Every Battle Is Won Before It Is Ever Fought – Sun Tzu
If you’ve ever thought that you might need Chinese philosophy to fight wedding expense creep, you’re probably right (and you also spend a little too much time thinking of war analogies). The cost of a wedding can be a real battle. According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding has skyrocketed to $28,427 in 2013. You know who bears the brunt of much of that?
I know that when Sun Tzu wrote about taking the high ground, appearing strong when weak and weak when you are strong, he probably wasn’t talking about weddings….but he could have been. If your wallet is going to escape alive, you’ll need a top notch strategy to help with the bill (if that’s your goal) and keep everyone happy.
My clients Linda and Tom ended up spending $23,000 as “their share” of their son’s wedding. When I asked why the expenses were so out of hand, they said, “Bethanny (the daughter-in-law) had her heart set on a fairy tale wedding. Her parents couldn’t afford much, so we thought it was best to chip in more.
I felt horrible as their advisor for not helping them cut the costs to a minimum!
Even if you’ve done a swell job teaching your kids about money, let’s be honest for a moment; many young people have no idea what money really means….even if they’re at wedding age. Now that they’ve seen the William and Kate wedding, watched the spectacle of Kanye asking what’s-her-name to marry him by renting out an entire arena and hiring an orchestra, your child may think that it’s their turn to create a special, expensive day.
While I don’t question that the day should be special, there’s no reason to break the bank….especially your bank. If your child is the one with pie-in-the-sky dreams involving your wallet, it’s time for you to remember Sun Tzu and focus on what’s important.
When I’ve had clients come to be with children who are getting married, my advice: act quickly to establish the ground rules. Your ground rules don’t have to be the same as your child’s. There’s no reason for you to try and keep up with escalating wedding expenses. Frankly, if you don’t want to, you don’t even have to get involved.
Here are five of my favorite tactics to cut costs and save your sanity while keeping the fun meter set to high (and without getting yourself uninvited from your own child’s wedding!):
1) Tell the bride and groom immediately how much you’re willing to contribute. Make this gift a set amount and if possible, write the check immediately. After that, stop writing checks! Remind them of your agreement if they ask again. If costs arise, you’ve already done your part and should encourage them to find places to cut.
2) Give the couple your cash gift without specifying whether it’s spent on the wedding or not. In fact, make it clear that this is a gift. I love the idea of helping a young couple learn to save (or learn from the “I should have” lesson of spending a ton on a one day event). If you wish, you can even refer to this money from the beginning as “your wedding gift” to them, so that you aren’t on the hook for a separate gift later.
3) If everyone’s amenable, try services such as Rent The Runway for bridesmaid gowns. Not only will everyone look top notch, but the wedding party will share in some of the savings as well.
4) Offer to use your influence or ability to research to help the couple cut costs while keeping the event elegant and special. Ask them if they’d like to you send them creative ideas for:
– Food options
– Wedding and reception locations
In each of these areas there are hundreds of great, low cost ideas online that you can easily explore.
5) Lastly, if you’ve followed these points, don’t insert your ideas or desires for the wedding into the mix. As a guy who worked with couples about to get married for ten years, overbearing parents can ruin the entire event. Give your gift and get out of the way unless you’re asked. I know it’s your money, but remember that you gave it to them for THEIR planning, not yours.
These five areas will help you lower the cost of a wedding and save your sanity. You’ll gain “the high ground” Sun Tzu wrote about in his philosophy and avoid the nightmare of creeping wedding costs. Hopefully it’ll help the new bride and groom find creative ways to cut expenses and still have an awesome day.
Mother of the Bride or Groom? I’ll Help Make The Day Special
I know when you come to Stacking Benjamins you think of women’s fashion…
If you’re the mother of the bride, check out Soulmates.com for some dress ideas. At the very least, you could win one right here just by being one of my readers!
How did you cut expenses at your wedding? Not married? What are some of the best ideas you’ve seen? Let’s share more in the comments below.
I’ll have some more direct ideas in this week’s Stacker newsletter, too! Sign up at the top of the page.
One way we saved big on our wedding (we paid for 84% of our wedding costs) was to employ a photographer from a photography student at the local university. For $200 (plus a $50 tip) we got two photographers who did an amazing job, and all rights to the images. This means we could do whatever we wanted with them, which saved on prints big time.
Mrs PoP @ PlantingOurPennies
Elope, elope, elope!!! Our wedding cost less than $250 – and we were married on a boat, went snorkeling, had amazing food, great entertainment and (literally) sailed away into the sunset. When your guest list is empty it’s significantly easier to have an amazing wedding on the cheap.
Plus, we bought a house with what we could have spent on a wedding… and that’s worked out pretty darned well.
My roommate in college had a small wedding (not as small as yours) and was able to do some awesome stuff because his guest list was 45 people. It was an incredible afternoon and you never had any idea it was a budget wedding.
Get married in a national forest. Aside from the very few cows we had to chase away (it’s free range), it was no problem and free. I’m sure we spent less than $5000, honeymoon included.
“The very few cows we had to chase away….” That’s not a nice way to talk about relatives, Kim….
Done by Forty
I really hope I win the Soulmates dress. I like to look good for the missus.
I’ll throw in an extra 20 bucks if you win and take a pic in it….
I wanted to elope but no one would let me. So, we decided to have a small wedding and two receptions. It was actually a pretty big undertaking since my family lives in Indiana and Greg’s lives in Minnesota. We did it pretty cheap as well.
I can see you trying to elope. Ours was a big undertaking for other reasons: my dad has 16 brothers and sisters. It was going to be a big wedding or we were going to upset a large number of people.
Matt @ momanddadmoney
Our wedding would have been a lot less expensive if not for my in-laws. I’m not complaining, as we had a great time and really loved what we did, but they were very up-front about the desire to spend the money they had saved for the occasion and because of that we chose to have a few more things than we would have otherwise. I do think you can have a great event for a very small amount of money. Beyond booze, music and some food, what else do people need to have a good time?
I’m SO conflicted about that….I can see someone’s desire to ensure you have a great time, and maybe they aren’t hurting financially, but most young couples would LOVE to have some of that money in savings when just starting out in life.
It is silly to spend that much on a 1 day event, then go back to a one bedroom apt. or their parents basement to live. My wedding 36 years ago cost us $100. I don’t regret it for an instant. My son and his wife got married last year and it was the second best wedding I ever attended. In her grandparents back yard. Limited guest list. They had a roasted 1/2 pig for the reception. Music pre-recorded. A friend did the photos. Bride’s grandmother bought her dress. The whole thing was garden party casual and they saved a ton of money so they could instead have a nice down payment on a house which they bought just one year later. I was so proud that they were so sensible.
$100! When you say that your son’s wedding was the 2nd best wedding you’ve ever attended, was the best one your own? 🙂
Somehow ended up with 2 names. I’ll pick one and stick with it.
Here in Hawaii the tradition is to give money which helped defray the cost. I always give money at wedding because I understand the cost.
I usually try to give cash unless I can find something quirky and fun on the couple’s bridal registry.
As a former wedding planner I can tell you that it is not the budget that matters it is the love, family and friends that surround you that day. Cheesy I know, but some of my favorite weddings were the small intimate ones.
What I do recommend is before you ever start planning detail out how you envision your day and then set a budget based on that.
A great way for parents to keep costs down is say up front this is how much they have to plan and then do not make adjustments. If money is tight and the kids are older don’t feel obligated to pay for everything. My hubs and I were 26/28 when we got married and paid for a majority of it ourselves.
As a former wedding disc jockey (we can save the jokes about that for another day….) I would wholeheartedly agree. I’ve seen some incredibly extravagant weddings that were duds because there was no love anywhere present.
I love that two money nerds found their way to the wedding industry! 🙂
Ha! Money nerds know where the cash would be, right? …..and the wedding industry is full of people with open checkbooks, sadly.
If we had it to do over again, we’d definitely go the cheaper route, and will encourage our kids to do the same. It is possible to plan a beautiful, memorable event without shelling out 20k, that’s for sure!