When my fiance and I got engaged in July 2019, we immediately started saving for our wedding. As the founder of Bridesmaid for Hire, I have watched hundreds of clients navigate these logistics and knew how fraught it could be. So even before we booked a date, decided on a guest list, or had an official budget, we opened up a savings account.
By February 2020, we'd saved about half of what we needed and had picked our wedding date: October 17. Then Covid-19 made us put everything wedding-related on pause. Just a few weeks after we sent out save the dates, we were ordering unsave the dates and canceling our plans. Luckily, we managed to get all our deposits back from vendors. We lost only around $250.
Figuring out future wedding plans didn't seem responsible, though, so my fiance and I decided to use our wedding budget for something else. The first step, though, was to keep putting money away.
When it came to wedding planning, my fiance and I were on the same page about two big issues. The first was that we'd pay for the wedding ourselves. We didn't want to put the financial burden of a big celebration on our parents. It wasn't something we felt comfortable doing. We were both established in our careers and felt if we wanted a wedding we'd find a way to budget, save, and pay for it ourselves.
The second thing we agreed on was cost.
We'd read that the average couple spends $33,931 on their wedding. We decided that a wedding budget of $25,000 was what we felt OK with. We also wanted to pay for the wedding in cash and not take on any credit card debt or personal loans. To get there, we figured we'd split it evenly and find ways to cut costs every month on things like dining out at restaurants, travel, shopping, and so on, so we could put money into our wedding account.
We started off by funding our wedding account with $2,000 each and then figured we'd add contributions as we could, on the last day of each month, so that we could save for our wedding over time.
Even after we had to cancel, we thought through how we'd continue to save until the original date of October 17, 2020, and decided to continue contributing $2,000 a month each. Even though the wedding wasn't happening like we planned, we were able to talk about how we wanted to use the budget in a way that would benefit our life together going forward.
A few months later, we had saved up the full $25,000. Friends and family suggested we use the cash to buy a car or put a down payment on a house. We had a different plan.
When we looked at the cash we've worked so hard to set aside in our wedding fund, we felt it made sense to keep a chunk of it in the bank. We decided to take a big portion of it and put it in different places that would essentially make us passive income over time.
First, we decided to let $5,000 stay in the high-interest online savings account we had opened. It started off earning 1.7% interest; since rates have gone down, though, it's currently earning 1% interest.
We then put about $15,000 into a CD that had a locked-in interest rate of 1.6% with a 12-month term and would also provide us with some passive income.
Lastly, we put $2,000 into the stock market. That was money we were OK leaving in the market for the next 5-10 years. As a new investor, I only started putting money into the stock market over the last few months and only in small enough amounts that I felt comfortable.
Since we didn't have a wedding to plan, we decided that we could invest our time and a little bit of the wedding money into our businesses. I wanted to spend some money giving the website of my 6-year-old business a makeover and hiring freelancers to help with marketing campaigns.
My fiance has wanted to get an idea of his off the ground and wanted to invest some of the money in product development. We decided to each take $1,000 from the wedding budget and use it to further our business ideas. We did this because we hoped that the money we put into our side hustles could eventually help us triple our income from the business. We'd easily be able to replace our initial investment from the wedding fund with that cash.
Pressing pause on the wedding plans did allow us to rethink some of the ways we thought about our professional development. We were so quick to put a lot of money into a wedding budget but so hesitant to pour that money into our businesses. We decided to switch up that logic and bet on ourselves.
It wasn't what we initially planned, but it was a positive way to put the money to good use for the moment.
Video by Courtney Stith
Stuck at home during quarantine, with no place to go and no wedding to plan, we decided the best use of our leftover wedding budget would be spent on learning new hobbies and skills, and on a pet.
We couldn't think of the last time we used our cash for an at-home activity or new project. We took the final $1,000 from our budget and used it for three new joint hobbies. The first was cooking. We bought a blender, hand mixer, and other kitchen tools all for around $250.
The second idea we had was to purchase workout equipment so we could get in shape from our living room. All told, we spent around $150 on weights, yoga mats, and kettlebells.
The third was a dog. We spent around $600 initially on adoption fees and vet visits. This was perhaps the best gift we could have given to ourselves, being able to focus on giving our new family member a great home, especially when so much was changing around us.
One thing I've seen firsthand about 2020 is how quickly so many savings and money goals have been put on pause or completely shifted. But it does put things in perspective. If we do end up planning a future wedding celebration, we have decided that it will have a budget a third of our original one, because we now have a better understanding of the things that matter most to us.
Jen Glantz is the founder and CEO of the business Bridesmaid for Hire, the voice of the podcast "You're Not Getting Any Younger,″ and the author of the Amazon-bestselling books "All My Friends Are Engaged″ and "Always a Bridesmaid for Hire."
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