This article is part of our 52 week journey through Bill’s latest book, The Graduate’s Guide to Life and Money. Each week, a full excerpt from his book will be presented from beginning to end. To get your copy of his book, visit www.TheGraduatesGuide.com.
Marriage. I almost don’t know what to tell you. (I know what I’m thinking, but my wife will probably read this…eventually). Admittedly, my wife did most of the work for our wedding. Sure I showed up and rented a tux, but she did most of the real work. (Men, these are the types of comments that will earn you points.)
Financially speaking, there are a lot of expenses that go into a wedding, even if your parents are paying for it or helping with the expenses. According to SmartMoney.com the average wedding today costs between $21,000 and $24,000, with 157 guests. That comes out to an average of more than $130 per person, so go ahead and register for that china pattern! The best advice I can give is to make sure this will be your one and only wedding.
First of all, who cares about the average wedding? You want yours to be better than average, right? Actually, you can have a beautiful wedding for much less than the average price. You just have to know what you are doing and where to shop.
Of course there are other expenses involved in the wedding that are not part of the more than $20,000 price tag. For instance, there is the engagement ring, and the bridesmaid’s dresses, etc. Usually, the bridesmaids, groomsmen, and parents all pay for their own expenses. The engagement ring will be discussed later.
By looking at the right areas of your wedding expenses to reduce, you can keep your wedding at $10,000. The largest single cost is the reception. You can also save money on the invitations. Shop around and find the one you want that fits within your budget. There’s always going to be a better invitation if you just spend a little more… You could try to keep the rehearsal dinner from being too expensive by either going to a nice, yet reasonable restaurant, or by having it catered (such as in the church where you will be having your wedding). The photographer is somewhere you do not want to skimp. These are pictures of your wedding! However, you may want to consider having someone in your family video the wedding instead of paying a professional if it does not fit into your budget. Finally, the limousine is not really a necessity of a wedding. Sure its nice, but maybe you can swing a favor, or just have a friend drive you to the reception (assuming this friend has a really cool car, or a convertible, etc.).
Here are a few more tips to help reduce the cost of the wedding:
- Buy a used veil, or borrow one from a friend or family member. It’s the dress that really matters, not the veil.
- Purchase cheap white shoes, or ones that can be used again, such as a tennis shoe. They will be more comfortable and nobody really sees your feet (this only applies to long dresses).
- Use single flowers in bud vases to decorate the tables. This is inexpensive, but gives the feel of flowers everywhere.
- Purchase your invitations through one of the mail order catalogs mentioned in one of the several hundred bridal magazines you now own.
- Have a buffet style dinner.
- Purchase a smaller fancy wedding cake, but order an additional sheet cake to be cut up and used for the guests.
Let’s get back to the reception. There are really three ways to reduce the cost of the reception, (1) Invite fewer guests, (2) Find a place that charges less per person, or (3) Only invite one side of the family. Hopefully option #3 is not something you have considered, so let’s stick with options #1 and #2. The earlier you plan for your wedding, the more options you will have.
If you are going to have the reception at a hotel or restaurant, shop around and compare menus and prices. Some places may charge a lower price if your reception begins or ends by a certain time. Try to select at least two entrees (chicken and lasagna for example) as well as some vegetables. (If I’m invited, I’ll take the chicken.) If your budget permits, you may want to offer a cheese tray for the guests to eat while waiting for your arrival.
Another reception option is to have it at your home, somewhere outdoors, or at your church or community center. Assuming your family is not preparing the meal, you need to search for someone to cater your reception. You should compare prices and menus just as you would with a hotel. You should also talk to friends and find out who they used, and if they would recommend their caterer. Sometimes the caterer may offer to let you sample their food if the situation permits.
Food is a large part of the wedding. In fact, for some guests it pretty much defines the whole reception (guys). It is usually a good idea to order for at least 10% more people than the number of RSVPs. For one, some guests may take more food. For another, some people may show up even though they did not RSVP, or they may bring an extra guest. On the other hand, you will have some guests who RSVP but don’t make it to the reception. Still, it is better to have a little too much food than not enough.
The Wedding Plans
We’ve talked about the costs involved, so let’s talk about the work. Weddings are not easy, but they are not impossible either. If you have a budget and a timetable, the two of you can get this done. I won’t lie though; you will experience a lot of stress during the process, especially as the wedding day approaches. Just remember that thousands of people get married every year.
The first thing you need to do (after the engagement) is set a date. If the two of you are not ready to set a date yet, then don’t. Once you are ready, set it, but make it somewhat flexible. If you pick a day six months in advance (such as June 5th), you may drive yourself crazy trying to book a reception hall or a caterer. Perhaps they have openings one or two weeks later (such as the 12th or 19th). The following are some of the other aspects of the wedding to consider:
- Number of guests
- Band or D.J. for the reception
- Location of the rehearsal dinner
- Gift registration
I know for the men out there, we do not spend more than three or four minutes in our life even thinking about our wedding, and those minutes usually revolve around the honeymoon anyway. In order to be better prepared, I have included a 12-month checklist. If your wedding is in less than 12 months, you will have to speed things up accordingly. Remember, there is so much to do in order to get ready for a wedding, but don’t get so caught up in the wedding that you forget about the marriage. Keep focused on each other for the next twelve months and everything will go a little smoother. At least tempers will not flair quite as much.
Bill Pratt is a former credit card executive turned student-advocate. He is the author of Extra Credit: The 7 Things Every College Student Needs to Know About Credit Debt & Ca$h and The Graduate’s Guide to Life and Money. Bill speaks at colleges to educate and entertain students about real-life issues in money, leadership, and success. His goal is to help students succeed personally and financially so they can improve the lives of those around them. You can learn more at www.ExtraCreditBook.com or www.TheGraduatesGuide.com.