Ah weddings. Such a delightful, yet complicated topic. This blog will address how to approach the financial impact of having your own wedding and I’ll also touch on proper etiquette when attending a wedding. Weddings are probably the pinnacle of social financial anxiety.
Saving for a Wedding is Like Saving for Anything Else
For most people, saving for a wedding is daunting for a few reasons. One major reason why it’s challenging for most millennials is that we’re good at taking out loans, but you can’t really do that for a wedding. There is no explicit loan option or “payment plan” like with other larger purchases such as a new car, mortgage, or college tuition. Additionally, modern day society encourages having large, extravagant weddings that will be remembered forever.
I hate to break it to you but there is no secret on how to save for a wedding. Saving for a wedding is like saving for any other large purchase in life. Where and how you spend money comes down to mindset and values. Actually saving money comes down to execution.
If you are not yet engaged or married, you should start saving now, not just for a wedding, but anything in life. When I was in my early 20’s I had no responsibilities except to go to work. The lack of real responsibility made it too easy to say “yes” to going out every weekend with friends because there were no large costs in the foreseen future; no children, no mortgage or upkeep. In reality, the best time to start saving and investing is when we’re young, that’s because of a concept called compound interest.
How to Save Money
Learning how to save money in general will help with saving for a wedding. Set up a method to track income and expenses. Without tracking expenses, there is no tangible way to know where money is going. Allot at least 15 minutes a week on tracking your money.
After you’ve tracked, the easiest way for a millennial to save for a wedding or anything else for that matter is to set a certain amount of money aside EACH AND EVERY PAYCHECK. Similar to money that gets taken out for your 401k for retirement, you should allot a certain amount of money to be put into a brokerage (investment account) each paycheck. Speaking of the 401k, if you want to learn more about that, don’t forget to check out my blog which I’ll link here.
I’ll give you my personal breakdown of expenses. Do this with me and substitute in your own numbers.
My take home pay per month (without overtime) is $2,200 AFTER 34% of my pay goes into 401k, HSA, health, dental insurance deductions, and after allocating $500 a month into my IRA.
First, I must pay NECESSARY bills & FIXED EXPENSES (housing, groceries, transportation, phone, healthcare, pets). To learn more about fixed expenses and budgeting read my blog about saving for the unexpected which I will link here.
Here is the (estimated) breakdown of my fixed expenses per month:
After all my NECESSARY expenses, I’m left with $1,000. Now, I can either choose to spend it all on subscription boxes, makeup, drinks at the bar, toys for my cat, regular massages, and clothes OR I can SAVE & INVEST that money. This is how saving works! You have the CHOICE to save your leftover money.
Look, I’m not perfect, I have plenty of discretionary expenses per month. For example, I have a Netflix subscription, I go to restaurants on the weekends, and I occasionally buy new clothes. On average, each month I spend an additional $370 on things I don’t really NEED to survive, I just want these things because I MADE A CONSCIOUS DECISION THAT THESE THINGS (unnecessary expenses) ADDED VALUE TO MY LIFE.
Here’s the (estimated) breakdown of my discretionary spending per month:
Household care: $50
This leaves me $630 to SAVE & INVEST each month. Now remember, even though this seems small, I am MAXING my 401k, IRA, and HSA. If I wanted to save even more money, I would have to reassess my discretionary spending.
A Different Outlook on Wedding Costs
Every purchase you make you MUST think about the opportunity cost.
Let’s assume wedding A costs $30,000 and wedding B costs $10,000.
If you invested $30,000, after 30 years assuming historic market return of 8%, you would have just over $300,000.
If you invested $10,000, after 30 years assuming historic market return of 8%, you would have just over $100,000.
What Does this Math Mean?
- If you chose to have wedding A, spending $30,000 would cost you $300,000 in opportunity cost (meaning you had an opportunity to make more money but you spent it).
- If you chose to have wedding B, spending $10,000 would cost you $100,000 in opportunity cost.
- Having wedding B you would save $20,000 upfront and save $200,000 in opportunity cost.
- This math does NOT mean don’t have a wedding! This math is just opening your eyes to what opportunity cost means.
Aka – opportunity cost is something you are giving up. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s just the fact that you need to acknowledge you are giving up one thing to get another.
10 Major Costs to Consider
I am not a wedding planner so all this advice is my personal advice/experience with wedding planning. My biggest advice is to not be afraid to respectfully ask your vendors for a better rate.
Here is the breakdown of costs that you will need to consider when saving for a wedding:
- Venue fee: you may pay this to the church or facility in which you decide to have your ceremony & reception.
- Printed materials: save the dates, invites, thank you notes etc. This can add up quickly. If you are on a budget, I suggest mailing postcards for your save the date and thank you cards as these are typically cheaper and you’ll also save on postage. I would suggest using an online service such as Wedding Wire, The Knot, or Zola. These sites allow you to post updates regarding your wedding without having to pay for printed materials. For example, instead of purchasing the more expensive invite with the mail back RSVP, you can simply tell your guests to do it online so you save on both printed material and postage.
- Gifts/favors: In our situation, we had a full day of events planned for our wedding so we did not feel the need to pay additional money for wedding favors. Also, consider the size of your wedding party as there can be a potential financial burden with having and being in a wedding party.
- Attire: Wedding dresses and tuxedos are not cheap. I wore my mother’s wedding dress which she had preserved for me. It only cost $300 in alteration fees as opposed to buying a brand new wedding dress which could have cost anywhere from $1,000 – $10,000. That’s quite a range so if you’re on a budget be mindful that you can absolutely find a beautiful dress on sale.
- Rings: Every girl wants a diamond but we’re living in 2020 and there are plenty of diamond alternatives if you are on a budget; one in particular is Moissanite. Another idea is to wait for Valentine’s day or holiday sales!
- Hair/Makeup: Think about doing your own hair and makeup for your big day to save money!
- Flowers: Shop around & choose flowers that are in season with when you are having your wedding.
- Catering and drinks: The cost per person for the average wedding is $100. If you invite 50 people to your wedding, you’re paying $5,000 for food and drink! Versus, if you invite 200 people you’re looking at $20,000! That’s an astronomical cost difference right there so choose your guests wisely!
- Photography/Videography: This can get pricey. Perhaps you choose to omit engagement photos to save money. Perhaps you only hire the photographer for a certain amount of hours rather than the whole day. Another idea is to skip the videography as this can cost an extra $3,000. Look for amateur photographers in the area who are willing to work at a cheaper rate or, if you value photography, find a photographer with a good package deal.
- Decorations: This is very much optional. If you are looking to stay on a low cost budget I would either make your own decorations, buy used decorations, or skip it entirely.
Take into consideration the 80/20 principle. With respect to everyone’s culture and beliefs, you COULD put on a $100,000 wedding or you COULD put on a $20,000 wedding and still have it be the best day of your life.
Proper Guest Etiquette
You should never feel obligated to give a certain amount of money. If you are invited to the bridal shower and have the means, I would suggest purchasing a gift off of the wedding registry. At the physical wedding, a cash envelope is usually expected.
If the bride and groom are not grateful with what you give, then they are clearly not good friends. If you want to attend a wedding but the gift giving makes you wary, perhaps you write a really heartfelt card.
A co-worker or acquaintance is expected to give less money ($50-$100). A lifelong friend should give more ($75-$200) considering the length and strength of the relationship. Being part of the wedding party is a gift in itself so don’t feel obligated to give as much in cash form ($75-$150). Family tends to give the most money with upwards of $500 per person.
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T STRESS: People tend to use the exchange method with gift giving anyways. “If you gave me $100 for my wedding then I’ll give you $100 when you get married” type of deal. Ask yourself if you got $100 from the bride/groom for your wedding would you believe that is fair considering your relationship?
Long story short: give what you feel comfortable giving. If you get any financial anxiety over the amount, you are likely giving too much.
Saving for a wedding doesn’t have to be as hard as you once thought! Please drop a comment below and let me know how you budgeted for your own wedding or let me know how you feel financially being a guest at someone else’s wedding. Questions? I’d love to answer them! Let’s talk.