By Kara I. Stevens
It took two years before I finally walked down the aisle. I loved my fiancé, but I just wasn’t ready.
“Ready” had nothing to do with “cold feet.” ”Ready”, for me, had everything to do with being financial positioned to absorb the cost of a wedding. I had spent the larger part of my twenties sweating, clawing, and pulling myself out of debt and refused to go back.
If wedding expenses and your dreams of financial freedom seem to be at war, don’t be discouraged. Here are some tips to keep you sane and focused as you plan for a cost-effective wedding and a marriage free from new debt.
1.Create A Wedding Account: Once you know that you want to get married, start saving up for it, even if you haven’t met that special someone. The premise for starting a wedding account is not unlike the rationale for beginning a college or retirement fund: start early to keep time on your side.
Money in this account can be earmarked for the wedding expenses that directly apply to you (i.e. dress, hair, nails, make-up, bouquet, jewelry, shoes). And once you meet your spouse-to-be, both of you can save for the rest of the wedding together.
2. Don’t Get Married Until You Can Pay For Everything In Cash: This strategy expands on the previous one. Using this principle can mean that your wedding will be simple, sweet, and soon or involved, intricate and sometime down the line. Either way is fine because there will be no wedding debt to burden your new marriage.
3. Enlist The Help of Your Level-Headed Girlfriend(s): If you know that you will go overboard when planning your wedding, seek the support and help of your financially-savvy friends. Let them know your budget and how exactly you want them to help. Do you want them to research venues, make decisions around guest lists, compare prices on dresses? Although you may fight them along the way, ultimately you will be thankful that these people kept you from doing damage to your finances.
4. Create a Lean, Mean Guest List: It’s unfortunate, but not everyone that you know will get an invitation to your wedding, especially if you are being a cost-conscious bride. I used the following technique when making my guest list: I wrote the words “friends and family” on a piece of paper and gave myself two minutes to brainstorm all of the names that came to mind. When you try this activity, the people that you view as most important in your life will surface. Those are the people to invite.
On the other hand, if you have to search the recesses of your mind for names to remember, then those are the people that get the good news after it has happened.
During my wedding planning process, I also asked myself questions like, “Have I heard from or seen this person in the last year or six months?” “Will this person be happy for me?” “Has this person always ‘had my back’?” and “Would this person know how to conduct themselves on such a day?”
5. Don’t Watch Wedding Shows That Encourage You To Spend Shows like Say “Yes” To The Dress and Four Weddings are bad for your bridal budget. If they are not pushing the belief that the most important part of the wedding is the bride’s appearance, they are messaging that weddings are competitions—to be critiqued in the areas of food, dress, and venue. These shows are pure junk food for the mind. They are there to normalize exorbitant consumption. Shows like these showcase average spending budgets of at least $6,000 for wedding dresses and $20,000 for venues. They are there to suck you into the bridal-industrial complex. Don’t let them.
6. Think About Your Marriage: I know that a woman’s wedding day is very special. It is, nonetheless, just one day. Before you pay for a costly wedding, think about how this money could benefit your marriage.
Conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the wedding costs by answering questions such as: “Could the cost of the wedding be used toward a partial down payment on a new home, a second car, furniture for the home, a year’s worth of emergency funds, investing, several payments toward our student loans, start-up money for our dream business, a work-free year so one of us could stay at home with a baby?”
7. Invest In Marriage Counseling: Investing in the strength and longevity of your marriage should also factor into your wedding plans. Take the time to talk about and understand each other’s financial identities, communication styles, and dreams. The rate of return on this investment is greater than any discount you could score on bridal bouquets, a wedding band, a gown, or a catering hall.
8. Remember: Size Does Not Matter: In this society, we have a way of thinking that the bigger and more extravagant something is, the more significant it is. This is faulty and dangerous thinking. This mindset may pressure you to spend to impress, spend what you don’t have, and expend unnecessary energy trying to make your wedding a headlining event, instead of a ceremony used to cement the covenant of love, friendship, and commitment that you and your partner promise to one another before a community of witnesses and God.
BMWK family: Is it okay for newlyweds to enter their marriages with wedding debt? Should we really worry about money and expenses when playing for our wedding days? Which of these strategies resonates with you and why?
Kara Stevens blogs at FabulousNFrugal, a personal finance blog for women-of-color. Kara gives practical tips on all things girl power, wealth management, and juicy living. Connect with her on Twitter: @fabandfrugal ?