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8 Ways to Plan the Wedding of Your Dreams on a Budget — and Without Going Into Major Debt

There can be a lot of pressure when it comes to incorporating tradition at weddings, but you don’t have to let tradition dictate your budget or your special day.

April 16, 2021

It's wedding season, and if you’ve recently become engaged, congratulations! You’re about to enter a happy and exciting time in your life, and planning a big party is just one small part of what you have to look forward to now that you’ve found your person. Even if you haven’t started planning a wedding yet, you’re probably aware of how expensive it can be. Wedding Wire's 2020 Newlywed Report found that the average wedding costs $28,000. Ouch.

No matter what your wedding budget is, you’re going to want to plan your dream day your own way, without going into serious debt. Let’s look at a few ways you can work together as a couple to achieve your wedding goals without sacrificing your financial aspirations. 

Talk to Each Other First

Before you open up wedding planning conversations with excited friends and family members, you — as a couple — need to be on the same page regarding what you want your big day to look like. Do you want to keep things small and intimate or do you want to celebrate with as many people as possible? Are you planning on getting married at your family’s church or do you need to rent a venue for the ceremony? Most importantly, how much do you want to spend? 

These conversations take time, so don’t rush them. You’ll both have to compromise while wedding planning, but when it comes to setting a budget, you need to agree to a number and stick to it. 

Then, Talk to Family

Once you have an idea of what you want your wedding day to look like and how much you’re willing to spend out of your own pocket, you can turn to your families for advice and support. In many cases, families contribute monetarily to their child’s wedding, but this isn’t a guarantee. Beating around the bush won’t do any good here. Ask your families if they’d like to contribute to the wedding planning or financing in any way, that way you know exactly where you stand. If they do want to help fund your wedding, ask specifically what their budget is so you know what financial boundaries not to cross. 

Set a Detailed Budget

Now that you know how much you’re willing to spend and how much money your families may want to contribute, you can start to figure out how to plan a wedding on the budget you have. When budgeting for your wedding, you’ll want to set an overall spending limit and break down your budget by categories, such as:

  • Venue

  • Food and drink

  • Clothing and grooming

  • Flowers

  • Entertainment

  • Decor

  • Photography and videography

  • Stationery

You may also want to budget for unexpected expenses that can pop up. According to Wedding Wire, 60% of couples increase their initial wedding budget. This most often happens because, during wedding planning, couples think of things they “need" to make their wedding day special that they didn’t think about during the early stages of planning. 

Decide on Your Non-negotiables 

If you’re focused on figuring out how to plan a wedding on a small budget, the key is to start by budgeting for your must-haves first. To plan a cost-effective wedding, sit down with your partner, and each write down a list of your three most important wedding-day elements. You may feel like good food, drink and music are absolutely necessary to ensure everyone has a great time, while your betrothed may care more about wedding attire, hair, makeup and photography. Then you can prioritize those things over other elements, such as flowers or parting gifts for guests. Hopefully, your priorities will overlap somewhat so you can really focus your budget on what's important to you. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Think Outside the Box

There can be a lot of pressure when it comes to incorporating tradition at weddings, but you don’t need to let tradition dictate your budget or your special day. Not a big fan of wedding cake? Cut that overpriced dessert and go for a hot fudge sundae bar instead. Put the money you save by not purchasing a three-tier cake towards one of your non-negotiables. 

If you want to find an inexpensive way to have a wedding, think outside the box. Do you need to pay for a pricey ballroom or will a local park sell you a wedding permit for a much lower cost? Do you need everyone you’ve ever known to be there or do you just want to spend your day with your nearest and dearest? Can you send electronic invitations instead of paper invitations? Are you happy to skip the DJ and put on your favorite playlist instead? If tradition is going to send you spiraling into debt, then maybe it's time to consider a break from it or compromising by keeping some, but not all, traditions. 

Keep Covid-19 in Mind

Countless couples have put their wedding plans on hold thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. In many cases, couples lost money on nonrefundable deposits when they had no choice but to cancel their weddings. If you’re planning a wedding right now — even if your wedding date is far off — you may want to talk with vendors about their refund policy related to canceling or postponing your wedding because of Covid-19. There are even wedding insurance policies that cover the costs of cancellations. If your wedding is postponed, the last thing you want to do is put a dent in your wedding budget just to pay the same costs again when you replan your wedding. 

If you decide to move forward with wedding planning while social distancing measures are in place, you can still plan a special day without emptying your wallet. Planning an intimate wedding can be economical and memorable. You might choose an outdoor ceremony location that's special to you, have your reception at the home of a beloved family member, or cut out overpriced decorations and catering services. Saving all the money you would have spent on a large wedding and putting it towards a luxurious honeymoon when travel becomes more possible might be a worthwhile compromise. 

Speaking of honeymoons, if trying to figure out how to have an inexpensive wedding makes you feel cheap, let’s put some things in perspective. Yes, your wedding day can be a very special and important day that you’ll cherish for many years to come. But there are also a lot of exciting — and potentially expensive — things on the horizon that you may find are a better use of your money. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of a luxe honeymoon and you prefer to put $10,000 towards that dream than a wedding reception. If you’re ready to buy a home, you may feel that your money might be best used toward a downpayment. The same thought process applies if you want to start a family soon, need to pay off student loan debt, or have another big financial goal that would be within reach if you don’t pay for a big wedding. There’s no need to feel guilty if a wedding isn’t your number one priority.

Borrow Money Wisely

Avoiding going into debt for a wedding is one important way to start your new marriage off on the right financial foot. For wedding costs that are creeping above the planned budget, taking out a personal loan or using a credit card to cover the costs are options some people choose. Borrowing money to pay for a wedding, as long as you have a plan to pay back what you owe on time, can make the wedding of your dreams a reality.

While paying for a wedding with a credit card is certainly one option, if you can’t make your payments, you risk facing expensive interest charges. Unless you're sure you can make your payments on time, which may be difficult with so much financial uncertainty surrounding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, paying cash for your wedding expenses might be the less stressful option. 


Want to offload some of your credit card debt before the big day so you can start the next chapter of your life on stronger financial footing? Tally is ready to help you meet your debt-free goals.