Tying the Knot Without Getting Tied To Debt

Written by Brad Johnson, Stewardship Volunteer

Few decisions we make in life are similar to the importance of whowe marry. That being said, heavy financial decisions often come with weddings, and without doing plenty of research, it can feel like navigating a jungle without a map. Proverbs 21:20 reminds us: “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man's dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.” Similarly, while you may have a big budget for your wedding, it’s crucial to use that money effectively and wisely. Any money saved on the wedding can help you start your married lives on the right footing. Here are five crucial expenses for weddings, and strategies for spending smart with each.

Venue

The venue is one of the most important aspects of the wedding and often is the trickiest aspect to nail down. Since venues are often in high demand, start your search early. If you look during the summer, when venues are often used for weddings but unlikely to be booked for the following year, you’ll have a higher chance of securing a great location. You also might consider having your wedding on a non-traditional day (i.e. NOT Saturday). Many people have been able to secure the location they want at a fraction of the price.

If you already have your heart set on a specific venue, ask the manager if they have a guest count minimum. Certain venues will only hold weddings that meet their thresholds, and if your guest list is too small (this is a blessing in disguise), your big day – and budget – will be better off at a different location.

The average cost of a wedding venue these days is about $15,000 – and this usually accounts for half of all wedding budgets! Remember that what the average couple pays doesn’t mean you need to follow suit. Many venues can be found for a third of that price, or less. When searching, focus on an achievable budget for a venue that feels just right. If you haven’t found anything yet, be willing to step outside the box a bit, and consider venues like parks, art galleries, and forest preserves.

Catering

Your wedding guests will remember two aspects of the wedding above all else: the music and the food. The caterer you select is crucial not only for their quality of food, but how much you’re paying in proportion to what your guests will experience. It’s essential to feed your guests, and the average couple pays $4,000, but there are numerous ways to cut back on this expense.

First, consider caterers who aren’t “name brand”. Oftentimes, if you have a favorite restaurant that’s not known for wedding catering but has that capacity, they won’t be as expensive as those who’ve branded themselves as such.

Second, look into alternative sources of beverages and desserts. If you find a supplier who will quote you separately for drinks and other edibles, you can save here, as you’re no longer purchasing a bulk catering order.

Third, consider what family members or a wedding coordinator may be able to do to reduce catering costs, such as self-serve beverage stations, or using disposable (but still fancy) tableware.

Wedding Dress and Suit

Naturally, you want to look your best on your big day. The outfit you settle on will be in your pictures (and videos) for years to come, so you want to provide yourself room and time to find the right style.

While there are one-off stories of brides purchasing $20 wedding dresses from big-box retailers, it’s more than possible to stay within $500 to $1,500 for your threads. Ladies can consider brands like Reformation, BHLDN (Beholden), and Lace & Liberty to keep it under $1,000. For smaller budgets, Amazon, trunk shows, and Black Friday sales are ideal options.

For men, Tommy Hilfiger, Kenneth Cole, and Men’s Wearhouse are all excellent brands that won’t charge you thousands. It’s worth trying on multiple styles and colors to see what you gravitate towards, but remember not to get swept into expensive modifications. Reviewing the fundamentals can help you establish your preferences and know that fantastic suit when you see it.

Photographer and Videographer

Your photos and videos will provide the most sentimental memories once the big hurrah is over, so it’s vital to pick professionals who understand your aesthetic and are within budget.

Consider any friends or work contacts who may be willing to step up for this crucial role. Often, friends will charge less than those doing it vocationally full-time. If no friends come to mind or are available, browse through pros on The Knot, Zola, and Thumbtack for great services that are affordable.

Rehearsal Dinner and Venue

The location for your rehearsal dinner needs to be classy without needlessly adding more to the budget. The food should be of similar quality to the wedding’s catering, but not so posh that it’s similar in price. Include your limits in the budget, and remember you only need enough seats for key guests and no more.

Wedding planning can quickly become a source of stress between a couple, instead of being an encouraging and unique time in your journey. The best way to tackle this is to pray, maintain a wedding budget, ask for help when needed, and pray some more. By spending efficiently in these five categories, you’ll be in great shape for one of the biggest days of your life.

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