Here are a few suggestions and tips on how to save money on your wedding and avoid financial nightmares:
Set a goal. Begin thinking about your wedding budget the moment you get engaged. Estimate a ballpark number and then add a 8% cushion for unforseen taxes, gratuities, and last-minute splurges or changes.
Trim the guest list. This may be difficult, but necessary, if the cost per guest will break your budget. Cross off anyone you haven't talked to in five years. Do you really want the third cousin of your aunt's daughter to be at your wedding?
Grow your money. Take the "out of sight, out of mind" approach to saving by utilizing direct deposit to section off a portion of each paycheck to a special wedding savings or money market account with higher dividend rates.
Keep the change. Make a habit of dropping your loose coins and single bills into a jar at the end of the day throughout the months leading up to your wedding. Use a jar or container that you cannot see through and place the container on a high shelf so that you're less tempted to take that money back out. This could add up to enough money to pay for your honeymoon!
Eat, drink, and be thrifty. Pack your lunch instead of buying a $10 meal every workday for a year. You'll save around $2,500 - enough to cover a honeymoon to Aruba, according to theKnot.com.
Save postage and a tree. Keep your invitation to one sheet and forgo the liner and inner envelope. Save stamps by asking guests to RSVP online or via phone. You could set up a special email address just for your wedding RSVPs, or check out online RSVP sites, such as RSVPify.com, to set up an easy way for guests to RSVP.
Make your own invitations. If you, or a friend, have the talent and time, create your invitations at home. You can find websites to create the invitations online, such as smilebox.com, and then print them at home or a printing place for a fraction of the cost of designer invitations. Or you could go totally non-traditional and send the invitations online.
Pick any day but Saturday. Saturday is the most expensive and popular day to have your wedding. Setting your wedding for any other day may save you money on your chosen venue, catering, and photography. Choosing a day other than Saturday may make it easier to negotiate rates and package prices with your choice venue. If you must have a Saturday date, consider a daytime wedding for lower cost. Bonus - better lighting for your photography and more time for the honeymoon.
Avoid the high season. Most weddings take place from May to October. Scheduling your wedding for January through March or April, the off-season time, may help you shave off about a third of your wedding cost.
Get a nice dress without a killer price tag. Buying the dress doesn't have to break the bank. Try finding dress shops that are having sample sales. These sales typically happen once a year when dress shops want to make room for new styles. If you don't mind getting a style from last year, this could be gold for you! Shop on eBay, Craigslist, Etsy, and other websites for great deals on dresses. You can also cut costs by choosing a lower-end fabric or go with less beading and lace on your dress. You might consider renting or borrowing your dress. If someone in your family, or a friend, is a seamstress, ask if they'd like to make your dress as your wedding gift.
Floral and fauna cuts. Break with tradition, not your budget. Choose seasonal and local flowers for yours and your bridesmaids bouquets. In-season flowers are typically less expensive than flowers that are not blooming yet. Try RealSimple's Wedding Flower Guide to find in-season flowers for your wedding. Using potted ferns and simple candles to decorate the alter and reception entrance can also be economical and elegant. Silk flowers are an inexpensive alternative for table centerpieces, bouquets, and other decor. Bonus - you can usually find a representative of any off-season flower, if you absolutely must have those three-foot-long calla lilies.
Cut the cake. Purchase a beautiful, but small, cake to cut at the reception. Serve quests from a large sheet cake in the kitchen, or use small cakes on each table that double as centerpieces and dessert. You can also purchase a simple wedding cake and add your own decorations, such as fresh or silk flowers.
Photography is important, but shouldn't break your budget. Choose an experienced photographer who offers digital files on a CD for a low price and print them yourself at a photolab for a fraction of the cost.
Shop smarter. Focus your spending on your end goal and resist impulse buys. Ask yourself if you really need that $300 leather-wrapped guest book, or if the simple $25 book will suffice. Or get creative and create your own wedding guest book with some scrapbooking supplies! Here and here are some unique ideas for guest books.
To have and to hold. The ceremony is one area where many couples overlook ways to customize their wedding and still save money. Find a location that's meaningful to you both and have your ceremony and reception at the same venue, if possible. Include favorite songs or readings in the ceremony. Use personal photographs of you and your intended, together and separate, as row decorations instead of flowers. Skip the aisle runner - no one sees it and it just ends up in the trash, really just money you're throwing away.
At the end of the day, a wedding is what you make it. Whether that's a simple ceremony on the beach or a hugh celebration in a far-flung locale, by cutting corners and customizing your wedding, you can live happily ever after without starting out in the red.
Before you tie the knot, stop by the credit union. We can help you plan your finances for your big day.