Cheaper weddings: Tying the knot doesn't have to tie you up in debt

Published: Monday, July 9 2012 8:17 p.m. MDT

"It is the same tactic funeral homes use to get you to buy a more expensive casket," Schneider said. "'If you really loved this person, you would shell out the money for the walnut instead of the pine.' 'If you really love your bride-to-be, then you'll pay for hothouse lilies in December.'"

Schneider said couples do not have to buy into what the wedding industry wants for their big day. "There are a lot of really creative ideas that allow you to express your personality and make your guests feel like they are not at a cookie-cutter wedding," Schneider said. "You make the wedding about what is important to you, and not what is important to the wedding industry."

And it all starts with a budget.

Plan a life, not a day

Bell and his fiancee are both goal-oriented people. "We have things we want to achieve, such as buying a home or having kids," he said. "And we realized there are financial implications to all of those things."

Schneider said financial considerations have to come first. The first thing she recommends is that engaged couples sit down and talk about their financial goals to put the wedding day into perspective. What do couples want in the first year of marriage? Where do they want to be in five years?

"Your wedding is your first day (of your) life as a unit," Schneider said. "Instead of just focusing on that day, think about what you want your life to look like financially before you plunk down any money for your wedding."

Bell agrees.

"To really throw away money on one day when we have an entire lifetime to think about, I just don't think either of us looks at (that) as the responsible choice," he said. "There are things we want versus things we need. At the end of the day, we need financial stability in our lives. We need a day we can remember, but not one we regret."

Once a budget is set, then the fun begins.

Skip the 'wedding' dress

The survey by theknot.com and weddingchannel.com found that the average price of a wedding dress is $1,121 — but much of the price is just for the name "wedding," Schneider said. "You could find a very nice evening gown for less than $100," she said. "But you put the word 'wedding' in front of 'gown,' and all of a sudden you are looking at $1,000."

Instead of buying a wedding gown, Schneider bought an ivory bridesmaid's dress. "It was perfect. It was simple. It was elegant. It was my style," she said.

And it was less than $100.

Bell also identified the dress as a high-ticket item, but thinks his fiancee will find a way to cut down on the cost. "She is a pretty girl," he said, "so I don't think she is going to have any problem looking beautiful on that day."

Like Schneider, Bell also thinks the word "wedding" in front of items increases the cost. For example: wedding photographers. "If you took the word 'wedding' off, I'm pretty sure you could get a decent price," he said.

Bell said there is an amazing number of talented freelance photographers who shoot for little money. And he said the same strategy applies to finding a band to play at the reception.

"Don't go on the Internet and look up 'best wedding band in New York City,'" he said. "When you look for people on Google, you are just going to find people who are extremely expensive."

Instead, he advised, ask people you know. Just don't use the word "wedding."

Savings everywhere

There are many ways to cut expenses on weddings. Here are a few ideas:

Invite fewer people. This can be accomplished in many ways, such as sending fewer invitations or having the wedding at an exotic location.

Don't always assume renting is cheaper than buying.

Look online. Many items needed for weddings are now available online at used prices.

Do it yourself. The Internet is also full of inexpensive (and fun) ideas for creating your own decor for the reception.

Pick days and venues in the off-season when prices are cheaper.

Get a friend to make a wedding cake as a wedding gift.

Use social media to keep people up to date on wedding plans and searches for less-expensive alternatives.

Competition

Both Bell and Schneider balked at the $27,000 average cost of a wedding. Bell thinks the figure may be due to some brides feeling pressure to compete with their friends, and he calls it a wake-up call to parents who may need to pay for their daughter's dream.

Schneider, however, said couples shouldn't give into pressure. "Think about what $27,000 can buy," she said. "You wouldn't ever consider spending that much money on any other party. Ever. Only for weddings do we think that is normal. And it is not normal. $27,000 is a down payment on a house. It is a brand new car. It's four years of public college at a state school. It's insane to spend that much money on a wedding."

EMAIL: mdegroote@desnews.com TWITTER: @degroote FACEBOOK: facebook.com/madegroote

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