Getting married is an exciting and memorable time in life—yet the costs that go into planning and putting on the big day are often not worth celebrating. Everyone wants their dream wedding but the financial implications may cause you to reconsider when to splurge and when to pull back.
According to “The Knot 2016 Real Weddings Study,” the cost of the average wedding in the United States was $35,329 in 2016—excluding the honeymoon. Costs of all the moving parts of the day add up quickly, with the venue consistently ranking as the single most expensive item at an average of $16,107 in 2016.1 One of the most significant factors of the overall cost includes the geographical location of the wedding. Manhattan ranked as the most expensive location to get married in 2016, with an average cost of $78,464, while Arkansas ranked as the least expensive location, with an average cost of $19,522.1
Your wedding day is one of the biggest days of your life—but you may not want to spend years paying off the debt accumulated from it. So, what are a few steps you can take to keep the cost under control?
Developing a wedding budget is arguably the most important step to financially prepare. Start by breaking down the estimated cost of items, from reception bands to flowers to photographers to menu items, by collecting estimated quotes from vendors or shopping around. This will help generate the most realistic assessment of how much you will need to spend overall. As soon as you can, start tracking deadlines of payments for each item within your budget as well to avoid paying multiple items all at once. While it may be difficult to unfailingly stick to your budget—47% of couples reported spending more than they had budgeted for in 2016—having a budget in place will help you to stay on track.1 Download our wedding planning spreadsheet for some help getting started here.
In mapping out the costs of wedding day essentials, you and your significant other should also determine if any items have a higher priority than others. If you have your heart set on a specific venue for the reception or a certain caterer, specify that and plan accordingly. If you are determined to get married on a Saturday in June or October (two of the most popular wedding months), you may have to accept the higher costs associated with these dates.
Another important factor intertwined with your budget is how the costs of the wedding will be covered. Traditionally, the bride’s parents pay for the majority of the wedding. Many couples are moving away from this—in 2016, the bride’s parents on average contributed 44% overall, while the betrothed couple contributed 42%, the groom’s parents contributed 13%, and other sources accounted for the rest.1 Depending on your situation, you may want to first establish a wedding budget where you and your significant other feel comfortable covering the costs in their entirety. Talk to your parents to determine if they are willing to contribute in any way, whether that is by covering a percentage of the overall cost or contributing to specific items. To help you stay organized, track who will be contributing what by listing the name of the designated individual next to each applicable item within your budget. Establishing who will be contributing and to what extent early on will help you budget more accurately as you inch closer to the wedding day.
Lastly, at some point before the wedding, take a break from planning and sit down with your significant other to discuss finances. While you may feel that you know your future spouse’s financial situation well enough to avoid the discussion, talking honestly about financial goals and values before you say “I do” can be extremely valuable. Some items to discuss include long-term goals (buying a home, saving for growing your family, saving for retirement, etc.), budgeting, how or if you will combine finances, estate planning, insurance, existing debt and repayment strategies, and more. This discussion can help you learn more about your future spouse’s views on money and help to start your marriage out on the right foot, financially. To dive a little deeper into this discussion, contact a financial advisor to go over some financial basics for soon-to-be newlyweds.
Wedding planning and its associated expenses can be stressful and seem endless. However, don’t lose sight of the end goal—your wedding day! Enjoy this time of starting your lives together as future spouses. For any additional financial advice or input you may require while wedding planning, reach out to one of our financial advisors in your area.
Written by North Star Resource Group.
1The Knot. “The Knot 2016 Real Weddings Study.” Published February 2016.
Financial Advisors do not provide specific tax or legal advice. This information should not be considered as specific tax or legal advice. You should consult your tax or legal advisor regarding your own specific tax or legal situation.
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