Paying For Your Own Wedding? Here’s How We Did It


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.

5. Sacrifice

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

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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