I know, I know. Traditionally, the bride's parents is responsible for paying for the wedding. My family just isn't set up that way. When we decided that we were going to have a wedding, we talked openly and agreed going in that we would be covering all of the expenses, and needed to remember that with each decision.
On top of that, we were new homeowners and also had a traditional Nigerian wedding that pulled from our bank accounts. When we first met with our planner, we gave her a number that we thought would be enough to get what we wanted. She quickly reassured us that with the amount we suggested, we could have a wedding, but it wouldn't be the wedding we wanted.
Talk about a reality check.
We set a number that we were comfortable with spending and tried our hardest to aim for it. But as expected, we exceeded it several months before our big day. Leading up to the wedding, we explored options that felt most like us and didn't conform just because that's what weddings "do" or "have". We also didn't "save" for our wedding prior to deciding to have one, but we quickly created a plan once we decided we were having one. We put money up specifically for those wedding expenses that we knew would come up.
Nate and I both agreed very adamantly that we would not go broke behind a wedding and if we were going to be broke after the wedding, we didn't need to have one.
Weddings are expensive. I don't care how big or small, simple or elaborate you try to make it. Even the small and simple affairs will likely require checks cut in amounts larger than us non-celebrities have ever spent on anything our entire lives. Bigger than any down payment you've ever put on a car. Checks larger than we had to pay to secure the lot for our home. Adding the word "wedding" to anything exponentially drives the price up. Wedding photography, wedding cake, wedding venue, the list goes on. The further along you get in planning, the more expenses start to appear. My biggest fear with having a wedding was that I'd wake up the next day feeling like we had wasted our money. Luckily, we woke up happy as could be reliving how nicely each and every detail came together.
If you are paying for a wedding completely or mostly on your own, plan for it, budget, and pay cash for it all.
When we started planning the wedding, we both set a goal to wake up Sunday morning after the wedding with all of our bills paid and to be completely wedding debt-free. We are happy to say, we stuck to it, held each other accountable, and paid each bill in advance with the money that we had in our joint account. If you and your future spouse are planning a wedding that you all will pay for, here are some ways to take care of it.
1. Decide at the Beginning
Have a serious conversation with your fiance at the beginning of planning and map out what both of you consider as must-haves, nice-to-haves, and can-do-withouts. Must-haves will be different for you both, but need to be agreed upon, such as a great photographer or a plated dinner. These items are worth the money because they're important to you, and will make or break your big day. Nice-to-haves may be an open bar, or uplighting, which may be must-haves for some brides. As time goes on and you see how quickly things add up, you will likely get more flexible on what you "must have".
Can-do-withouts are forgettable items that your guest may not even notice. These include wedding programs or party favors. Formulate a budget based on averages that you receive from your wedding planner, or the vendors you'll be using, and add at least $5,000 to that for last minute expenses that pop up. Because they WILL pop up.
2. Seek Help
Even if you and your fiance are going to be the primary financiers of your wedding, that doesn't mean you won't get help here and there. My second mom was so gracious to volunteer to pay for our wedding cake, and my mom bought my veil. They may not have been the bulk of our expenses, but believe me, a little bit goes a long way to chip away at that total dollar amount. Schedule dinner with your parents, aunts, or whoever you think may be in a position to help and suggest opting out of a wedding gift if they're willing to help with an item the day of.
Explain to them that photos you get to show your grandchildren mean much more to you than a can opener or toaster and you'd be so grateful if they could help. If they agree, when it comes time for payment, let them handle the payment directly with the vendor. This way they're not handing you cash, or having you act as a middle man. For those who do help, be sure and send them sincere thank you cards first. If you want to take it a step further, thank them in your wedding program or your dinner speech.
3. Put Money Up
The deposits are the easy part. The final payments hurt a little different! We opened a joint account so that we could each dump a certain amount of money in there every check, and we used that account to pay for wedding items. If your wedding budget is significant, you'll need to put up much more than $50 every two weeks. Learning how to work, save and budget together to achieve a shared (expensive) goal is great training for marriage! It may cause a few disagreements, but it's better to iron out those details now than after you say "I do".
So, starting with your end target dollar amount (the money you'll need to pay every vendor, plus tip), work backward and see how much you'll have to save monthly between now and your wedding to get there. Then, either divide those monthly savings goals in half or make it proportional to your incomes in order to establish what each of you should be putting away each month.
4. Make Extra Money
So much of the money that I used to pay for our wedding wasn't even money made from my 9-5. It was money that I'd already had sitting thanks to my blog, brand and side hustle. Nate has a corporate job, his own company, and works one day a month at Saks. Best believe he started extending discounts to make a couple extra hundred bucks to go towards the wedding. Weddings are SO stressful, even if money is not a worry. The details alone will break you out in hives. I was SO glad that worrying about finances was not keeping me up at night. It was more so thinking about if the lighting color I chose was going to transform the room to give off the vibe I was hoping for than anything else.
If there is anything you can pick up to make some extra money leading up to the wedding, I encourage you to do it. Whether it be selling the clothes you never wear to a consignment store, to tutoring school kids if you're brainy like that, to simply digging around for freelance gigs in your field, you can, and should, think beyond your paycheck if you need more cash to dump into your wedding account. Worst case scenario? You have a ton of leftover money to buy whatever you want off of your wedding registry once it's all over.
If finding the money you need for a wedding still seems impossible after running all the numbers, it's time to start crossing things out. Go back to your must-haves/nice-to-haves and make some adjustments. Can you only comfortably afford to feed 200 people? If not, shave down your guest count. Do you need to downgrade your bar package from open bar, to beer and wine? Maybe you decide to give up Starbucks and manicures until after the wedding. You'll be amazed by how much money you can save with small changes. Making your bridesmaids bouquets 50% smaller, or re-purposing your centerpieces and tablescapes from the ceremony to the reception to cut down on your floral costs are all options. The more you trim off the top of each expenditure, the more you'll add to your total savings in the long run.
Another way to ensure you're stretching your money as far as it can go is by negotiating with your vendors. More often than not, the original quote you get from a vendor is just a starting point, and you may be able to wiggle their price down. It can feel uncomfortable to negotiate costs at first, since none of us are used to talking that intimately about money with strangers, and I certainly don't ever want you to disrespect a vendors talent by being unrealistic with your pricing, but remember that this is a part of the job for wedding vendors, and you shouldn't feel intimidated. Just remember to stay respectful and kind as you negotiate, and do plenty of research. The more you know and the nicer you are, the more leverage you'll have during negotiations.
6. Be Realistic
And stay that way. If you need to save $50,000 to have the wedding that you want, don't pick a date that's six months away if you'll need twice as long to save that amount of money. When dress shopping, don't even waste your time trying on dresses that are more than what you want to spend. There will absolutely be things that you will want, that you'll have to pass on. I promise you, when it's over, it will NOT matter that you didn't have a decal on your dance floor, or that you didn't leave your wedding in a Rolls Royce. (We Uber'd, by the way.) When your wedding day comes, you'll be so glad that you planned your dream wedding within the budget that you set, rather than within a budget you thought you'd have.
Waking up debt-free your first morning as husband and wife is literally my idea of "happily ever after".
As much money as weddings cost, they're completely doable. Especially now that it's done! If you have any other questions regarding paying for your own wedding, leave them below and I'll be sure and get them answered for you guys!
Originally published on The B Werd
Featured image by Farren Manuel via Courtney's Instagram