Financial Do's for Saying "I Do"

You've found the right person and decided to take the next step. Congratulations! As the post-proposal bliss gives way to rush of wedding planning, one of the first projects to tackle is making a budget you can stick to.
Wedding Cake Topper

It’s no secret that weddings aren’t cheap. We did see prices drop in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily shuttered the industry, but the post-shutdown wedding “boom” – plus continued inflation and supply chain disruptions – has wedding expenses rising again. Today the average wedding can cost from $20,000 to $40,000. Of course, how much you spend also depends on a host of personal decisions – type of venue, number of guests, catering and flower choices, attire, and whether you have (or want) help from family.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind as you embark on your wedding planning journey to help you achieve your vision of the perfect wedding without compromising financial well-being.

Start with your goals

Talk with your partner about must-haves for the wedding. What are you both dreaming of for your special day? A grand black-tie affair in a ballroom, a tropical and intimate destination wedding, or a back yard barbecue are examples of the wide range of options, and every option has different budget considerations. Venue and catering tend to be the biggest-ticket items, so researching locations and deciding on a guest list – or at least a target number of guests – are good first steps toward building your budget.

Plan how to get there

Couples choose a variety of options for paying for their weddings, including dipping into savings, saving up a monthly or weekly amount toward the goal, taking out a personal loan, using credit cards, and receiving help from family or friends.

If one or both of your families are planning to chip in, try to solidify their contribution up front so you can budget for the rest. If that’s not a conversation you can comfortably have, then build your budget without that contribution. It’s better to have a surprise windfall later than a gap in your budget that you’re relying on someone else to fill.

To avoid paying interest or racking up debt, it’s best to pay cash from either you and your partner’s savings or from a joint account you both contribute to for that purpose. If you won’t be able to save your full budget in the time you have, it might be best to either delay the wedding to give yourselves more time to save, or to reduce your budget.

If you do choose a personal loan or credit, be aware of interest rates and repayment windows. You don’t want to start your financial future together overwhelmed by debt.

Make your budget comprehensive

Once you know what kind of wedding you want, use a budget planning tool – or a good old-fashioned spreadsheet – to start compiling a list of costs. These will include:

  • Administrative costs like marriage license and officiant’s fees. Some administrative costs, such as those associated with venue and catering, may not be as obvious and can really add up. Make sure you ask questions at the start to be sure you’re getting the full scoop.
  • Up-front essentials like wedding bands, invitations and attire.
  • Day-of essentials like venue, flowers and décor, makeup/hairstyling, photography, music, food and beverage (don’t forget to estimate gratuity for catering staff!), and wedding cake.
  • Tokens of appreciation, such as favors for guests and bridal party/groomsman gifts.
  • Other events, such as bachelorette/bachelor party and rehearsal dinner.
  • Transportation, if needed.

Next, begin to assign dollar amounts to these items. When getting estimates from vendors, call several locations and request a formal proposal/quote so you can compare prices. Pro tip: Get estimates in writing, and be sure you understand each vendor’s deposit and refund policies, as well as how long you have to review the proposal before the prices are no longer valid.

At this point, you should begin to have a rough idea of what your ideal wedding will cost. Once you have your budgeted expenses outlined, you have the opportunity to value-engineer your event, looking for opportunities to prioritize and trim where it makes sense. Conversely, you may find you have budget left for that extra-special wish list item to further elevate your day.

Think big-picture about your options

Before signing contracts with event spaces and vendors, consider having one dedicated conversation with your partner about what else you might be able to afford with your wedding budget – and how that fits into your vision of living richly.

While we want every couple to celebrate this important life commitment in a way that is special and meaningful to them, remember that the wedding celebration is just the first step in your life together. For some couples, it’s more important to secure the down payment on a house or add to a savings account that will support an earlier retirement or work-optional lifestyle. Others may prioritize taking a year to travel together or funding an extended parental leave down the road.

Ask for help if you need it

Planning a wedding can be overwhelming. It may be the first big financial project you and your future spouse undertake together. If you’re feeling stuck – or just want someone to examine your strategy for ways to improve – consider working with a financial advisor.

At CWM, we work with clients at all stages of life to make smart financial decisions and set themselves up for long-term success. We’d love to take a look at you and your partner’s situation and help you make a plan for the affordable and intentional wedding of your dreams. Simply give us a call at (425) 778-6160 or complete this form to get in touch – we’re always happy to help at Comprehensive Wealth Management.

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