3 Steps to Save For Your Dream Wedding (+tips from a wedding planner)

Why are weddings so expensive? If you’ve ever planned a wedding you’ll certainly have asked yourself that at some point. For those of you who haven’t, real quick: How much does the average wedding in the United States cost?

If you guessed anything other than $35,329, youd be wrong. Let me ask you another one:

How is it possible that someone can spend this much money on a single day?

To answer that question, you have to understand that every little part of the wedding from the venue right down to who you want videotaping everything is going to cost money. And these costs add up quickly. The Knot recently published their list of average costs, so lets take a look at the average price spent on (most) everything at a wedding.

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How to Save for Your Dream Wedding (with advice from a wedding planner)

dream-wedding

To get a better idea of how couples can save for their dream wedding, we talked to wedding planner Sarah Glick. She co-owns Brilliant Event Planning along with Chelsea LaFollette. For years, the two have been planning weddings all around the world so they’ve personally handled their fair share of expensive weddings.

The budgets for our clients really vary, depending on headcount and location, but we have planned weddings for clients with budgets exceeding $1 million, Sarah says.

Whether you want to save for a wedding of $35,329 or $1 million, all you need to do is follow a system of three steps:

  1. Set a realistic budget
  2. Prioritize the important things
  3. Use sub-savings accounts to help you save

Step 1: Set a realistic budget

Even though you’re on a personal finance site like IWT, you’re still human. That means that your wedding will most likely be much pricier than you originally thought. The best way to not fall into debt when the day you sign a check to vendors arrives is to anticipate and plan for it.

Set a budget, Sarah says. People often think they can just handle each contract with a vendor as it comes up and deal with the costs on a case-by-case basis. However, that often results in the client spending way more than they wanted to spend and more than they would have spent had they considered the overall big picture from the beginning of the planning process.

So sit down and make a realistic budget of how much your wedding might be priced. The back-of-a-napkin formula for it is simple too. Simply take into account:

  1. The average age at marriage, which is about 31 for men and 29 for women.
  2. The average wedding cost, which is about $35,000.

If you’re 21, you should each plan to save around $3,500 a year or $292 a month.

And if you think that’s unreasonable, I have two things to tell you:

  1. Even if you cant save that much nowany amount you CAN save will add up down the road. Can you afford $50/month? If so, that’s $50 better than you were doing yesterday.
  2. If you work towards earning more money, you’ll be able to eventually save this much. Keep reading and Ill give you the exact resources you can use to get there.

Of course, this will change depending on how old you are and how much you want to spend on your wedding. Here’s a great wedding cost calculator you can use to give you a rough estimate of how much you should save based on what you want for your big day.

Step 2: Prioritize the important things

If your budget seems a little bit intimidating and you want to find areas to save, don’t worry. You can always prioritize aspects of your wedding to help you cut back.

This depends on what the couples priorities are. Everyone is a little bit different, Sarah explains. Couples can save by choosing one or two areas to splurge on and then being cost-conscious for everything else.

It’s human nature to want the best for our wedding day, and we need to be realistic about that. However, you also need to be realistic about the fact that you cant always have the best of everything. That’s where prioritization comes in.

From Sarah:

Remember how I mentioned that location can affect how expensive weddings are? You can leverage this fact and cut back on your wedding expenses by choosing a more budget-friendly location.

A wedding in Mississippi, for example, will cost much less than a wedding in New York City, even if the headcount stays the same, Sarah says.

Once you know what your priorities are, revisit your projected wedding budget and reconsider some areas where you can cut back. If you have the costs on paper, you’ll know exactly which trade-offs you can make to keep within your budget. If you haven’t decided on what you want to spend though, itll look like there are no trade-offs necessary.

THAT’S how people get into debt for their wedding.

But I’m not going to let that happen to you. That’s why I’m going to show you how to set up a sub-savings account where you can put money away for your wedding automatically each month.

Step 3: Use sub-saving accounts to help you save

Let’s assume you’re 25 years old and plan to spend $40,000 on your wedding. Lets say you also plan on getting married by the time you’re 30.

If you want to pay for the whole wedding yourself (a totally achievable goal), you’ll have to save about $8,000 a year or $666 a month for the wedding (lets not read too much into that last number).

A perfect way to put away that evil amount each month is through a sub-savings account. This is a savings account you create in addition to your regular savings. Often times, you can even name them too!

You can leverage your sub-savings account to:

  1. Put money away towards specific savings goals
  2. Save cash when you automate your finances

The beauty about them is that they allow you to see exactly how much you’ve saved because the account is tailored for that specific goal. This does wonders for you psychologically.

When I first discovered sub-savings accounts, I created one and named it Down Payment for a down payment on a house. I was regularly transferring money into it based on my savings goals using my automated finances.

As the months passed, the amount in that account grew bigger and bigger, and I felt really proud of my accomplishment.

During this time, one of my friends was just blindly putting away money in an account he had mentally earmarked for vague goals.

Though we might have had the same amount saved away, the difference between us psychologically was staggering. Where he felt despair about trying to save money, I was motivated.

For me, I wasn’t working towards $20,000 for a down payment. I was working on saving $333 a month over five years a perfectly achievable goal, especially after I tracked my progress.

So go to your bank’s website and open up a sub-savings account and name it Wedding fund. Once you’ve done that, you can now automate your finances so you’re putting money into it each month automatically.

Check out my video below to learn exactly how to open up a sub-savings account today.

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Knowing the Astonishingly High Costs of Weddings, What Can You Do?

I see three choices:

Cut costs and have a simpler wedding. Great idea, but frankly, most people are not disciplined enough to do this. I don’t say this pejoratively, but statistically: Most people will have a wedding that costs tens of thousands of dollars.

Do nothing and figure it out later. This is the most common tactic. I spoke to a recently married person who spent the previous eight months planning her wedding, which ended up becoming a very expensive day. Now, months later, she and her husband don’t know how to deal with the resulting debt. If you do this, you made a huge mistake. But you are in good company, because almost everybody else does it too.

Acknowledge reality and plan for the wedding. Ask ten people which of these choices they’ll make, and every single one of them will pick this one. Then ask them how much money they’re saving every month for their wedding (whether they’re engaged or not). I guarantee the sputtering and silence will be worth it. Then again, I live for uncomfortable conversations.

If you think about it, we actually have all the information we need. The average age at marriage is about twenty-nine for men and twenty-seven for women. (I’m assuming a heterosexual marriage because we have more long-term data.) We know that the average cost of a wedding is about $35,000. So, if you really are committed to not going into debt for your wedding, here’s the astonishing amount you should be saving, whether you’re engaged or not:

How Much Should You Be Saving For Your Future Wedding

YOUR AGE

MONTHS UNTIL WEDDING

MONTHLY AMOUNT NEEDED TO SAVE 

22

60

$583.33

23

48

$729.17

24

36

$972.22

25

24

$1,458.33

26

12

$2,916.67

27

1

$35,000

Based on the averages if you’re a man:

YOUR AGE

MONTHS UNTIL WEDDING

MONTHLY AMOUNT NEEDED TO SAVE 

22

84

$416.67

23

72

$486.11

24

60

$583.33

25

48

$729.17

26

36

$972.22

27

24

$1,458.33

28

12

$2,916.67

29

1

$35,000

This can be intimidating, but I think of it differently. This is an eye-opener. Remember that these numbers are averages. You may decide to get married earlier, later, or not at all. I got married at 36! The key point here is that when you plan ahead, time is on your side.

Ultimate Question: Should You Sign a Prenup?

The first thing I wondered is: Who needs a prenup? In pop culture, it’s celebrities, industrial tycoons, and wealthy heirs—three groups I’m not a member of.

 As I researched further, I found that most people don’t need a prenup unless one of you has a disproportionate amount of assets or liabilities relative to the other—or there are complications like one of you owning a business or having an inheritance. Ninety-nine percent of people don’t need one. I learned that, in movies and on TV, prenups are portrayed as the tool that one person (the wealthier one) uses to screw the other. In reality, a prenup is an agreement on assets that were accumulated before the marriage, not just what’s jointly accumulated during the marriage—plus an agreement on what to do if the marriage ends.

I realized that in most other parts of life, we plan ahead: our investments, buying a house, where we want to live, getting a raise at work. But somehow, magically, when it comes to our relationships, we’re told that planning ahead is “unromantic.” As one divorced friend admitted, “I never thought I’d have to use this agreement. But I’m glad I signed it.”

Finally, after researching it for months, and because I was bringing a business and a much higher net worth to the marriage, I made the decision that I wanted to sign one. 

Marriage is about finding a partner you love and want to spend the rest of your life with. It’s also a legal contract with significant financial ramifications. I plan for other financial contingencies, so after getting educated and consulting lots of experts, I realized that—of course—I should plan for the largest financial decision I’d ever make. As one friend said, “We signed our prenup at our best to prepare for the worst.”

How do you talk about this? Here’s what I did. 

I reassured her that I planned for our marriage to be forever. “I love you and I’m excited to get married and be with you for the rest of my life.”

I told her why we were even talking about this. “Because of a few decisions and a lot of luck with my business, I’m coming to this relationship with more money than most people. I don’t think we’ll ever need to use a prenup, but it’s important to me that I protect the assets I’ve accumulated before we get married.”

I emphasized marriage was about creating a team. “When we get married, we’re a team. I want you to know I’ll look out for you, and I know you’ll look out for me.”

I emphasized our lifestyle. “You and I grew up almost the same. Both our moms are teachers. You see what I spend my money on—it’s not sports cars or bottle service. It’s basically living a comfortable life (with a few nice things). I love sharing this lifestyle with you and with our families.”

But I was firm about wanting to sign a prenup. “I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished with my business and finances. It’s important to me that I protect those assets in the worst case that we separate.”

Notice that:

  I started by emphasizing that I love her and want to spend my life with her.

  I took responsibility for bringing this up. It wasn’t my lawyers or accountants or anybody else forcing me to. This was something I wanted and it was important to me.

  I spent the majority of the time talking about why I wanted a prenup (not how it’s structured or the numbers).

Cass told me she was open to it and she wanted to research more. And thus began a multi-month conversation about our prenup. We talked about what money meant to us, we circled back to why I wanted one, and when we dug in to the actual numbers, we talked about what those numbers meant.

Ultimately, we signed an agreement that we’re both satisfied with.

Going through this process, I was shocked at how nobody talks about this publicly—it’s completely taboo. Yet when I started discussing it privately with friends and advisers, I discovered that a surprising number of people actually had one! I want to shine a light on this topic and encourage you to discuss it openly with your partner.

The prenup process taught me more about how we both think about money than anything I’d ever done. We both hope we never have to use it.

Earn More to Afford the Wedding of Your Dreams

Despite what society tells you, theres no right or wrong price for your wedding. You might have a wedding in the high six figures, or you might just have a wedding that ends up costing a couple thousand. Both are perfectly fine. What matters most is that youre realistic about what youre going to spend so you know what to save.

If you want a wedding that might cost a little bit more than youre able to save for right now though, there is a solution: Earn more money.

You can only save so much money at the end of the day. However, theres no limit to how much you can earn.

Thats why my team and I have worked hard to create a guide to help you invest in yourself today: The Ultimate Guide to Making Money.

In it, Ive included my best strategies to:

  • Create multiple income streams so you always have a consistent source of revenue.
  • Start your own side hustle so you’re earning money for any financial goal (like a wedding).
  • Increase your income by thousands of dollars a year through earning raises and freelancing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a good budget for a wedding?

This is up to you. The most important thing is that you set a realistic budget that is achievable. 

 

How much is a typical wedding?

The cost of the average wedding is $35,329

 

How much does a NYC wedding cost?

The prices in NYC normally double. For example: The average cost for a wedding in Manhattan is $76,944.

 

Why are weddings so expensive?

The simple answer is weddings have many moving parts: caterers, reception, pictures, videography, makeup, etc. All of these things cost money, which makes the price tag add up quickly.

Budgeting is unsustainable. Start “Conscious Spending” instead.

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Written by

Host of Netflix's "How to Get Rich", NYT Bestselling Author & host of the hit I Will Teach You To Be Rich Podcast. For over 20 years, Ramit has been sharing proven strategies to help people like you take control of their money and live a Rich Life.