Getting Hitched in the Garden or Keystone State?
According to the U.S. Census, about 10% of all marriage proposals occur on Valentine’s Day. For many of these couples, the wedding planning begins on February 15. Weddings are generally one of the first big expenses in a couple’s financial life together. According to a 2014 survey by TheKnot.com, North/Central New Jersey is the third most expensive area in the U.S. to get married ($51,287, including honeymoon) behind Manhattan and Long Island ($86,916 and $57,343, respectively). The Lehigh Valley also made the list at number 18 ($34,488).
Since wedding planning can be a stressful time for the couple and their families alike, here are 10 tips and strategies for easing the financial burden and related stress associated with planning your wedding:
- Be honest and talk about money. Couples should talk about personal finances, which includes income and debt. Decide that you are going to work together and how much you will spend on your big day. Having an open and honest discussion can preclude disagreements later and lays the foundation for this important dialogue throughout the marriage.
- Start a savings fund together. As soon as you become engaged, determine what each of you will allocate to the fund each month. Even if you don’t end up spending all of that money on the wedding itself, you will be able to start off your marriage with a little cushion.
- Create and stick to an actual budget. This is not a vague idea of how much you have available to spend, but a concrete number. Put aside money in a separate savings or checking account and pay all of your wedding-related bills from it so you can easily track your spending and how much you have left. Consider also dedicating a single credit card for all wedding-related expenses (and build up loyalty points while you’re at it).
- And then, save a little more. Once you have your budget on paper, set aside some extra money for any last minute changes, additions, or emergencies. They are inevitable.
- Prioritize what is most important to you. Make a list of those aspects of the wedding that are most critical. A gourmet menu and top-shelf liquor? Your flowers and table décor? Music? Most people can’t afford everything they want but by clarifying what is most important, couples will know what they need to spend and where they can economize.
- Stand firm. It’s your wedding! Don’t be pressured into details or family traditions you don’t want. This will help you stick to your priorities.
- Don’t let your wedding bankrupt you. It’s one day and shouldn’t take years to pay off. Besides budgeting, consider some creative ways to shave costs. For example, as a wedding present, ask for travel rewards points to offset the cost of your honeymoon. Ask family members with a particular skill – think hairdresser, tailor, or photographer – to provide their services in place of giving you a gift.
- Limit the guest list. Keeping the head count in check is the best way to keep your budget in check. That means be specific when addressing invitations. Stipulate whether your single friends can bring a guest or your married friends can bring their children. Also, bear in mind the kind of event you are aiming for. You can’t have an “intimate” wedding for 200 people.
- Meet with a financial advisor. Work with a professional who can develop a comprehensive financial plan for your wedding day and, at the same time, help you plan for your financial future beyond the Big Day.
- Remember that it’s going to be a beautiful day. Always keep in mind that no matter how much you spend on your wedding—$10,000 or $50,000 or more—it will still be a beautiful day for you and your new spouse.
Getting to the big day without breaking the bank might seem like an impossible task, but with a few smart steps, you'll ensure your bank account will remain as strong as your love for each other.