Your engagement is a heady time, filled with love, romance – and too often, an overwhelming amount of financial stress. It seems like as soon as the question’s been popped, you’re worrying about trimming the guest list and how you’ll afford all the vendors, food, and venue you want. So what do you do? Wake up the morning after the proposal and decide to start saving now, in the hopes you’ll be able to afford your dream wedding three years down the road? Max out your credit cards for the sake of having a martini bar? Take a loan on your 401k to pay for your wedding dress? These are serious questions for a lot of couples, especially if they’re not particularly well-off. But there are better ways to deal with the financial burdens of what’s supposed to be one of the happiest, not most stressful, days in your life. You can always take the personal loan route, but there are plenty of ways to reduce wedding costs before you reach that point.
1. Get creative and DIY.
Limited funds doesn’t automatically translate to limited wedding options. Pinterest, Etsy, and the countless wedding blogs out there are filled with fun, beautiful ideas that will keep you well within your means. And if hand-crafting your favors or learning calligraphy to write your invitations seems like too much of a time-suck, remember that you’re not in this alone. Most people are eager to be involved in the wedding planning, so take advantage of their talents. Your crafty mom can make centerpieces, your college roommate can apply her accounting skills to tracking the budget, and your sister will be thrilled to show off her culinary prowess by baking you a unique and delicious cake. Let people know that you’re looking for quality wedding deals, as well. You’d be surprised at who in your network is related to a great hairdresser or can hook you up with a solid DJ at a discounted rate.
2. Crowdfund your honeymoon.
With so many people living together before tying the knot, many already have all the appliances, flatware, and bedding they need. But they don’t always have the savings to cover their dream weddings and their dream honeymoons. If you’ve got all the bath towels and wine glasses you can handle, consider asking loved ones to help you pay for that first trip as a married couple. Credit Sesame recommends using a site like OurWishingWell.com to encourage guests to give money instead of household gifts. Honeyfund.com was built specifically for this purpose, and it offers a breakdown of honeymoon packages so people can chip in where they’re able. For instance, the registry for an Italian getaway includes a set of rail passes at $45 a piece, a $90 candlelit dinner, and airline miles. The cost for bigger ticket items, like the flights, is broken down into several smaller gifts of $60 or so each. This allows a group of guests to contribute toward the cost, instead of making the bigger ask of several thousand for the entire plane trip. Marketplace lending is another option.
3. Rent your wedding gown.
This can be a tough one to swallow if you grew up envisioning yourself in a custom white dress that you’d pass down through the generations in your family. But wedding gowns are a huge expense, especially for a single day’s use. Brides on a budget often find themselves stuck between spending outside their comfort zones to have their perfect dresses or settling for a less costly (and less exciting) gown. Rental and pre-owned options give brides a much wider range of possibilities that won’t break the bank. Rent the Runway’s bridal collection includes a number of designer pieces for a fraction of the retail cost, and BorrowingMagnolia offers rentals that fit a number of budgets. And when you’re not shopping to own, you can likely afford a nicer dress or a more exclusive designer brand than you would if it was a permanent purchase.
4. Nix the frivolous traditions.
Sit down with your future spouse, decide on your must-haves for the ceremony and reception, and feel free to eliminate anything that doesn’t feel authentic. People often assume they need to include all the traditional elements, such as a religious service, a sit-down dinner, elaborate printed programs, and a multi-tiered cake. But each of those details costs money that you could spend on more important priorities, such as the band, or the cocktail hour, or a swanky suite for your wedding night. If you’re going by the Facebook albums your old high school classmates are posting, it’s easy to assume your wedding has to be an over-the-top affair that puts you tens of thousands of dollars in debt. But if you’re willing to do a little leg-work and let your loved ones lend a hand, you can have your perfect day and keep your savings in tact, too.
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