Wedding Planning on a Budget

Whether your budget is tight or not, wedding planning and the expenses it entails can be overwhelming, especially these days.

wedding rings laying on money
(Image credit: Getty)

Pent-up demand from the pandemic, combined with inflation, has driven up the cost of the average wedding to more than $27,000, according to market research firm The Wedding Report. I’m in the midst of my own wedding-planning journey, treading water in a sea of decisions with my fiancé. But in the several months we’ve been engaged, I’ve learned some strategies to control the cost of what is quickly amounting to the most expensive day of my life.

How to Cut Costs on Wedding Planning

Cut down on guest numbers
During the pandemic, couples were forced to reduce guest counts and that trend has held — even as the threat from Covid has subsided. “The pandemic really forced a lot of people to take stock of what actually mattered about their wedding and determine who was most important in their lives to be there to celebrate with them,” says Jessica Bishop, author of The Budget-Savvy Wedding Planner & Organizer. And slashing the guest list is the number-one way to cut the costs of a wedding. “For every guest you invite, that’s an invitation, a chair, a meal, a place setting. Or for every eight to 10 guests, it’s another table with another linen, another centerpiece,” Bishop says.  

Consider sharing costs more equally
Couples should also consider how wedding expenses will be divided. “Traditionally, the bride pays for most of the wedding and the groom pays for a few other things,” says Lizzie Post, co-author of Emily Post’s Etiquette, The Centennial Edition. “But for well over 20 years, that tradition has been gone.” The important thing for any couple to do — no matter the financial differences between your respective families — is to have candid and considerate conversations with anyone who would like to contribute, she says. 

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Spend within your means
Financial stress is one of the leading causes of disagreements, fights and divorce in relationships. That’s why it’s important for couples to plan a wedding that’s within their means. 

If you have accumulated credit card rewards, you may be able to use them to help pay for wedding expenses. If you sign up for a new card, charging those expenses could qualify you for bonus travel rewards you can use to help finance your honeymoon. But this strategy only works if you can pay off your balance in full every month. Likewise, while a personal loan may seem like an easy short-term solution, it could leave you in debt at the start of your marriage.

Consider artificial or rented flowers
One item that has increased significantly of late is the cost of flowers, thanks in part to shortages and shipping disruptions. For this reason, many couples are opting for high-quality silk florals. For an even lower cost, some companies, such as Something Borrowed Blooms), will allow you to rent florals.  

Book out of season
Winter is often an unpopular time for weddings, but “if that’s your vibe and you want a snowy, winter wonderland wedding, you’re probably going to get a lower price on rentals and your venue if it’s not their peak season,” Bishop says.

I’m planning a winter wedding in the mountains of Vermont. Although peak wedding season in Vermont is September and October, I look forward to a serene ceremony, hopefully with a fresh dusting of snow for all fellow winter lovers (and skiers) in attendance.

Emma Patch
Staff Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Emma Patch joined Kiplinger in 2020. She previously interned for Kiplinger's Retirement Report and before that, for a boutique investment firm in New York City. She served as editor-at-large and features editor for Middlebury College's student newspaper, The Campus. She specializes in travel, student debt and a number of other personal finance topics. Born in London, Emma grew up in Connecticut and now lives in Washington, D.C.