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Nine Great Ways to Blow Your Wedding Budget

Written by Ed Avis - 18 Comments

Nine Great Ways to Blow Your Wedding Budget

Money problems are the top reason so many marriages collapse, people say. So if you want your marriage to collapse quickly, why not start the money problems early?

Here are nine tips for blowing your wedding budget, leading to more stress than any young couple can handle:

1. Plan your wedding for a Saturday

Saturdays are naturally the most popular days for weddings, and all the companies that provide services to weddings know this, so their rates at maximized that day. Friday night and Sunday weddings are becoming much more common, but holding a wedding on those days could save you thousands of dollars, so don’t bother.

2. Choose a typical wedding venue

Rental halls, fancy hotels, country clubs, popular houses of worship, and other typical wedding spots charge top dollar for weddings, especially on Saturdays (see tip #1). So don’t be creative and choose an out-of-the-way spot such as a public park, your parents’ farm, a civic building, or a zoo, because you might save lots of money. However, if you insist on getting married in an atypical location, choose one that’s not set to handle catering or such, because then the caterer will charge you extra.

3. Buy a fancy designer wedding dress

You watch “Say Yes to the Dress,” don’t you? Then you know that no wedding is complete without an excursion to a snazzy wedding dress shop where you can easily drop five grand on a dress. Make sure you don’t shop at sample or designer sales, because you can save lots of money at those places. And certainly don’t consider a used dress, even though most wedding dresses have only been worn once (or never). Finally, skip the idea of making your own dress or renting a dress, because those are the least expensive options.

4. Make sure your reception is at night

Don’t even think about an afternoon reception, where you could get away with light appetizers and wine spritzers, because that would cost a lot less. Instead, plan an evening reception where guests will expect a full meal. And let guests choose from several entrees rather than limiting the menu to one thing; remember, blowing the budget is the goal here!

5. Have a completely open bar

Don’t limit the choices, because that way when your show-off friend from college orders a martini made from some obscure brand of vodka, you’ll get charged the full price of the bottle even if that friend’s one drink is the only time that bottle is used. And forget the idea about serving only beer, wine, and soda, because that move could save you many thousands of dollars.

6. Get exotic flowers for all of your arrangements

Skip the locally grown flowers, because they will definitely cost a lot less than exotic blossoms. And make sure you have the top florist in town create the arrangements, rather than students from the local community college horticulture program. If you bought the flowers wholesale and did simple arrangements yourself you’d save hundreds, and who wants that?

7. Skip the homemade invitations

Buy the fanciest invitations you can find, with all the extra little sheets of paper and return envelopes. They’ll look great and cost a bundle! Some thrifty brides make their own invitations, which adds a personal touch to the affair, but that doesn’t cost nearly as much.

8. Buy the biggest photo/video package available

Trust me, you’ll want to pull out at least a thousand photos of your special day at each anniversary, so don’t skimp on the photo/video package. Most photographers charge based on the amount of time they’ll spend at your wedding, so ask your photog to stay around all night and shoot your reception, too. You’ll love the photos as much as the giant invoice! Whatever you do, don’t hire a photography student from your local university, because her invoice would be ridiculously small.

9. Buy elaborate favors

Everyone at your wedding needs something to take home — memories are not enough! Why enlist your friends to help make tasteful little favors when you could buy expensive, impersonal little pieces of junk at some party supply store?

If all of these tips don’t start your marriage off with a mountain of debt and the resultant stress, plan a giant, over-the-top honeymoon. Avoid the typical travel advice about saving money — such as flying on an off day, using money-saving hotel booking sites, or staying local — and blow any cash gifts that you received.

You’ll be amazed by how much debt you can accumulate with just one event!

Published on May 24th, 2012
Modified on June 10th, 2012 - 18 Comments
Filed under: Frugality

About the author: is a writer and editor in Oak Park, Illinois. He specializes in personal finance, parenting, and small business topics. He is married and has two sons.

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18 Responses to “Nine Great Ways to Blow Your Wedding Budget”

  1. 1
    Daisy Says:

    I didn’t know venues charge so much on Saturdays – it makes sense, though. I’ll have to keep that in mind.

    I’m going to do my best to email out invitations when the boy and I get married.

  2. 2
    Courtney Says:

    Actually, we skimped on wedding photography and it’s pretty much the only thing I regret. We were the first of our ‘group’ to get married, right out of college, and a photography minor friend and her BF (also a photography buff) did ours for just the cost of film. But once other friends started getting married and I saw their beautiful, professional photos/albums I sorely wished I had spent more.

  3. 3
    Donna Says:

    We’re getting married at a court house, and it was going to be $220 for Friday, and it is only $80 for Thursday. So, we’re getting married on Thursday!

    This is an interesting website: http://www.costofwedding.com/

    The average wedding in Seattle is $34,000! We’re spending about $400, including the license, the ceremony fee, and the re-sizing of my mother’s rings. Our gross hh income is $160,000, but it doesn’t mean we want to spend $34,000—or even $1000—on a wedding.

  4. 4
    donna Says:

    Then, there are always associated costs that one doesn’t consider. My mother bought me a new blouse for $30, and it likely cost $2-$3 in gas to go do that. His dad & wife are flying out, which is $1000+$700 for hotel. His mom is driving from a ways, which is $100 in gas/travel. My mom is driving; another $10. We’re going out somewhere to eat, so that’s another $300, I bet. They will all likely buy a gift even though we asked them not to.

    So, six people, and the most basic marriage ceremony and event is still fueling the economy with at least $3000, even though only $400 of it is coming from our pockets.

  5. 5
    Steve Says:

    The number one way and overarching all of these is “don’t think about what is really important to the two of you.”

    However, if something is important to you, don’t not get it/do it just because some blogger pooh-poohed it.

    For instance I 100% agree with Courtney – we spent a large portion of our costs on the photographer, and don’t regret it one bit. That’s the only tangible thing you get out of the event. (Which not to say it’s more important than the intangible things, including the marriage! and the happy memories of you and your guests)

    Point 1 is up for debate. We had a Sunday wedding and the bar would have cost us 50% extra on bartending because it was treated like a holiday, i.e. time and a half pay. I guess that ended up saving us money in the end – we just didn’t have a bar, open or otherwise. Though of course some of our guests weren’t too happy about that…

  6. 6
    RS Says:

    Doing the whole wedding planning thing right now, (in the DC area, so I know inflated prices!) and while I was a strong advocate of a courthouse wedding, I think it’s definitely depends on what you value.

    1) For example, yes the Saturday wedding is more expensive, but it allows our family & friends who cannot imagine not attending, the opportunity to attend. Traveling during the week is difficult due to work.
    2) Typical venues have the benefit of being well coordinated for someone (like me) who doesn’t care about details. They have a variety of options, generally customizable depending on your budget & preference.
    4) Again, the night wedding gives our friends and family more flexibility, since they want to attend. For us, the cost of Saturday + night = 30% more per person. We are lucky this isn’t a problem for us, and more than half of those people are spending well over $100 just to attend.
    5) Since our venue offers packages, open bar is an extra 6 – 10% per person (depends on how many hours). Kind of in the noise compared to the 19% “Taxable Service Fee” that cannot be escaped. >|
    6) We’re getting exotic flowers. But we’re getting pot plants of exotic flowers. Half the cost compared to an arrangement and should last a lot longer.
    7) Totally depends on what you do for home-made invitations. Mine are fairly elaborate (more elaborate than anything I could find to buy..) You have to pay for 100 different sorts of paper & vellum (not to mention samples). And then you get to cut, print, glue, printing press inks, etc.. And time is $$.. Even the fanciest invitations I looked at cost less than the total cost of mine will be. Again, it comes down to what you value.

    It’s a combination of what you value and what’s within your means. For us, it’s the only opportunity our families will ever have to meet. It is much more than what I envisioned, but I did not expect our family to want to be there and be willing to travel such large distances (fam is all over the world). Since it’s the joining of families and our families are willing to do what it takes to be able to meet each other, to us, it’s one of those priceless moments… and we’re just making sure we can do it within reason.

  7. 7
    Buck Says:

    It seems like a lot of money gets spent on people doing what they think they are “supposed to do” for a wedding. That’s fine if you can afford it and it adds meaning to the day. But for those who don’t have extensive resources, it doesn’t hurt to put on the practical hat for a while and think about what your true goal is for the wedding. If the idea is to have a celebration of the love between the two of you with your family and friends, you probably don’t need to bring in that third ice sculptor.

  8. 8
    Conrad Says:

    I think a lot of these have to do with your culture. Our wedding was an all day event which ended with a banquet. So, banquet had to be at night. The wedding also had to be a weekend because we don’t want people to take a day off from work to attend our wedding. Sunday is also out of the question since we don’t want our friends to hold back from having fun because they have to wake up early for work the next day.

    At first, I didn’t care about the photo/video but after seeing the result, I am glad we paid for it. We might have gotten good result from a photography student or might not. It is not like you can have a do over of your wedding day. You can put on the same clothes but there is no way you can bring back all the guests.

    Anyway, we did have a budget and we came under budget. We setup a separate saving account and auto deposit a fix amount to it every month the moment we decided we want to get married. This also gave us a chance to see if we can work together for a long duration for a common goal. :)

  9. 9
    Lance@MoneyLife&More Says:

    Funny but true and makes sense. When I get married it is going to be on a small budget so I’ll have to not do any of these things :)

  10. 10
    JV Says:

    I agree that couples should consider what is most important to them for their wedding. However, shouldn’t couples also consider the dollar value attached? The average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is just over $27,000. I can think of many other ways to spend that instead of on one hyped-up day. If we were all rich, it would be a trivial matter, but since this is a personal finance tip site, I figure we should share idea on how to make the best financial decisions.

    That is, unless you’re paying :)

  11. 11
    BG Says:

    We spent around $250, 11 years ago. Huge weddings are just a massive expense for a new couple, unless someone else is footing the bill (rich parent).

  12. 12
    Michelle Says:

    I’m currently in the process of planning a wedding, so I’m pretty familiar with the costs associated.

    1. I second what another commenter said….Sundays are sometimes treated like overtime. Also, depending on your venue/location, there may be restrictions on what types of alcohol can be served at certain times of the day on Sunday.
    2. While there can be savings with picking a non-traditional venue, we found that some required extra deposits or were a bit more restrictive in what could/couldn’t be done. We picked a popular wedding venue, and the in-house catering manager had a lot of “extras” that we could use free of charge, rather than go out and buy/rent ourselves. We’re also able to purchase flowers at wholesale prices through our catering manager, costing far less than through a florist. And as mentioned in the article, a non-typical venue can push catering costs higher if the location doesn’t have the appropriate facilities.
    5. Paying per opened bottle is certainly not the only option for open bars. Most venues/open bars either charge per drink or a flat rate per head. It IS possible to have a completey open bar without blowing your budget. There are venues that allow you to bring your own alcohol, which can be a HUGE savings. We’re bringing our own and having a completely open bar and will spend about $1600 for a 200 person, 6hr reception, rather than the $6000+ we’d spend by paying per drink/per person for a 4 hour reception (and that’s on the low end of the quotes we received).
    7. I agree with RS, it totally depends on the invitations. And it depends on what your time is worth if you’re making your own.
    8. It seems to me that skimping on photography is a really common wedding regret. I’ve never heard someone say they wish they hadn’t spent so much, but I’ve heard plenty of people say they wish they hadn’t skimped.

  13. 13
    Steve Says:

    Regarding #8: Cutting down the hours the photographer is present is good money-saving advice.

    However, if you care about how your photos come out, do NOT hire a student photographer. Come to think of it, do NOT hire ANY photographer who can’t show you great photography from several weddings.

    Wedding photography requires a photographer to handle a range of quickly changing situations and to know how to make good images in all of them. Generally speaking, students can’t hack it. Heck, even 50% of the people who call themselves wedding photographers aren’t great.

    I’m a photo editor by trade; I see work by different photographers every day.

    If you want to hire a student/amateur to

  14. 14
    John Says:

    I just recently got engaged and we are planning on getting married in August, on a Wednesday. Both our families are having reunions the weekend before, which is bringing a few relatives from great distances. Some others will need to take off work to attend, but not a huge number. We both have large families so even when strictly limiting our invitations we will still have 60-80 people.

    The ceremony itself will be simple, short, and will be held in her parents’ back yard.

    We will be using the local Knights of Columbus hall for the reception and the families are coming together to prepare the meal(we are roasting an entire pig). I think I can also use the chairs from the Knight’s hall for the wedding. The preparation of the meal promises to be a melding of our two families and a great cost saver for us. We haven’t discussed photography yet but I’m sure we will keep it modest. Her family has religious beliefs that eliminate the need for a bar.

  15. 15
    Jeff Says:

    I got married in December. We have the available funds to have done whatever we wanted and a close friend is one of the top wedding planners in NYC who offered their services for free. However, we decided to do it ourselves and to elope.

    Total cost of the wedding and honeymoon was around $3500.

    We live in S FL and eloped at our cousins water front home and they performed the ceremony. My wife wanted a dress and the cost for her dress and shoes and a new shirt for me, was about $750. A friend, who is a professional photographer, took the pictures and charged us $350 for his time and a disc of the images. We shot pre-wedding photo’s at a meditation garden in a local park. My wife is a artist and used the raw photo’s to make a beautiful wedding album and video on our Mac. Total cost for 4 albums to share with the families was $240. I made the bouquet and the boutonniere from flowers I got at a florist for about $75. I also made and decorated the wedding cake for about $50.

    We drove to a little romantic town on the water and rented a B&B/bungalow for 10 days for about $1200. We did most of the cooking ourselves.

    Including all meals, incidentals, travel, etc, the whole experience cost around $3500.00.

    Two months later, we had a dinner at our favorite restaurant in our hometown, with many of the members from both sides of the family (who were all in town for a holiday). We also took pictures and made them into an album and video. The dinner was paid for by the parents as a gift and the cost of the video/photo albums was another $250.

    Both of us had been married before with large expensive weddings and we both agreed, this was much more memorable, fun, intimate and romantic.

  16. 16
    Melissa@LittleHouseInTheValley Says:

    I agree that you should pay for a professional photographer and look at his/her work beforehand. We paid 10% of our wedding budget for our photographer and were pleased. I didn’t need a fancy dress though. The dress was less than 5% of the overall wedding cost. We also did a Friday night wedding AND got married in the winter, when most other people don’t get married, so our costs were lower.

  17. 17
    Simon Says:

    My cousin recently had a wedding on Thursday, so really middle of the week. He paid much less, however, I must say, guests were not happy at all – most of them had to go to the work next day and many didn’t even come. So it has both advantages and disadvantages.

    Here, in Poland, people used to make really big weddings. But now, things are moving towards more humbly style, since most young people are low on budget.

    Overall nice article, waiting for more from you Ed :)

  18. 18
    Ashley Says:

    Yikes. That was kind of unpleasant to read. I get it, you’re being sarcastic.

    Not that I don’t totally agree with you.

    I work in the wedding industry and I see how people blow their budgets right out of the water. Include whatever luxuries you can afford and are important to you – but the key is ‘afford.’ People go crazy trying to compete with the magazines and the overly styles culture of weddings. It’s yucky.

    Though I do really have to disagree with you about the photography. Please please please, rely on the professionals. You don’t have to get the biggest package. Get the package the represents how you’re likely to use your photos and get the best that you can afford. But read a ton of reviews, and choose someone who knows what they are doing. It’s not as easy a job as people think.

    (I’m no photographer – I just really feel for them. Their work is some of the hardest)

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