This one goes out to all you lovebirds who got engaged over the holidays and are now left planning a wedding with zero event-planning experience.
Somehow you're expected to craft a day that's traditional, yet modern. Well-attended, yet intimate. It's about you as a couple, but also shouldn't be offensive to any of your guests. And most crucially, don't overspend, but make sure it looks expensive.
Sure, weddings are fun, but the most important part of any wedding is everything that happens after – your real life, together. Don't start that life with credit card debt that lasts until your fifth anniversary.
If you focus your spending on what you and your guests will actually notice, and skip expensive things no one really cares about, you'll have a beautiful wedding without the debt.
Step #1: Establish a custom wedding budget
Before you plan anything, set a budget based on what you (and your families, if they're contributing) can afford. Make every decision with that number in mind.
At its core, a wedding is simply “a celebration of love”, said Jen Glantz, founder of US-based wedding service provider. “In that celebration, there are no rules. Look at your wedding as a blank slate, an empty room. What do you want to fill it with? What can you afford to fill it with?”
Step #2: Re-evaluate traditional ‘must-haves’
“This is the biggest thing I have to tell everybody when they plan a wedding: You don't need anything at your wedding to get married,” Glantz added. “If you don't want a cake, don't have a cake. If you don't want to wear a dress or a tuxedo, don't.”
Here are some other ways to save.
• Decor: Guests remember the overall vibe, not the tiny details. “People at weddings are busy,” Glantz said. “And when you're busy, you don't see things.” Save on decor by renting it or scouring groups on social media. Already-married friends may have leftover items they'd be happy to lend or pass along. There are even services where you can share flowers with another couple getting married the same week.
• Transportation: “We're locked into this idea that a limo or a luxury sedan will get you to the church or get you to the venue,” said Sheavonne Harris, owner of a US-based wedding planning company. But your guests will be seated inside when you arrive, so that car won't be a part of your grand entrance. Car services also typically require you to book for a minimum number of hours, so you'll end up paying for time you don't use. She recommends booking a ride-hailing service – yes, just like when you need a ride to the airport.
• Invitations, Programs and Menus: All those paper items you painstakingly select are going to go in the trash. Programs get left on chairs after the ceremony, and menus get tucked under plates after a quick scan. Even your invitations will get only a few months on guests' refrigerators before they head to the landfill. “They are just tossed into the garbage,” Harris said. If you want the tradition of paper for a lower cost, skip the menus and programs. You can also find gorgeous paper invitations at certain online retailers for a fraction of the price. Many of these printing companies offer seasonal sales, too.
Step #3: Spend on what gets noticed
• Photography: Long after your wedding, the only things you'll be left with are memories and pictures. This is not the task to assign to that cousin who took a few photography classes in college. “If you want to put money into something, put it into photography,” added Harris. “With photography, you definitely get what you pay for.”
• The guest experience: Both Glantz and Harris recommended paying attention to weddings you attend as a guest before your own big day. What made you feel welcome? Guests won't remember that you got married in a picturesque historic mansion, but they will remember if that mansion had only one bathroom with a 20-minute line to use it. Cut expenses elsewhere to focus on food, drink, entertainment and guest comfort.
• Professional vendors: Hiring a friend or doing a task yourself might feel like a money-saving move. Harris cautions that unlike a professional vendor, your friend likely won't have a backup plan for when the flower order is late or the sound equipment is on the fritz. And booking a pro at the last minute because that friend backs out will end up costing you even more.
Step #4: Use a rewards credit cards
Many self-employed vendors don't accept credit cards, but whenever possible, pay for wedding costs with a rewards credit card.
Not only can you earn cash back or travel rewards (like a discounted honeymoon), but should a vendor not honor its commitment to you, you can dispute charges.
Although you're not going to pay for the whole affair with credit card rewards, but you can cut your net cost by hundreds.
You can also use a card that offers 3 per cent cashback on dining purchases to cover the cost of food at your wedding.
That might work — but if the food comes from a catering company or is provided by the wedding venue rather than a restaurant, your card issuer might not consider it a ‘dining purchase’. All of a sudden, you’re earning a lot less in rewards than you thought.
Your savings might not always be instant, but they can pay off later in a big way. In this case, the sign-up bonus will maybe help you pay for part of your holiday travel a few months later.
However, ensure you pay the balance on your card in full each month, so that interest charges didn’t eat away at these rewards.
When plotting such a bonus strategy to save on costs, try to find a card that matches your spending habits, so you don’t have to kick it to the curb after earning the bonus.