As someone who works with professionals in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, the topic of weddings comes up relatively often in client meetings (and even in casual conversation, as friends and acquaintances want my take on the financial side of wedding planning).
While I’ve helped many people set up savings goals and responsibly spend on their own ceremonies, I’ve yet to plan and pay for my own wedding.
But that will change soon. My fiancee, Kali, and I plan to get married in June of 2018. We also plan to pay for the wedding ourselves.
I often advise people to exercise good judgment when it comes to planning and paying for a wedding — so it’s totally fair to wonder how I’m handling spending on my wedding.
Here’s exactly how much we plan to spend — along with how and why we came up with a specific number for our wedding budget.
Develop a Wedding Budget That Makes Sense with Your Cash Flow
When we sat down to create a wedding budget, we didn’t focus on what we wanted to buy. We started with our financial situation first, and worked backward from there.
Instead of making a guest list hundreds of people long, focusing on a certain venue or vendor, or dreaming of an extravagant ceremony and reception, we looked at what we felt comfortable saving in an 18-month time frame.
Here’s how we came up with a specific number:
(Those amounts were based off our desire to save and invest 30 percent of gross income).
Then, we prioritized our goal to develop a cash savings fund for a real estate investment over saving for a wedding. While a wedding is important to us both, it’s something we’re spending on, not investing in.
Deciding on a specific number to save for the wedding came last. We knew we wanted the amount to fit comfortably within our monthly cash flow without disrupting other savings goals.
Again, we might need to save for a period of time for the wedding — but that money was specifically earmarked for spending, so it came behind actual savings goals on the priority list.
Consider Your Values Before Spending Big on Your Wedding
Before Kali and I worked out exactly how much we wanted to spend on a wedding, we had a long conversation about what we truly wanted from the occasion.
We both agreed on some important big-picture ideas. We wanted our wedding to be:
- Simple, not stressful.
- An enjoyable experience for us and the people attending the event, not just a way to show off.
- More of a party rather than a formal affair.
That last point might sound bad, but we both agreed that are priorities were on long-term savings and wealth-building — and neither one of us was interested in using tens of thousands of dollars for a single day.
We decided we’d set out to save $15,000 for a wedding in 12 months, which meant saving $1,250 per month for a year.
We’re on track to save that amount in 2017. Because we’re getting married in June 2018, we also plan to keep putting away $1,250 per month so we can expand our budget to $22,500 if we want.
But we see that additional $7,500 as optional, not required. At the end of the year, Kali and I will touch base again and make sure we want to put that same amount toward our wedding..
We’re both more focused on the decades of life we want to spend together after our wedding day than the day itself. But that doesn’t mean we don’t plan to have a good time and plan a wonderful ceremony and reception.
How We’ll Use a $15,000 Wedding Budget
We’re going to incorporate the elements that mean the most to us in our wedding, and not feel obligated to spend on the “traditional” things you’re “supposed” to use money on at a wedding.
Here’s what that means for us:
Instead of booking a traditional wedding venue and inviting hundreds of people, we decided to rent a big vacation house down on Cape Cod.
We rented on the last weekend of the off season before the more expensive summer season gets underway. We’re keeping the guest list to family, and will have 20 to 30 people attending.
Because we rented the house and have it for a few days, we’ll get to spend time with everyone. Instead of doing things like massive rehearsal dinners and expensive brunches out, we plan to set up yard and beach games and cook meals together.
We’ll buy our own alcohol for the bar in bulk and because we’ll get married outside on the water, we plan to keep the food low-key (think clambakes and homemade pizza).
Kali and I aren’t worried about having anything fancy or formal. Our priority is to give family a space to gather and have fun for a really memorable experience for everyone.