Like most men, I did not have my wedding planned out from the day I turned five. Actually, I never thought I would marry. Then I met my wife. Suddenly, marriage seemed not only possible but desirable. We met in Florida, dated long distance and got married in San Diego. Figuring out what we could, and couldn’t live without helped us say “I do” to each other without saying “I will” to massive credit card debt.
Wedding Costs are Soaring in Canada and Beyond
Anyone engaged, planning a wedding, or recently married knows how expensive it can be to get married. The average cost of a wedding in Canada is $23,330, which is up from $20,129 two years ago. That’s less than what debt-saddled Americans spend - $27,021, but not by much. Unless you factor in New York, where everything is outrageously expensive; a big wedding in the Big Apple will set you back $65,000! You could buy a home in West Virginia for that amount (which consequently has the lowest average wedding cost of any American state at $14,203).
What Costs so Much, Anyways?
The dress is a big part of it for Canadian brides, who spend more on average than their American counterparts – $1,798 compared to $1,100. In addition to the dress, dinner, drinks, the venue, ring, photographer/videographer/DJ, wedding planner, florist, party favors, gifts for the wedding party, rehearsal dinner, invitations, and postage all add up. If you’re getting hitched in an expensive city where the cost of living is higher than average, it’s easy to see how wedding budgets get bloated. I remember when my wife and I were planning our wedding, we couldn’t find a photographer for less than $2,000 and we were driving all over San Diego, looking for a good deal. We ended up saving $500 by hiring someone who spoke broken English but still knew how to point and shoot.
How to Find Room in Your Wedding Budget for Your Dreams
I’ve always been a bit of a planner (my wife would probably take issue with the “bit” part of that statement) so I had a wedding checklist in my back pocket, right behind the family ring I gave my wife when I proposed. Having my grandmother’s beautiful, antique wedding ring to give to my wife was a lifesaver on helping us stay within our wedding budget. We set a figure and committed to staying within it. By contrast, my step sister, who was also getting married at the time, did not have a budget for her wedding. She spared no expense and ended up spending more than $50,000. As a result, she and her husband weren’t able to take a honeymoon. By being frugal as we planned our wedding, my wife and I were able to visit Ireland for our honeymoon, which was a lifelong dream of hers.
Location ended up being the most difficult cost to keep under control for our wedding. We thought it would be cheap to get married on the beach. Boy were we wrong! It turns out lots of people want to recite their vows with sand between their toes, creating a high-priced market for beach weddings. Our options were either drive down to Mexico and deal with passport issues for our guests, or set up a sandbox in my in-laws back yard, so we opted for a more traditional setting. While we had to sacrifice on the venue, we learned that location was something we could live without. We saved a ton by getting married at our church and hosting the reception on site, in the attached meeting area. We weren’t able to serve alcohol, but that ended up being a blessing in disguise because liquor can be the single most expensive wedding expenditure after the ring and dress.
Be Frugal by Doing Things Yourself
In the 10+ years we’ve been married, we’ve seen plenty of couples keep costs down by serving simple appetizers or enlisting the aid of friends and family to bring desserts to serve at their receptions. They still have memorable and meaningful weddings and we still feel privileged to attend. Other ways to be frugal include making the wedding favors yourself (Hershey kisses and a little tulle go a long way), picking silk flowers at your local hobby store and making the bouquets and boutonnieres yourself, and selecting a simple, basic dress for your bridal party. We asked our bridal party to wear little black dresses so we wouldn’t have to bloat our wedding budget with the cost of custom bridesmaid dresses and shoes.
Keep the Right Perspective on Your Wedding Check-list
Put your love for and lifetime commitment to each other at the top of your wedding check-list. It will impact your wedding budget more than any other item on your list by helping you remember that this day is about the two of you and not impressing your guests. We started our new life together without a load of debt, and as any newly-wed will tell you, there’s enough stress learning how to share everything with someone else without adding creditors to the pile. A little frugality on your wedding day goes a long way in getting you to your 25th wedding anniversary!
If you’re married or planning a wedding, how did you keep your wedding costs down? What would you do differently if you could?
Guest Post Bio: John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a finance blog that regularly discusses investing, budgeting, and frugal living. John is a father, husband, and veteran of the financial services industry who’s passionate about helping people find freedom through frugality.
Photo Source: Wedding- Roger Kirby
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