Getting married is supposed to be one of the happiest times in your life, but it doesn’t come cheap.
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Recent data shows the average U.S. nuptials cost $27,000, a figure that can be hard to swallow in the current economic climate. It can be easy for couples to get swept up in the wedding bliss and overspend, but experts say creating a dream wedding doesn’t have to cost a house downpayment.
“You can have a beautiful wedding without breaking the bank and going into debt,” says wedding expert Linda DiProperzio.
Here are four expert tips to host a beautiful wedding without the hefty price tag:
Tip 1: Plan and Stick to Budget
Before planning anything, experts advise couples sit down and determine exactly how much they can afford on the big day. Once a number is agreed upon, they should figure out the type of wedding and if it’s realistic with their financial plan.
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“The best way to keep it cheap is to have less people,” says Xochitl Gonzalez, co-founder of wedding planning services A.a.B.Creates. It can be easy to spend $250 to $300 per person including the cost of the band, venue and photographer, so be selective with who gets an invite.
Brides-to-be, swept up in the moment, tend to quickly book an expensive venue, not realizing that it’s only half the expense of a wedding, says Gonzalez. She says if a venue costs $26,000, be prepared to spend twice that when all is said and done.
Tip 2: Raise Extra Cash
Experts warn against going into debt for a wedding and recommend getting another job to raise more funds if couples must have a higher budget wedding. They should also cut back their spending and try alternatives ways to raise cash like selling unused good or tutoring.
It’s also a good idea to lay off the plastic when paying for the wedding. “I wouldn’t start charging because what happens when the bill comes and you don’t have the money to pay it off,” says DiProperzio. “The balance starts to accumulate interest and possibly finance charges, and before you know it, you can be in serious debt.” Starting off a marriage with significant debt can be hard.
Tip 3: Tap Hidden Talents
Do-it-yourself weddings have become more popular in these tight financial times, and experts should enlist their friends and family members for help making their day special.
“Maybe you have a cousin who is a graphic designer who can make your invitations,” says Kim Forrest, editor of Weddingwire.com. Perhaps a best friend has flair when it comes to flowers. “DIY weddings are really big right now. Utilize the talents and abilities of the people in your circle.”
Brides can also try bartering with different vendors to help reduce costs.
Tip 4: Cut the Right Corners
It might be hard for brides to imagine, but their invitations will most likely end up in the trash and many guests skip the wedding cake.
“You don’t need a million inserts and tissue paper in the envelopes,” says DiProperzio. “Having a postcard reply card in lieu of a card that gets inserted into an envelope can save you a lot in postage.”
A “fake” wedding cake can also be a big budget helper. DiProperzio suggests buying a tiered cake made of Styrofoam and have a baker decorate it to serve as a prop for photos. When it comes to eat, serve a much less-expensive sheet cakes to unsuspecting guests
“If you want to cut your cake in front of guests, the baker can make the bottom tier the real deal and the rest fake,” she says.
Couples should keep in mind that a wedding is just a day and the marriage is forever, don’t spend the next 10 years paying off the big day.
“Look at the things you can control,” says Forrest. “Instead of having your wedding on a Saturday night in June have it on a Thursday night in January. Try to look at things that way rather than trying to raise a ton of money and doing something totally out of your budget.”