $16,700—a more approachable total. In the end, your budget depends on how much you earn, how much you’ve saved, what you want on your wedding day, and what you’re willing to spend for it.

How much should the bride’s parents pay for a wedding?

The cost of a wedding falling to the bride’s family is an old tradition, but one whose tendrils have extended into the present day. There’s no right answer or moral imperative determining how much anyone involved “should” pay for the wedding. According to a recent survey by “The Knot,” parents—on either side of the aisle—pick up an average of 51% of wedding costs, while the couples themselves pay for the remainder. Given that the average age of marriage is substantially later in life now than it has been in earlier decades, the betrothed couple may have more resources of their own to contribute. And also firmer ideas of the wedding they want and who should determine how it’s organized.

How much money should you have before getting married?

Paying for the wedding is one thing but getting married also means starting a life together, usually including sharing (and outfitting) a home and possibly starting a family. Kids, especially, can be expensive, and life, married or otherwise, is full of surprises. One general rule says that each spouse-to-be should have as much saved as their current salary by the time they tie the knot. For example, if you make $60,000 a year, you should have $60,000 in savings by the time you get married, which can include retirement accounts.

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