Trey Peterson, 30, and his fiancée were financially stable, but the kind of wedding they wanted was still out of their price range. To afford it, they needed to be smart—and somewhat ruthless.
That’s because weddings have gotten more and more expensive. WeddingWire, a service that helps connect couples with wedding planners, venues, and more, published a 2019 study that found the average one now costs $38,700, though that includes $5,000 for an engagement ring and $4,500 for honeymoon expenses.
WeddingWire’s team also found the average couple only pays for around half of the total wedding costs, with family members and friends chipping in to cover the rest—so if you’re trying to get a sense of how much to save, half of about $40,000, or $20,000, could be a good goal.
A lot of the cost stems from the number of people, products, and services involved with planning such a big event. By WeddingWire’s data, the average couple hires 14 vendors for their big day.
Costs can vary considerably depending on factors like your desired date and location, and how many guests you plan to invite. Here’s how those costs commonly break down.
Peterson, who works as a financial professional at Minnesota-based financial advisory firm Haven Financial Group, helps other people lay out financial plans for weddings. Here are a few of his savings tips:
For Peterson, who lives in Minnesota, saving up for his wedding meant cutting out a lot of things he and his then-fianceé enjoyed, such as dining out or going to Vikings football games, but making small sacrifices was easier knowing that he and his future wife were working together toward a big goal. There would be plenty of dinner dates and football games in the future, after all. “It’s the first time, for most single people, that you’re working with someone else toward a [financial] goal,” Peterson says. That can make saving for a wedding more rewarding, and the buildup to the big day can double as a bonding experience, since it’s something you’re working toward together.
After they trimmed their budget, the couple took the cash they saved and stashed it away in an envelope to use for a particular element of their upcoming wedding. “On the envelope we would write ‘videographer,’” he says. “Over about three months, we had enough cash in there to pay for it. Then we started another one for a photographer.” The plan worked. All told, Peterson and his wife came up with around $10,000, or half of $20,000, over a six-month period to put toward their wedding costs.
Look for ways to earn extra money that you can dedicate to your goal. Peterson says that in college, he worked as a valet and witnessed a coworker and his girlfriend make $17 an hour parking cars, which eventually helped pay for their wedding. Peterson actually managed the valet company for four years—which allowed him to earn tips on top of his hourly pay—that helped him build up his savings. “If you can pick up a job with tips,” he says, “that cash accumulates fast.”
In the end, only pay what you can for your big day. It can put a lot of strain on a young marriage when you’re in the red from the get-go, says Peterson, adding, “I always, always say, ‘Don’t go into debt for your wedding.’”
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