Lazy ‘n Frugal Guide – Saving for The Date

Uncomfortable Question #298 – How much have you saved for your wedding so far? I can feel you squirming already. Yes, dear Lazy Bride, this is the topic no one likes to talk about – the 'how' of paying for the wedding. Perhaps you're lucky and your parents are footing the entire bill. Or your fiance's parents. But if you and your beloved are paying the piper, this is something you need to seriously think about, because the consequences of not figuring it out now can be expensive down the road. 

Speaking from the voice of experience, my starter wedding of 130 people back in 1995 came in at $13,000. And that was on a shoestring. Church hall where the babas did the cooking so the buffet was $13 a head, we brought in our own alcohol, made my own table decor (goldfish in bowls which I don't recommend if you have drunk friends), friend was a florist and gave me a discount, professional photographer friend gave his day of shooting as a gift. It was a DIY wedding but beautiful and a wedding that was for a long time the benchmark all other weddings were secretly judged against. But we didn't have the funds saved so we took out a loan. Long story short – the loan payments outlasted the marriage and we spent about $6000 in interest. Ouch.

Orchid tables
photo by Dan Power Photography

Fast forward to my second marriage six years ago, which was on a beach in Costa Rica, with only 30 people, lunch and very few extras. Came in under $2500 and we paid it all in cash. Was it the decor wedding of my dreams? No but we loved it and we did not go into debt for it. Lesson learned. The one regret I do have is not hiring a professional photographer and if I was able to have a 'do-over', I'd make that a priority.

My question to you is a) how much are you spending on your wedding and b) how are you paying for it? Credit card? Unless you are incredibly self-disciplined and pay it off every month, this can be a financial albatross around your neck. It's so easy to 'up' the limit and suddenly, that $2000 dress is the 'must have' even though you'd budgeted $1000. "I'll just put in on my plastic" says your little voice. Well, if you paid the minimum of 2% of the balance, at 14% APR, it would take you 26 years and almost $2500 in interest payments to pay off that dress. Sobering. For more info on the real cost of carrying credit card balances, check out What's the Cost

That leaves getting a loan (again, debt load and interest) or saving up for it. Now, if the average wedding is priced at $28,000 and the average bride marries at 27 years old. Using these figure,  Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich and the like-named website, created this spreadsheet, which shows how much you'd need to save monthly in order to pay off your wedding in full. 

Age simulator for wedding

Bit unsettling, isn't it. So, what do you do if you haven't save this much money and your wedding is next year?

a) Start saving now – yes, it's not too late. By setting aside 10 – 20% of each paycheck and putting into a high interest account, such as ING, you can make some serious gains in your savings. But the trick is to be rigorous about it. 

b) Prioritize – weddings are building grounds for marriage as they teach you the art of compromise. Decide what are the top three items for you and have your fiance do the same. Then decide what are the last three items on the budget for you. From there, decide where and how much to cut. Usually, the two or three 'big ticket items' (food, bar) may have the most room for trimming and helping the budget. Work with your vendors to see what creative ideas they can offer to bring your vision alive without killing the budget. 

c) Stay Real – it's easy to get caught up in the throes of bridedom. When shopping, have a 'voice of financial reason' along with you (like a really good friend or family member) who will help keep you on budget. And if you absolutely, positively, can't live without it – put it aside, think about it for a few days and then make the decision. If you still must have it, figure out what must be sliced and diced from the wedding budget to keep everything in balance. Chances are, that 'must have' is suddenly a lot less appealing.

What steps are you taking to save for your big date?

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  1. I’m a senior in college now and my finace graduated last May and has a full time job 9 hours away. We’re getting married in June and the weight of paying for the wedding is entirely on our shoulders. But while I think every girl at one time or another dreams of an extravagant affair, I think girls today are becoming a lot more practical but still getting what they want.
    Looking at my fiance’s budget, we figured out that we could save about $7000 by June for the wedding and honeymoon without pinching too many pennies. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to spend that money elsewhere (hello student loan debt) and so we agreed that our ultimate goal for the wedding would be spending $3K with a max of $3.5K followed by a modest but fun honeymoon. We obviously can’t afford to shell out fillet minion for every guest but our families and church communities are pulling our talents together to give us a wedding that I know will be fabulous.
    All that being said, my fiance and I agreed early on that we didn’t want to throw tons of money at a wedding that would be over before we knew it.

  2. Thanks for your comments. It sounds like you will have a very lovely and heartfelt wedding that won’t have you struggling financially with the first few years of your marriage. It’s easy to lose sight of what really matters sometimes, with all the pretty things available for weddings. But you seem to have a great plan. Good luck with everything!!

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