Editor’s Note: This is the first article from our new contributing author Kali Hawlk. I’d like to welcome her to the site and look forward to all the great articles she’ll be bringing us this year. Kali will have a weekly column that will appear each and every Wednesday. You can also find more of her work at: http://commonsensemillennial.com/
If you’re like that poor young woman in the photo that went viral a few weeks ago, you’re probably glad “engagement season” will be over soon. Don’t get me wrong: getting engaged is fun and exciting time in someone’s life.
But there’s a financial danger lurking here. In America, the average wedding costs a little over $25,000. To put that in perspective, that’s ten thousand dollars more than what my car cost in full when it was bought new from the dealership.
Here’s the thing: you could spend something like 25 bucks to apply for a marriage license, or you could spend 25 thousand bucks and legally end up with the same result. No, heading to the courthouse to get your paper stamped isn’t for everyone. But the point remains: you don’t have to buy into the hype and spend the equivalent of a down payment on your first home on your wedding to have a beautiful, memorable day to commemorate your marriage.
When I got married, I was determined to not give in to the pressure I felt from Pinterest-crazed friends and excitable family members. I think I did pretty well, but it was much easier said than done. I didn’t get anywhere close to that $25,000 mark, but looking back I do feel like we spent too much. So allow me to explain my costly wedding mistakes. Recently engaged couples, take note and learn from the errors of my ways:
The Venue was Overpriced
Where we held our ceremony and reception was gorgeous: it was outdoors by a spring-fed lake. The venue was specifically built and rented out for weddings, and you could tell in all the little touches. It was beautiful. And expensive.
The place could have held hundreds of people – but we only had 60 guests (and that included the wedding party and our families). We should have picked a much smaller place closer to home; we could have still had it outdoors and had a garden wedding instead of renting out a field roomy enough for all of us and a herd of cattle.
Costly Wedding Mistakes: Picking an oversized, overpriced venue or being so dazzled by a place that you forget about the price tag.
Savings Solutions: First, look to friends and relatives. (Does your great-aunt have a giant house with a two-acre backyard that she’d be willing to let you use as your wedding venue?) If that’s not an option, be realistic when assessing your needs. Don’t rent more space than you truly need and consider nontraditional options. It may be cheaper to rent out a locally-owned restaurant than a venue that solely hosts weddings.
We Didn’t Turn to Talented Friends
One of my biggest regrets is hiring a professional photographer – for $2,000 – instead of asking one of our friends who enjoys photography as a hobby to shoot the wedding for us. I was furious when I got our wedding pictures back. To give you an idea, I have almost no pictures of guests (or family: my mother is in roughly three photos), yet I have about 50 overexposed shots of my shoes and our rings.
Costly Wedding Mistakes: Not taking advantage of the pool of talent in your network and asking for help from friends.
Savings Solutions: Have a friend that loves to bake? Ask if she’d be willing to make your cake as her wedding gift to you. Does a buddy of yours like to dabble in videography? Maybe he’d be willing to gift you his services, too. Utilize the talented people you’re close to. You’ll save yourself some money and offer them the option to gift you something they’ll probably enjoy doing anyway.
We Asked for Stuff We Didn’t Need
I was so excited to register for wedding gifts that I never stopped to think about how I could allow guests to gift us more useful things than a salad bowl set that we didn’t need. We registered at the places we were expected to: Target, Bed Bath & Beyond. But for modern weddings, there are so many creative registry ideas that allow your guests to give practical (and awesome) wedding presents like portions of your honeymoon or home improvements and repairs.
Costly Wedding Mistakes: Thinking you need more stuff (you probably have enough clutter).
Savings Solutions: Okay, yes, you might need a handful of new towels. But it’s likely that you have more important things to pay for, too. Use a site like Honeymoon Wishes or Hatch My House to get funds for experiences and projects you’ll appreciate for far longer than an expensive set of dish ware. At the very least, ask for gift cards to places you buy everyday supplies and groceries to save you a bit of money during your first few weeks as newlyweds.
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Weddings are fun and exciting, and it’s a big day in anyone’s life. But it’s not the only day. Be smart about it, budget for the event, and plan ahead to avoid the mistakes others have made so you can maximize your savings. One day with a big party is not worth years with a big debt.