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How to Pay for a Wedding: Keep Costs Tame & Organized

Figuring out how to pay for a wedding? It's no easy feat. You want a beautiful wedding but don't need to break the bank: here's how to make your wedding budget work for you.

The average cost of a wedding in 2019 was $33,900, according to a survey by The Knot. And if you’re recently engaged or plan to become engaged soon, this is probably the part where you start to panic a bit.

As unrealistic as it might seem right now, plenty of couples have come before you and have planned their dream weddings at every price point.

You'll learn:

  • How to pay for a wedding
  • How to prep for wedding saving
  • How to organize wedding spending
  • A tool to plan and track your expenses

How to Pay For a Wedding

For most couples, their wedding is the most expensive event they’ll plan in their lifetimes. It’s understandable—everyone wants their wedding day to be perfect. Because of how costly weddings have become, it’s important to figure out early on how exactly you plan to pay for your big day. Let’s talk about a few ways that people fund their weddings.

The Parents Foot the Bill

Traditionally, the parents (mostly the bride’s) were the ones paying for the big day. And while many wedding traditions have gone by the wayside, parents chipping in is one that seems to have stuck. 

According to a 2016 survey from The Knot, only 10% of couples end up paying for their wedding entirely on their own. Most of the time, parents are chipping in. On average, parents pay for about $19,000 of the wedding—the bride’s parents spend an average of $12,000, while the groom’s parents pay about $7,000.

This isn’t to say you should automatically expect a family member to foot the bill. When you start wedding planning, sit down with everyone involved to figure out if (and how much) people plan to contribute. 

Wedding Loans

Nearly one-third of couples borrow money to pay for their weddings. This number has increased significantly in recent years. Couples turn to either credit cards or personal loans from a financial institution to help cover the costs, with plans to pay it off afterward.

Going into debt and potentially impacting your credit score to pay for your wedding may not be the most financially sound decision. You and your spouse-to-be should think long and hard about whether starting your marriage saddled with this debt is really the way to go.

Prep for Wedding Saving

There are two stages of wedding budgeting—the saving stage and the spending stage. One is definitely more fun than the other (I'll let you decide which one).

1. The Saving Stage: Start Right Now

Cut Back on Expenses

Many of us don’t have a ton of wiggle room in our budgets. That means that if you’re going to facing wedding expenses soon, you’ll probably need to figure out a way to spend less. Take a look at your monthly budget and figure out what you can cut, either temporarily or permanently. Maybe you and your future spouse are willing to spend less on dining out or entertainment for a while if it means being able to pay for your dream wedding. 

Get a Second Job

There’s only a finite amount you can cut from your monthly budget. To set aside even more money for your wedding, you might also consider temporarily picking up a second job. 

A little can go a long way. Let’s say you pick up a job working about 10 hours per week at $15 per hour. If you keep that up for one year, you’ll end up with an extra $7,800 to put toward your wedding. If you have a two-year engagement, you’re looking at $15,600. For some couples, that’s enough to pay for the whole wedding.

If you need some ideas right now on how to save more, we've got 10 ways to spend less money to get you going.

2. The Spending Stage: Organize It!

In our hardly impartial opinion, we heartily recommend using You Need a Budget as a tool to plan your wedding on a budget (because it is a budget!). Our proven four-step method will help you allocate your wedding spending, and Rule One is “Give every dollar a job.” Once you’re engaged, you’ll be ready to decide how to allot your wedding funds. First, wrangle together any outside wedding funds you’ve received from your partner, parents, or your own savings to figure out how much you actually have in your Wedding fund.

Next, create a list for all of the components you’d like to include in your wedding day such as ceremony venue, reception venue, stationery, wedding website, food, drinks, flowers, photography, videography, transportation, attire, jewelry, beauty, decorations, favors, music, entertainment, gifts, officiant, and honeymoon.

Now, it's time to assign a price to each. There are two steps which will help you make informed projections for your subcategories. First, make a list of priorities with your partner. Think about the elements you can’t imagine your wedding without, and the parts that would be nice to have, but you wouldn’t mind skipping in order to stay within budget. Second, try to get a realistic feel for going rates. TheKnot will give you a good idea of venue and vendor prices, while Google Shopping is great for checking supply costs.

Here's a sample wedding budget based on the average costs of a wedding. Keep in mind your budget will probably look a lot different, because it's based on what matters to you and your partner, not a list of averages.

Your eyes might've just bugged out at the total, and keep in mind that you get to tell your money what to do, not the other way around. There's nothing wrong with spending a lot less or a lot more than that number. It's all based on what makes sense for you and what's most important to you!

While you're at it, check out this list of money questions to ask your partner. There's a whole section of questions to talk about if you're seriously dating or engaged.

3. More Spending: Be Flexible and Adjust as You Go

You'll soon find that the spending doesn't exactly line up with your plan laid out in the step above. That's OK and 110% normal! No worries, you’ll just need to adjust your list as you make wedding purchases. If your photographer turns out to be $200 more expensive than you’d budgeted, you’ll need to move $200 from another subcategory into your photography subcategory. For example, you could take $200 out of decor category, and select a more affordable centerpiece than you’d originally planned.

You’ll want to refer back to your list of priorities when rolling with the punches gets difficult. One of benefits of using a budget system like You Need a Budget is that it lets you buy things you want without guilt. That's because you know you can afford them, and you prioritize them. It’s okay to splurge on the parts of your wedding that are important to you, as long as you cut costs in other areas.

4. Still Spending, But Only Spend Money You Have

We want you to thoughtfully spend only the money you have. Using YNAB throughout the saving and spending stages of wedding budgeting will empower you to plan the wedding you want without going into debt or dipping into your emergency funds.

Developing healthy budgeting habits early will work untold wonders in your marriage. The financial habits you develop while planning your wedding will serve as a solid foundation for the rest of your marriage.

Planning a wedding and want to keep it within a budget? Get total control over your wedding spending with You Need a Budget. Try it free for 34 days (no credit card required).

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How to Pay for a Wedding: Keep Costs Tame & Organized