Weddings are big business. We've all heard that the word "wedding" in front of photographer or caterer will automatically double the price you're quoted. But did you know that the average U.S. couple spends $26,542 on their big day? With the majority spending between about $19,000 and $33,000.
So how can you stop your fairytale day from turning into a financial nightmare? It's worth remembering the financial impact of your wedding day. One of the biggest causes of divorce is debt and financial worries - so don't start married life with financially crippling debts.
Here are some tips for holding your wedding on a budget.
Set a Budget to Begin With
This might seem an obvious point, but so many couples fail to start at the very beginning: work out what your maximum spend can be. Before you book anywhere or buy a single thing for your big day, figure out how much money is in your wedding fund. This will ensure that you don't have a mountain of debt to come home to from your honeymoon.
If you can possibly avoid it, don't borrow money for the wedding. Credit cards or loans will start married life with unwanted debt. If you absolutely must take credit for your wedding, it should be well planned and controlled. A good rule is to never borrow more money than you can afford to pay back within one year.
Once you know exactly how much money you have to spend - whether in cash or planned borrowing - you can start to plan your big day. Do not forget this important step.
Cut the Venue Costs
The venue is usually the biggest expense of any wedding. If you can make savings here then you will be on your way to a wedding on a budget.
If you can bag a free venue, this would be a huge help. Perhaps you know someone with a large yard you can use, or an empty barn. Or how about using a public park for your reception and holding a large picnic for friends and family?
If you can't get a free venue, then perhaps you could pick an unusual date for your wedding. Having your wedding on a Friday or a Sunday could save you a large percentage on the venue costs. Equally, how about a winter wedding? Although winter weddings are becoming more popular, there tend to be fewer bookings leaving you more space to negotiate on price.
When it comes to buying your dress, don't be shy - visit bridal departments and salons and inquire about upcoming sales and designer trunk shows. Smaller boutiques may also be willing to bargain.
If you really want to make savings, consider buying your dress from overseas. For example, China has a roaring dressmaking industry that you can access via eBay. Quality and reliability will vary between sellers, so do your research, ask questions and request samples before buying – but you could buy a made to measure dress for around $200.
Many couples only consider gifts at the last moment, but this can help you with your wedding and related costs. Nowadays, many people already live together when they get married, and thus do not need the toasters, silverware and other home items that were historically given.
Therefore, don't be afraid to ask for cash on your wedding day. There are many ways you can do this. Envelopes on the day, money into a special bank account, even a 'honeymoon' fund.
You could also ask friends to offer their skills to you as their wedding gift. This will make your wedding day all the more personal and memorable, and will seriously cut costs.
Do you have a friend who could make your wedding cake? Someone who is handy with a camera who could take your wedding photographs? A friend who can craft the wedding favors or place-settings? Do you have a friend who is a DJ? Could a beautician friend do the hair and make up?
All of these things will avoid the price trebling effects of getting married, and your nearest and dearest will be delighted they can help you on your special day.
Aim Low on the Guest List
Last, but by no means least, it's very easy to over invite people, so think very carefully about the guest list. The numbers will soon add up, and if you are having a sit down meal, this will send the price up and up. Stick to close friends and family, and do not feel obliged to invite plus-ones or distant relatives. Consider whether you would happily buy them a meal and drinks on any other day of the year. If the answer is no, perhaps they don't need an invitation!
The Bottom Line
Don't ever forget the purpose of your wedding day: to get married. If you spend $5,000, you will be just as married as the couple who have spent $30,000.