Getting married can be cheap. Think drive-thru chapels or visits to town hall. Weddings, on the other hand, are expensive.
Families spent, on average, almost $27,000 per wedding in 2010. And with most couples waiting to marry and three-quarters of marriage partners living together first, many celebrants are paying at least part of that bill.
Another reason they're pitching in, mom and dad may have far less saved coming out of the recession.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when paying for a wedding.
- Share the expenses with friends and family. Once upon a time it fell to the parents of the bride — not anymore. Weddings are family occasions — for at least two families. Why not spread the draining of wealth?
- The couple steps up. The average age for a bride climbed to 29 in 2010 from 28 in 2009 and the average age for a groom to 31, from 30, according to The Knot, a wedding-planning website. Almost a decade out of college and even more from high school, most couples are ready, willing and able to contribute to their own celebration.
- Cash is king. Encourage friends and relatives to give cash gifts. It's more common on the coasts but a few hints about the frugal couple may persuade the more gift-minded to write a check rather than wrap another cheeseboard. Non-cash gestures, like hosting a party, providing flowers, or loaning a vacation house, are as good as cash in your book.
- Spend less on the big day. It's not as hard as you think. The No. 1 way to save is simple: cut the guest list. You'll still want a dress, flowers and food, but one fewer table is hardly noticeable except on the bill.
- Get away. Oddly enough, destination weddings are a great way to cut costs and mix in a great honeymoon as well. Celebrating in your hometown or where one or both of the celebrants grew up is a sure fire way to keep adding more quests. Go out of town.
- Bargain with your vendors. Caterers, florists and venues survive on weddings and starve when nuptials aren't in the air. They're more likely to charge less for weekday and off-season — think winter in most locales — weddings. A tool like the Knot Wedding Budgeter lets you estimate and track wedding expenses.
- Pay with cash. No one wants to jump into holy matrimony with an unholy amount of debt. It sounds basic but pay for as much as you can with cash — even if it means delaying the wedding.
- Work for it. Get an extra job or work overtime to save more. A lot of brides sell Avon and other products for extra cash.
- Live together to save. Three-quarters of American couples now do, according to The Knot survey. Engagements also have gotten longer to give couples more time to save and plan.
- Borrow smart. Do it sparingly and carefully. Home-equity lines of credit are much more difficult to get these days because lenders want consumers to retain at least 20 percent of the equity in their home even after the loan. But is your wedding really worth your home? And, if you must make up the gap with credit cards, use ones with low interest rates and lots of mileage points that could be used for the honeymoon.
On the flip side, here are a few things NOT to do when paying for a wedding.
- Don't go into debt. It's easy to get carried away with so many things to buy, but no one wants to start married life with marital debts.
- Don't stray from the budget. Use one of the many online calculators to track your money and determine how much you'll spend on each category. If you blow the budget on the dress, there won't be any money left for cake.
- Don't shun compromise. You want your wedding to be special but that doesn't mean you can't substitute peonies for roses.