Recognize that many people get caught up in a “dream wedding” and end up thousands of dollars in debt. Weddings are big business to many industries like reception halls, flower shops, photographers and videographers and DJs. Wedding magazines and annual wedding shows market all the spending possible and there are even industries catering specifically to weddings, including wedding planners and dress shops. Each year the cost of weddings rises, with the average wedding currently costing more than $27,000. A wedding is one of the most expensive events a couple will encounter. It takes a significant amount of time and resources to plan a wedding, which all revolves around a single day. Remember to keep in mind that the goal is to get married and you will be married whether or not you spend much money at all. If you are trying to live a fantasy for a day, come hell or high water, most likely that is what you will achieve in the months of hell and high water ahead. This will be a different story if you are already financially able to pay for all these expenses along the way.
To help keep your wedding day costs down, start by setting parameters around the size and scope of the event. Limit the number of guests you invite to the reception; you can always invite more for the ceremony or see more at an after party. Scale down your expectations. Your family and friends know you are just starting out and could not comfortably manage something elaborate on your own or without going into debt. Decide how you would fare if your reception was held at a more economical location. Limit the number of courses to a meal; do you really need more than an appetizer and main course if you provide your own desserts with wedding cake? Can your guests have fun no matter what location you select?
See if there are more affordable substitutions possible, such as an iPod playlist instead of a ceremony violinist or reception DJ. If you are flexible and creative, you can even do it yourself, such as hiring one of your guests to do the photography or video. See if there is anything you can make, buy used, or borrow, such as a collection box for envelopes.
When deciding what you will spend, refuse to go into debt for your wedding; it’s okay to dream about your wedding but say no to expenses that don’t fit into your budget. Your wedding will be over quickly and you don’t want to be paying for it for years plus interest.
Make sure your wedding budget takes into account the ancillary costs associated with weddings, such as the cost of an engagement party, invitations and thank you cards, showers/stags, a rehearsal dinner, wedding bands, gifts for the bridal party, a limo and hotel, and honeymoon if you take one. Ask married family and friends how they managed their wedding, what mattered most to them and least, so you can gain some perspective when you plan.