If you're engaged, planning a wedding on a budget is an excellent way to say "I do" to starting married life on solid financial ground.
And you don't need to forego your dream wedding. You can have your wedding cake and eat it too by learning how to budget, set priorities, and get creative with inexpensive wedding ideas.
First, financially savvy couples will want to get a realistic idea of typical wedding costs. In 2017, the average cost of a weddingin South Carolina was $33,937, while tying the knot in Tennessee totaled $27,554 on average. The most expensive place in the Southeast to get married is South Florida, with an average wedding price tag of $40,634 — well above the national average.1 The good news? You can plan a beautiful wedding for much less.
The best wedding savings strategies are those that allow you to save without sacrificing your priorities. Here are five ways to plan a wedding on a budget of $10,000 or less by trimming the highest wedding costs.
1. Say yes to a rented dress.
Grooms often save by renting tuxedos, but many brides don't realize they can cut costs by renting a wedding dress.2 While the average wedding dress costs over $1,500 (plus an additional $280 for accessories), you can rent a gown for just a few hundred dollars.3 Some dress rental companies even offer packages that include accessories. By renting, you also save on cleaning costs, preservation, and storage fees after the wedding. Save even more by renting your jewelry too.
2. Tie the knot in a free venue.
Finding a free or low-cost space to wed can cut your total costs in half. The average reception venue in 2017 cost $15,163, with the ceremony site tacking another $2,311 onto the bill.1 Do you have a friend, family member, neighbor, or coworker who would let you use their barn, backyard garden, farm, urban loft, or large country home for free for both the ceremony and reception? If not, consider a national or state park, where you might be able to rent space for $200 or less. Here's how to hold a wedding at a state park in Alabama,4Georgia,5South Carolina,6or Tennessee.7 Let nature decorate by choosing an especially beautiful time at the park, such as when wildflowers are in bloom or when fall foliage is at its peak.
You can cut wedding costs in half by choosing a free or inexpensive venue to double as the location for both the ceremony and reception.
3. Trim reception food costs.
Food can take an enormous bite out of the wedding budget, ringing up at an average total of $9,520 (based on a typical cost of $70 per person with 136 guests).1 To save on reception food, keep your menu and service style casual.8 One option: a morning wedding with a brunch reception. If you're planning a later wedding with a pre-meal cocktail hour, forego servers and fancy appetizers in favor of a simple-but-elegant spread of cheeses, fruit, and olives. For lunch or dinner, consider buffet or "family style" meal service. Bringing your own beverages or limiting options to non-alcoholic drinks (such as sodas, mocktails, or smoothies) can add to the savings. And for the cake: a tiered cupcake "cake" is a fraction of a traditional wedding cake's cost.
4. Fine-tune your musical choices.
Music is another area where couples can save substantially. A wedding D.J. costs about a quarter of the price of a live band.1 Even less expensive: DIY itwith a playlist created by the couple, a rented sound system, and the help of your friends.9 To personalize the music even more, you can ask friends to suggest their favorite songs.
5. Include free or inexpensive touches.
Sometimes it's the personalization of the ceremony and reception that linger in guests' minds long after the last slice of cake is eaten. For example: a ring warming ceremony is a free and meaningful way to include guests in the ceremony. 10 At the reception, consider letting guests put a "message in a bottle" that the couple will open on a milestone anniversary. For fun, get some inexpensive hats, eyeglasses and other props and create a DIY photo booth.11
If you follow these tips, you can hold a beautiful wedding for much less than the typical wedding cost. With average wedding costs so high, you could even save enough to start married life by putting a down payment on your dream house.
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This content is general in nature and does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.
The Knot, "The National Average Cost of a Wedding is $33,391" accessed September 24, 2018
Brides, "Should You Rent Your Wedding Dress? Pros & Cons to Help You Decide" accessed September 24, 2018
The Knot, "This Was the Average Cost of a Wedding Dress in 2017" accessed September 24, 2018
Alabama State Parks, "Weddings" accessed September 24, 2018
Georgia Department of Natural Resources, "Weddings in Georgia State Parks" accessed September 24, 2018
South Carolina State Parks, "Weddings" accessed September 24, 2018
Tennessee State Parks,"Weddings" accessed September 24, 2018
Money Crashers, "23 Cheap Wedding Reception Food & Drink Menu Ideas on a Budget" accessed September 24, 2018
NerdWallet, "To Save Money on Wedding Music, Scratch the DJ and DIY" accessed September 29, 2018
Easy Weddings, "Everything You Need to Know About Having a Ring-Warming Ceremony" accessed October 5, 2018
Brides, "7 DIY Photo Booth Supplies Your Guests Will Love" accessed September 24, 2018
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