How to Pay for Your Own Wedding: 6 Realistic Tips
Photo by Stroudsmoor Photography Studio
Amid the heady excitement of your recent engagement, there’s one little detail you and your partner must hammer out before the fun stuff starts: How exactly will you pay for your wedding?
According to a recent study of newly married couples by WeddingWire, the parent company of GayWeddings.com, most LGBT-identified couples (74 percent) paid for all or most of their wedding on their own. Compare that with just 45 percent of straight couples doing the same, and there’s a real gap between how queer couples are funding wedding shindigs and how straight couples are doing the same.
Regardless of whether your parents, future in-laws or other family members will be giving you a hand in paying for the wedding, how will you handle the money part?
Create a Budget
Look, not everyone is a “math person.” We get it. And, when it comes to smaller events, it’s perfectly acceptable to wing it. Your wedding, however, is not a small event (no matter how rigidly you’re planning to limit your guest list). You need a budget. You need to know exactly how much money you have to spend, how much you can realistically save and how much other people might be contributing.
Better still if you can base all or most of your budget on cash in hand. So, for example, if your great aunt has $1,500 she’s set aside for the day you tie the knot, call her up and grab those funds. If you’re planning on selling your old Trinity guitar to put towards the wedding, do it now, then stash that cash in your wedding fund. Try your best to have as much money up front as you can.
Homework: Use WeddingWire’s budget calculator allocate your money and keep track of spending.
Be Realistic About What You Can Save
With the average couple spending around $30,000 to be wed these days, it can be very tempting to look at your much-smaller budget and convince yourself that you have time to save until you get to that number.
In reality, your life doesn’t stop because you’re planning a wedding. You and your partner will still need to spend money on housing, utilities, food and the like. When thinking about how much you can save as you plan your wedding, be very conservative. Cutting back on restaurant meals and yoga classes can certainly add up, especially over the course of 12 months, but be realistic and underestimate your ability to avoid overspending on your wedding later.
Know Location Matters
Most couples either want to be married in their home state, or a sunny, exotic locale like Palm Springs or Jamaica. However, if you’re seriously trying to save funds, consider other American cities where the cost of goods and services may be much lower than where you live. Just as an apartment in San Francisco is much more expensive than an apartment in Nashville, the cost of weddings varies a lot based on location. The venue, catering and flowers are all expenses that depend heavily on the market where you happen to be purchasing them, while your wedding attire, paper goods like invitations and decor are expenses that are less influenced by location.
Homework: 10 Cheapest Places to Get Married
Spend Less, Earn More
It’s not uncommon for engaged couples to suddenly become real penny pinchers in the pursuit of the wedding of their dreams. That’s because it actually works! While you should be realistic about what you can cut out, a $5 coffee, five days a week, quickly adds up to $100 a month. Expensive cable television can easily eat up $1,000 or more of your budget each year.
Couples who can find ways to cut or swap out extras can comfortably pad their wedding budget by a few thousand bucks over the course of 12 months.
On the flip side, if you’ve cut all you can cut, consider if you might be able to earn a few extra dollars. Weekend babysitting, before-work dog walking, academic tutoring—there’s a lucrative marketplace for helping others with their daily tasks. Depending on your skills and interests, you might also earn money in your free time as a freelancer or contractor. As with saving, be realistic about how much you’ll earn (minus any expenses you incur, like gas to get to your part-time job) and how many hours you can squeeze into your schedule.
Trim Your Guest List
This may be an unpopular, but highly effective way to actually be able to afford to pay for your own wedding. The average same-sex wedding has about 80 guests, which is already half the size of the average opposite-sex wedding. Yet and still, wedding costs are highly sensitive to the number of people expected—more people cost more money; less people means less money. So, if you’re having extreme difficulty making your budget work, consider trimming guests.
Consider Asking a Friend to Officiate
While officiants aren’t typically a huge part of your wedding budget, asking a religious minister or government official to ordain your marriage normally costs between $100 and $400. Beyond the sentimental significance of asking a close friend or family member to officiate your wedding, this step can also save a few coins. There will be a small fee for your person of choice to be legally authorized to perform your wedding, so be sure to do the research for your state or local jurisdiction, and factor the (nominal) cost into your wedding budget.
Although I've spent the last decade riffing on everything from suburban politics to race in media, documenting love stories as content manager of GayWeddings.com definitely takes the cake. A proud alumna of Howard University's journalism program, I've written for Parents.com, The Huffington Post, xoJane and Essence magazine. When I'm not writing, I'm debating the merits of Drake, obsessing over frozen yogurt or plotting my next international adventure. I want to feature you on GayWeddings.com! Always feel free to drop me a line at community [at] gayweddings.com to share your engagement, wedding and love stories.