Inside Deals - December 6th, 2019

Inside Deals (Dec 6th, 2019)

Frugal Fridays: How to Get Married on a Budget

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Congratulations, you’re getting married! Oh, by the way, the average cost of a wedding in the United States is over $33,000, according to The Knot. But, don’t break off your engagement just yet. The internet is full of communities dedicated to saving money on one of life’s most important events, and we’ve collected some of the top tips around on how to get married without depleting your 401k.

1. You can save thousands if you select your reception venue carefully. This is our single most important recommendation, as wedding venues cost an average of $13,000 nationwide, according to ValuePenguin, and dwarf the majority of other wedding expenses. Depending on the size of your party, you may be able to find a generous relative or friend to host the reception in a large backyard. Truly thrifty newlyweds have asked guests to “register” to prepare food or cocktails for a backyard wedding, saving even more money that would normally go to a pricey venue or catering service, and allowing Aunt Geraldine to show off her famous watermelon mojitos. Of course, not all couples can fit their many guests into a backyard, which brings us to our second tip...

2. Don’t invite everyone you’ve ever met. The more guests you have, the more expensive your wedding will be, period. Depending on your venue and catering options, a guest can cost anywhere between $30 and $100 per plate, and the average wedding has 140 guests. You can do the math.

Of course, there's no way to invite everyone who would want to come to your wedding. Even the largest parties end up with some people feeling excluded. With this in mind, you can be judicious with your invitations and keep your guest list compact without offending people. If you’re looking to keep your wedding small, start with the most important guests and work your way out from there. If the number is already getting high after including essential family members and close friends, you can be forgiven for eliminating long networks of extended cousins, coworkers, and friends you haven’t seen in years.

A good question to ask yourself is: “Would I be offended if I was not invited to this person’s wedding?” For distant relatives or friends with whom you've lost touch, there’s a good chance the answer is “no,” so you shouldn’t spend too much time worrying that they’ll feel excluded. The more people you’re already inviting, though, the trickier this gets, so relatively small parties will have an easier time explaining away a condensed guest list. For further research, Martha Stewart Weddings has a detailed article about guest list etiquette so you can have the wedding you want with the fewest number of hurt feelings.

3. Be smart when purchasing an engagement ring. This one is very sensitive. For decades, many couples have followed the “two-months salary” rule for purchasing an engagement ring, and who am I to tell you your significant other isn’t worth that much? Of course, that “rule” is not a rule at all, but a marketing gimmick invented by the De Beers diamond company in the 1930s. It started out as the “one-month rule” but grew to two months by the time of De Beers’ famous ad campaign from the 1990s. The very first episode of CollegeHumor’s “Adam Ruins Everything” webseries is all about how De Beers pretty much invented the concept of diamond engagement rings, and how those shiny rocks don’t have any intrinsic value. All that being said, what this really comes down to is showing your significant other that you love and appreciate them. If you can do that without spending one-sixth your annual salary, it's not a bad idea.

If a diamond engagement ring is unavoidably in your future, it's best to buy it during the summer months. While summer is the most popular time for weddings, it's not the most popular time for proposals. Many jewelers will offer discounts on engagement rings between May and September, knowledge you can take advantage of even if you're not planning to propose until Valentine's Day.

4. Keep photographer and videographer costs low. Estimates vary, but the average couple spends between $2,000 and $4,000 on their wedding photographer. These costs have stayed high despite the fact that we all carry digital cameras around in our pockets. Of course, you probably don’t want your precious memories captured by the camera of an iPhone 6s. But, there are still ways to save on your wedding media. Here are some suggestions:

  • Talk to your friends. Someone who already owns a DSLR and has at least some experience will likely be able to give you photos that look reasonably close to a professional level, and could shave thousands of dollars off your wedding bill.
  • If you’re hiring a professional photographer, go with the cheapest-available package. You’ll still likely get an online gallery and DVD with enough photos you absolutely love and will look at regularly.
  • Ask for discounts. Many professional photographers will give discounts if you’re getting married at an off-peak time (in February, or on a weekday), or if you refer them to any friends who are also getting married soon.

5. Make your own invitations. Sure, going with cheap invitations doesn’t always work out for the best. But, that’s no reason to spend $500 or more for something that’s going to go on your cousin’s refrigerator for two months before ending up in the trash. An online printing company like Vistaprint offers affordable options, or you can find any number of people willing to design invitations for you on a marketplace like fiverr or Etsy.

Also, it’s not the 1970s! Sending a letter through the mail is not the only way to contact someone. Send dozens of invitations instantly via Paperless Post and cross one expense off your list entirely.

6. Borrow, rent, swap, and sell. A lot of what you’ll use for your wedding are things you’ll never use again. These include obvious items like wedding dresses and tuxedos, but also things like shoes, centerpieces and other decorations, pocket handkerchiefs, and any number of accessories you won’t think about until someone tries charging you $400 for them. There are plenty of local DIY groups on Facebook to buy and borrow items for weddings for cheap (or even free). Pinterest is also a seemingly limitless source of ideas for do-it-yourself weddings.

You can also potentially rent the wedding dress of your dreams through an online service like Rent the Runway. A $250 rental instead of a $1,000 purchase price may make it a lot more palatable to say yes to the dress.

As a general rule, don't buy something you're not passionate about if there's a chance you can rent it for cheaper or borrow it for free. If you do purchase an expensive wedding dress or tuxedo, think about how much dust it will collect sitting in the closet for the next 40 years, channel your inner Marie Kondo, and sell it when the wedding's over.

7. I saved the easiest one for last: cut your cake yourself. Many venues will charge you a fee to cut your cake, often up to $2 per slice. If you’ve got 100 guests at your wedding, that’s $200 going out the door for remarkably little value. A self-service station (or just asking a friend to do the honors) can save you a couple hundies that can be put toward a nice dinner on your honeymoon.

These are certainly not the only ways to save money when you're getting married. So, hit 'reply' to this email and let us know what tips you have for avoiding a wedding that breaks the bank.

Jonathan Harris is a Los Angeles-based writer. Previously, he wrote for The Huffington Post,, and the YouTube channel What’s Trending. He’s a frequent performer at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Hollywood. Follow him on Twitter @countrycaravan.

Edited by Inside Deals editor, Sheena Vasani. Follow her on Twitter.

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