Updated: Jun 22, 2021
Hello Everyone! My name is Teja and I shall be taking over for today. My husband, Faithful, and I have been married for 2 years now. We live in the Boston area, work in healthcare IT and love to travel. We’ve been debt free as a couple for about 4 years now and we happened to pay off our student loans while saving for a wedding! For us to accomplish having a debt free wedding and paying off student loans was a feat in and of itself but I am here to tell you that it is more than possible! Having a wedding does not have to disrupt your life! It’s all about planning and prioritizing to accomplish the wedding of your dreams.
When Denee asked me to write about my wedding and how we went about paying for it in full without incurring debt, I was overjoyed because it was something my husband and I were adamant about from the moment we started planning. Ever since establishing our journey to becoming and staying debt free, any time a friend gets engaged and asks us for wedding planning advice, the first thing we tell them is: DO NOT incur debt for your wedding.
Your wedding day is a capsule in time that flies by faster than you could ever imagine; no matter how much you try and hold onto it. It’s one of those times in your life, when being completely present is paramount and when it is over, all you want to be left with are the memories, the pictures and gifts; not any debt. Before I dive into how we went about staying debt free, I want to remind you future brides and grooms, that your wedding day is for you to publicly commit yourselves to one another and establish your love and union in front of family and friends. Do not spoil this beautiful day with financial woes and stresses after. If you have a long engagement saving for your big day is easier (the path we chose) but if you do not want to wait, really and truly be honest about what you can afford because after all it is just one day. So in providing my insight, I will break down how to go about having a debt free wedding the same way I would for any friend.
My first piece of advice is to discuss the budget with your fiance. After all, you cannot have a wedding without money, unless you are blessed enough to have someone pay for it. Ideally, you should talk with your fiance on what you both can afford before you make any decisions on venue, location, etc. Understanding what you can afford is most important to ensuring you are not setting yourself up for borrowing money when things get tight. Speaking with family members (i.e. parents, grandparents, etc) if they are able to contribute to the wedding fund should be something to consider as well. It’s a nice bonus to know that you will have help to supplement what you are adding between the two of you. Once you have a dollar amount in mind, work on your guest list. Determining the number of people you want to invite, will dictate the space of the venue, the food being served, the amount of flowers needed as centerpieces, the number of stamps and invitations, favors and so on.
Having your budget and guest list number identified early on will help you quickly identify if you are heading for an over-budget wedding. In the event that you cannot reduce the number of people you invite, know that it could mean cutting out other items from your wedding in order to not break the bank. For us, we started out over our initial budget. We discussed spending no more than $15,000 for our venue with a guest list of 170 people. We booked our venue for $17,000… $2,000 over our stated budget but we knew that making this decision would lead to removing some things later on in the planning. Planning a wedding and working within your budget is all about the give and take. There are a lot of factors that contribute to what you select for your wedding so knowing upfront what you absolutely cannot live without and what is expendable is important to decide. You must prioritize your must-haves and wants early on.
My second piece of advice for staying within budget is to have your wedding off season and if you do, ALWAYS negotiate “off season savings.” If you cannot have your wedding off season, and absolutely want that summer wedding, consider a Sunday or a work week day, think Friday or even Thursday. We doubled our savings by having an off season wedding in April AND by having a morning wedding! Our morning April wedding was right before the wedding season started in May and we enjoyed the warm weather without the hefty price tag. I completely understand the beauty in summer weddings but knowing that your finances are a priority, you should consider the value of not being charged extra because of the season. At the time of our wedding, we saved $10,000 just for having our wedding in April. We were completely upfront with our potential venues about our budget and they worked with us, even commenting that if we had it any time between May - September, our minimum would've been no less than $25k. Speaking of minimums, when figuring out your menu and hor d'oeuvres for your venue, and any other little add-ons, always remember that if your venue works off minimums, you want to have a lower minimum that you are required to pay rather than adding everything upfront. You cannot take away from your minimum once you sign the contract. You can always add but never subtract so be tactful about what gets written into the contract prior to signing.
Now that your budget and guest list number and venue are secured, it’s time to vendor stop. My third piece of advice is shop around and, if you can, always pay in full. Some vendors offer between 10-15% discount for couples that pay in full for their services. These extra savings add up and can be used towards your honeymoon or other things during your wedding. When scoping out vendors, always always look for references. Asking married friends or if you don’t have any friends or family members, asking coworkers or friends of friends is so important for references. Take a peek at the work of the vendor, whether flowers from the centerpieces or pictures from the wedding, your reference resources are endless within your network. Next hit up all the expos for weddings. I did that for mine and got some really good referrals and won a few free items as well. Free people. Free! Any time you have the chance to enter into raffles do so! We got our second limo for free just by entering into a raffle and getting our name picked. We also enjoyed free hotel night stays leading up to our wedding as well just by participating. When shopping around, always remember your budget. Think quality also; hard I know. But once you find the right vendor who is willing to work with you, the possibilities are endless. Get creative and think outside the box. Also do not forget, some items do not always have to be sourced out. In this day and age, crafting is the name of the game. Ask questions of your network and do not be afraid to DIY. Remember when I said earlier that we had to sacrifice because we started out over budget? Well because of it, we ended up not getting a photo booth, videographer or day-of coordinator. However we made up for it by creating a DIY a photo backdrop and used our photographer to take pictures. Our guests captured pictures of our vows and wedding and I had a really great friend who stepped up as my day-of coordinator. I saved quite a bit by thinking outside the box and looking to my network of friends for help.
In the end, always remember that this day will be the start to your future as husband and wife. Knowing that you will have zero obligations financially from your wedding will start you off on the right foot. You want to have a clean slate to focus on tackling your next financial goals (i.e. house, kids, vacation, etc). The list goes on but always remember that debt is borrowing from your future self:
“Think of borrowing money as negotiating a pay cut with your future self” ~ Preet Banerjee
Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or need some DIY ideas!