How to Pay for Your Dream Wedding (Without Starting Married Life in Debt)

Written by Meg Haley
Published February 8, 2019
how to save money when paying for a wedding how to save money when paying for a wedding

Ok y’all. We’re tackling something big here because we care about your financial well-being and your personal well-being. However, we need to be up front: we’re not wedding experts. There are a lot of them out there, and we’re not trying to pretend to join the ranks of the people who eat, sleep, and breathe color schemes, bouquets, and first dance songs. We are going to give you a few tips and tricks for financing, budgeting and just getting the big day paid for in a way that will have you glowing in wedded bliss at the end of it. (Not sweating bullets about the bills piling up while you’re on a honeymoon you can’t really afford.)

The Knot has been a source of wedding tools, guides, cheat-sheets, and resources for more than a decade, and not for nothing. Those folks know the industry of planning, pulling off, and budgeting for the wedding of your dreams inside and out. They even conducted a survey to arrive at a national average for the cost of a wedding…$33,391. (Don’t let that number freak you out. You’re driving this train!) As big fans, we’re going to introduce you to a few of their top tools here.

  • The Wedding Budget Calculator- This was designed to be a highly personalized interactive tool that will let you plug in all your details and preferences and will help you arrive at a budget for all the aspects of your wedding day and events.
  • The Wedding Budget Quiz- This fun quiz will test your knowledge about how much things really cost!
  • The Average Catering Costs- They have little micro-articles about a bunch of different aspects of budgeting for a wedding day. It’s a good way to gain some knowledge before you take the quiz—and will arm you for conversations about where you want to invest, and where you want to scale back.

Now, some real actionable ways to pay for the big day are consistent with the advice we give about budgeting for anything:

  • Create a separate account so you can easily track what funds are coming and going.
  • Time is money. Take a hard look at how much you can set aside each month for your wedding budget. How long will it take you to reach the total you arrived at when you used The Knot calculator? Your date may need to be pushed back a few months based on how much time you’ll need to get funds together.
  • Plan for the unexpected. Don’t forget tips, services that charge an hourly rate (and the fact that you may need more time than you think), little extras that pop up at the last minute, and weather-related expenses.
  • Use credit cards that earn rewards and pay them off ASAP. Keep things on one card so you can easily track and make payments in one place.

Who Pays for What?

Some aspects of budgeting for your wedding are unique to this kind of an event. For example, there aren’t going to be many more times in your life that your parents and other family members will chip in to pay for a huge party in your honor. For better or worse, that’s still a very vibrant tradition.

If you’ve got a bride and groom tying the knot, traditionally the bride’s parents will still foot the majority of the bill, with the groom’s family taking care of the rehearsal dinner. For some families, however, the groom’s family will expect to split all costs. If you’ve got two brides or two grooms, the split is up to you! In any case, each family should have their own conversation about what they are planning to and able to contribute, and if they have any specific wishes about where that money goes.

Then there’s the two of you. Maybe you want to do it all on your own, but don’t have a lot to spare at the end of the month and aren’t willing to have a 10-year engagement. There’s always the option of a personal loan. Take a look at the APR rates you qualify for and discuss this option honestly with each other before taking it on—it’ll be the first of many financial decisions you make together!

Decide Where to Cut Back

Luckily, in an event as big as a wedding, there are as many places to cut spending as there are to splurge. So, if your numbers aren’t adding up, you’ve got options.

Take a look at the guest list

Many weddings can cost about $100 per person, just for food and drinks. So, cutting just 50 people (who were mostly acquaintances anyway) can save you $5,000! This is also an easy place to talk to parents who are insisting on inviting their co-workers or friends: if they want them included, you can give them a concrete number for the bill.

Champagne taste on a beer budget?

It happens to the best of us. We page through one too many bridal magazines, and suddenly we need it all, and we need it to be extravagant. But get real: can you shift the reception time to avoid a sit-down dinner? Would you be happiest in a chill outdoor venue that’s naturally gorgeous, saving thousands on flowers and decorations? In short, keeping the wedding less formal will also keep it less expensive—but no less gorgeous.

What to Wear?

Two words: Trunk. Show. Start following dress designers you love and attend every trunk show in your area. You’ll get something incredible and at incredible savings. For the rest of the party? Rentals! Many places will offer group discounts, or even throw in a groom’s tux for free.

Photos and videos

Yes, you want your wedding day documented, and you should have beautiful photos to show for it. Start the search for your photographer early. Many offer discounts at different times of the year or will offer bonus add-ons to existing packages. Interview a few to find someone who will match your style and will include the things that are important to you, without a surprise bill at the end of your evening.

Let them eat cake!

But let it be a sheet cake. You can save a lot of money by ordering a smaller cake designed perfectly but feeding most of your guests from a sheet cake in the same flavor. Avoiding tiers, handmade sugar flowers, and fondant will save you bunches.

Hold off on your honeymoon

If you’re getting married in what would be considered peak season at your honeymoon destination, consider waiting a few months. Did you pay for a bunch of wedding expenses with a points or miles-earning credit card? Here’s where that comes in handy.

In the end, the wedding should be a reflection of who you are as a couple. It doesn’t have to be the biggest, fanciest party anyone has ever attended. It should be a day that makes you happy, includes your favorite things and your favorite people. Everything else is just the details. Cheers!