This article was originally published as a guest post on Britt & The Benjamins, but Brittney has kindly allowed me to post on Quills and Crystals as well. As always, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section. I’d love to hear about your own wedding planning experience–or what you imagine it will be like!
On a scale of Pinterest-perfect centerpieces to spontaneous courthouse elopements, my wedding plans always fell somewhere in between (messy chalkboard art, perhaps). The closest I’ve ever had to a “dream wedding” was during a family trip to Disney World, where we spotted a bride and groom head towards their happily ever-after in a horse-drawn carriage. My jaw dropped. “I want to get married here,” I announced. I mean, why wouldn’t I get married at Disney World?
Of course, that was when I was about twelve years old—way before I knew how much weddings actually cost. Fast-forward ten years or so, and I didn’t know much other than the fact that I wanted an affordable wedding that was beautiful, but not too big or fancy. I scrapped the Disney idea (but if you managed to pull off a Disney World wedding, I. WANT. PICTURES.) and scoffed at the idea of spending tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding.
And that was before I got engaged. Initially, my fiancé, Drew, and I had a goal of spending no more than $10,000. The average cost of a wedding in the United States is around $30,000, so I felt pretty frugal in comparison.
I still think a $30,000 wedding seems a little extravagant, but after booking our vendors, I’m more understanding of how couples reach that point. I know now that some venues require that you use their own caterer—which means no bargain hunting for charming buffet dinners. You may want to invite all of your friends and family, which—surprise!—will cost more. You might have to travel just to get to your own wedding. And don’t forget about those deposits. And dress alterations. And postage.
Lesson learned: it’s very easy to spend more than you anticipated. We’ve had a lot of conversations about money—about wedding budgets, yes, but also in the context of our marriage—and I’ve had to adjust my financial philosophies accordingly. Here are three ideas I’m trying to put into practice before our big day.
- Decide what to prioritize. Before Drew and I even started looking at venues or vendors, we came up with a list of wedding must-haves. For instance, we both want incredible food and an open bar, but neither of us have particularly strong feelings about floral arrangements—so, we’re splurging on food and going the DIY-route for bouquets. Be equally upfront about who you want to invite. While I love the idea of a small, intimate ceremony, it ain’t gonna happen: my family is ginormous and incredibly tight-knit. Cutting out cousins, aunts, and uncles is simply not an option; cutting out favors or decor, however, definitely is.
- Don’t focus on the differences between your salaries. I’m a writer who has done my fair share of job hopping; Drew has had the same job in IT for several years. I realized long ago that writers don’t usually become millionaires, and I knew that I needed a steady source of income before I cranked out a bestseller (or anything, really, but I’m trying to be optimistic). What I didn’t know is how strange it would be to discuss finances with my fiancé, who might always earn more money than I will. Have an open discussion about your financial situation, but don’t let the numbers paralyze you. Remember: you are a team. No matter how you decide to combine finances—if at all—your ultimate goal is to have a better, more beautiful life together.
- Learn how to accept help—financial or otherwise. Full disclaimer: Drew and I are coming from quite a bit of privilege, and we are insanely lucky to have family and friends who are willing to help with wedding expenses and planning. For some (like me), money and pride go hand-in-hand. Generosity may be difficult to swallow if you are striving for independence; while independence is not a bad thing, this can be an opportunity to learn from people who are chipping in or offering advice. If your parents are able to pay for your wedding, how did they manage to save that much money? Even if you are paying for your wedding, there are a lot of people who are probably willing to give you advice. Ask questions about budgets, planning a honeymoon, and everyday married life. Listen to them. You’ll feel less alone, and you’ll be relieved when you learn you weren’t the only one who didn’t know dress fitting appointments were a thing.
Our wedding is still months away, and the thought of so much to purchase and plan can get overwhelming, to say the least. But I’ve realized that at the end of the day, our engagement is a time to celebrate. And better yet, we’ll soon be living our own fairy tale. No carriage required.