If you’re like most brides- and grooms-to-be, the excitement of planning your dream wedding is no doubt tempered a bit by the thought of drawing up—and, more importantly, sticking to—a budget. Truth is, though, by encouraging you to set savings goals in advance and pursue creative ways to maximize the resources you have, such a blueprint can expand rather than limit the possibilities for your big day.
If you want to throw an unforgettable nuptial celebration without breaking the bank and start your marriage off on secure financial footing, consider taking the following four steps.
1. Develop a Wedding Budget
As with most endeavors in your future marriage, collaboration, communication, and compromise should be the hallmarks of your wedding planning process. Sit down with your future spouse, share your visions of your special day with one another, and then work out your priorities together.
Finding the right solution for what you both want is key: Is securing a location that holds a special meaning what matters most to you? Or would you prefer a traditional church wedding or even a less exclusive venue? Would you sacrifice a bit on the elaborateness of the catering and floral arrangements to afford a great band or vice versa? Do you want to pony up for a professional photographer to deliver magazine-ready images, or are you planning to pull your photo album together from candid shots taken by your guests’ iPhones?
The answers to these and other similar questions should give you a ballpark figure to budget towards.
2. Trim the Budget
Most engaged couples begin with wedding wish lists above-and-beyond their financial means. Adopt some creative cost-reducing tactics like those listed below, however, and you might not have to sacrifice as much as you might think.
- Consider renting rather than purchasing wedding clothing and other big-ticket items you’ll likely never use again.
- Change your wedding date to take advantage of off-season discounts.
- Winnow down the guest list—inviting friends of friends and Ed from accounting is a nice gesture, sure, but the savings you glean from keeping the festivities among your closest friends and loved ones can be substantial.
- Ask talented friends to help with invitations, photography, food, decorations or other items. You’ll likely want to pay them something or thank them for their efforts, but you’ll almost certainly still spend considerably less than if you’d hired a professional.
3. Set Savings Goals
Now, subtract whatever your parents or other family members are willing to contribute to your wedding from your final budget and—voila!—you have your savings target. Start working towards it as early as possible and consider opening a Goal Setter Savings account* to help you track progress toward your goal—and when you reach it, Fifth Third will give you a bonus.
If a gap between your savings and the ultimate price tag remains, explore a personal loan or line of credit, or, if you own a home, an equity loan or line of credit can help you cover the gap with a lower interest rate than your credit card.
4. Eyes on the Prize
Between bended knee and “I do,” your wedding plans will naturally shift, develop and evolve many times over—that’s normal; just make sure your budget can handle the changes.
Every time you make a wedding-related purchase, record it and regularly check your expenses against your budget. Keep all wedding expenses together in one place—a spreadsheet can work great. Make adjustments to your plans if necessary in order to stay on track—if you end up splurging on a special almond butter groom’s cake, for example, you might opt to rebalance the budget by decorating tables with flowers from your grandmother’s garden instead of contracting that top-rated florist.
Even if you’re borrowing money or using credit cards to finance a portion of the wedding, look for ways to pay cash for some wedding expenses as you go and lower your future debt payments later. Consider freeing up cash by cutting everyday expenses (Who has time for cable when you’re planning a wedding?) or taking on side jobs (Uber, anyone?).
By understanding the cost of your wedding and preparing for it ahead of time, you’ll be able to skip the last minute money panic and fully enjoy the day and all the unforgettable little moments that comprise it.
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