Can your dream wedding cost less than $10K?
It’s officially wedding season. That means it’s also wedding planning season, given that ceremonies can take a year or more to map out: The average engagement now lasts 15 months, according to the Knot.
If you’re thinking about getting hitched any time soon, the first question you’re probably asking is, “How can I save money while still keeping it classy?” After all, the average cost of getting married is staggering, now more than $35,000, according to the Knot, not including a honeymoon.
That includes an average dress price of more than $1,500. And, while median prices are more reasonable, you’ll still likely end up paying more than you want to — particularly in a pricey spot like Manhattan: The Knot says average costs there can be more than $78,000. “Couples [are spending] more per guest to create an unforgettable experience for those closest to them,” Kellie Gould of the Knot said in a press release. “From invitations to the reception band, couples are spending more to put their personal stamp on every detail.”
No surprise, then, that tech professional Sarah Schacht published an article on Medium last year titled “Happy Bride: How I Dumped the Wedding Industry” about planning her nuptials on a budget of less than $10,000. The post went viral, and Schacht, who has worked in events planning, says she is now writing a book about how to think about saving for a wedding. She has also given a talk — video embedded below — in which where she discussed how aggressive the “wedding industrial complex can be,” noting she received critical and defensive comments like, “Your guests will get food poisoning, because you’re so selfish,” and “We charge more because brides expect perfection and flip out if they don’t get it.”
Feeling determined to make your day special — but not destroy your credit in the process? Mic spoke with Schacht and reviewed other expert advice to find out how to break the mold a bit and plan a wedding that actually works for you and your budget. These five moves will save you serious coin.
Choosing a venue is the one part of the wedding you’ll want to think longest and hardest about. According to the Knot, the wedding venue is the most expensive part of the wedding, with an average cost of more than $16,000.
The key to saving on your venue is doing your homework and picking your battles. You might be surprised: If you think getting married at home will save you money, the Knot warns it may not.
“Between rentals on everything from tents to portable toilets, creating an event where they usually aren’t hosted (whether it’s a home or a bare-bones space) costs a lot more than a traditional venue,” Amy Levin Epstein writes. And contrary to popular belief, you can actually have a destination wedding for a reasonable price — if you just keep everything in the same space. Focus on choosing a site “that can do double-duty for your ceremony and reception.”
“Not only will you save on venue fees, you’ll also cut costs on transportation and possibly flowers,” Epstein writes. Those costs can climb to up to $4,000, according to Jennifer Stiebel of Soco Events in Washington, D.C.
Schacht says she saved money by booking two adjacent venues for her wedding — an antique shipyard on Lake Washington with sweeping views of the Seattle skyline, and a docked Edwardian ship that holds two dozen guests. These two venues served as makeup and staging area, wedding and reception place, after-party venue, wedding night stay and Sunday brunch spot.
Booking the venues also allowed her to save on decorations, which she argued was the most superfluous expense most weddings incur.
Other couples may save money by renting out a large home or lodge that can handle both a wedding ceremony and overnight stays for guests. Wedding-Spot.com has a huge inventory of wedding-ready homes that can be sorted by budget — ones that can be had for just a few thousand dollars a night.
Weddings at state parks are also increasingly common. “They are perfect for outdoor ceremonies and breathtaking receptions,” says ProEventDecor.com, though they note you might decide to spend a bit extra to transform the space. Farms, barns and ranch weddings also increased from 2% in 2009 to 12% in 2016, according to the Knot, while historic buildings and homes rose in popularity from 9% in 2009 to 13% in 2016.
“You really need to sit down with your fiancée and decide what do you really want and need, and what do you feel like is an [outside] expectation you have that might be hard to meet within your current budget,” Schacht said.
After all, if you manage expectations by broadcasting to friends and family the plan for the day through your invitations and wedding website, most guests won’t even notice the choices you make that involve cutting costs. “It becomes a much easier process of separating what people tell you that you need, from what people actually want,” Schacht said.
So first prioritize what’s important to you — splurging more on the food or music and spending less on the venue, for instance — and you’ll save money, while still being true to yourself, your partner and your relationship.
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