My wife has been a professional wedding photographer for 25 years. And through the years she has worked to help couples discover their priorities and smart ways to save on a wedding.
She has seen couples spend a lot of money on their wedding. I’m talking about brides spending up to $25,000 on a wedding dress, Grooms fly to Italy for a custom tailored tux, as well as couples spending $20,000 or more on floral decorations.
Admittedly, some couples have well-off families and can splurge. But I feel that too many couples are throwing lavish weddings to keep up with the Jones’.
How much do weddings cost?
The Knot conducts a “Real Weddings Study” every year. In 2018, they surveyed over 14,000 wedding couples who were married the previous year. What they found was that the national average cost of a wedding (excluding honeymoon expenses) was $33,391.
Of course, these are national averages and are grossly deflated here in New England. Here area averages by states in the northeast.
Cape Cod, MA: $58,608
Rhode Island: $52,608
New York City: $78,464
New Jersey: $62,606
Before you say, “I do”, let’s get some ideas as to how much a wedding actually costs, and discover some ways to save money on your wedding.
A friend and client of mine was adamant on spending just $10,000 on her wedding. It was her second wedding and she wanted to do this smart. With help of friends, she was able to meet her goal and be happy about it. So it is possible.
You can have anything you want in this world: a beautiful house, lovely family, even a dream wedding. But also strive for the “happily ever after” ending, and you can only achieve that with a well-defined budget and finding smart ways to save money on a wedding.
Here are 7 smart ways to save money on a wedding.
1. Prioritize Two or Three Vendors
We all want the fairy tale wedding: the ravishing dress, beautiful flowers, and a gorgeous venue with a view. But that wedding can be expensive.
Dana, a recent bride, reports that her wedding cost her $100,000 to throw.
“It was the wedding of my dreams, and I have expensive taste… The dress of my dream was $8,000, and I spent close to $20,000 on flowers for decoration.” –Dana, 32
Learning to prioritize where to spend your wedding dollars will not only keep the costs down, it’ll also give you a better chance at a “happily ever after” ending.
After all, money is one of the leading causes of divorce. So find smart ways to save money on a wedding.
Here’s what she had to say:
“Planning a wedding can be overwhelming. Part of my job is to teach couples how to dream about their ideal wedding, within reason. Our first meeting is designed to see where their priorities lie. For some couples that could be their photographer. For others, it might be entertainment or floral decorations.”
She goes on to explain that most people have a budget. Whether it’s realistic or not is something else. And she’s right, we live in New England and things are more expensive here than the national average.
However, money limitations are real. In order to see if people should spend their wedding money on her, Susie gives people permission to splurge (within reason) on one or two vendors.
This allows people to wisely invest their money where it matters most and trim expenses everywhere else.
2. Keep the Head Count Down
It can be stressful planning a wedding when you have a huge family. If you don’t learn how to keep the wedding small, you’ll end up (like me) having 450 people at your wedding for $65-$100 a plate.
That’s a lot of money. $29,250 – $45,000 for food and drink. Sandwiches, anyone?
Keep your head count down by only inviting the people you care most for. My wife’s family is pretty big so it comes as no surprise to us that we weren’t invited every wedding in the family. There’s a lot of us.
This also trims wedding costs for all items based on head count. That’s dinner plates, food, drinks, save the dates, rsvp cards, formal wedding invitations, favors, and thank you cards.
It’ll also save you time in planning seating arrangements. Use the money that you keep to fund your honeymoon or be smarter an invest it.
3. Leverage Technology
I believe that technology is going to disrupt the wedding industry and how couples plan a wedding. In the not so far future, wedding couples will be able to book their wedding venue online, choosing where to seat guests and perhaps control the ambiance of their reception hall from a smart device.
Who knows? Perhaps we’ll attend a virtual wedding in our lifetime. It’s not farfetched.
New and Notable Wedding Tech Companies
Today, there are a number of wedding tech companies that they can save us precious time and money. Companies like TextYourGuests.com help couples save precious time and money by eliminating non-essential paper products that can be replaced by a text message.
Donato Petegine, Co-founder of TextYourGuests.com, says
You don’t need to eliminate the paper wedding invitations if you don’t want to. However, couples can save hundreds of dollars by eliminating non-essential paper products like RSVP cards, individual table placement cards, thank you cards, and even save the date cards.
Petegine also adds:
While these are nice to have, couples have to chase people down guests for their RSVP; wedding guests can never find their name on individual table placement cards, pushing back your introductions and dinner. However, we all check our text messages within 5 minutes of getting them.
In a click of a button, you can text all your guests their seating assignment. If they’re inclined, they can even check who their sitting with from their smart phone, tablet or computer.
Donato is right. Most of us use text messaging as a primary method of communication. People don’t answer their phones unless they know it’s you.
Zola is another wedding tech tool striving to reinvent the wedding planning and registry experience. From engagement to wedding and decorating your first home, Zola offers an all-in-one suite of tools to help you save time and money.
Paperless Post offers gorgeous digital invitations and save the date cards. Digital invitations will not only save you a lot of money, it saves trees. Paperless Post also collect RSVPs. You’ll get faster response from your guests and you can feel good about your environment impact.
If you’re a modern chic bride that’s also socially responsible, try keeping the paper products to a minimum. Not only will it save you a lot of money, it’s good for the environment.
Many wedding vendors charge by how they value their time. There’s no method to the madness, so don’t try to making sense of it.
There usually is room for negotiation, especially if you’re speaking to the owners. Don’t feel bad about asking them for a lower price. You could save yourself a few hundred dollars.
It’s not a bad idea to shop around to understand how other vendors work. But you usually don’t need to do so to negotiate. So don’t get hung up trying to build a case to lower the price.
For starters, the vendor might not appreciate being compared to another professional. But also, wedding dates are usually on a first to book basis. So if you like a vendor, go to them with the intention of booking. Just negotiate.
If you’re successful and open with them, they’ll do everything they can to work with you. They don’t want to lose you.
Also, some vendors create wedding packages. You might be able to remove a service or two in that package that’s driving your price beyond your budget.
As long as it leads to a booking, your vendors will be happy and help you out. They might also extend a cash discount that could save you a few hundred dollars.
5. Buy Recently Owned
Another way to save money on your wedding is to buy pre-owned wedding dresses and decor from recent brides.
That’s right! You don’t need to buy everything brand new. Somewhere online, yesterday’s bride is selling their wedding stuff. Online shops like Facebook Marketplace, StillWhite, Wedding Recycle, and BravoBride are websites where brides can sell their wedding stuff.
6. Get Creative
If you have a modest budget, you’ll have to exercise your creativity. If you’re not that creative, find a friend who is to help you.
You’ll most likely spend most of your wedding budget on the wedding venue (location for the wedding) and flowers. Instead of splurging on a banquet hall or restaurant, try looking at the following areas:
Create locations to set the scene
Country Club or Golf Course. If you or a family member knows someone who’s a member, you can rent space in the club’s banquet room for relatively cheap. Try speaking to the course or club manager to see if you can work out a favorable deal during the off-season.
Public Event Space. Organizations like churches and American Legion have a good amount of space. The main rooms can hold 200-300 people, depending on the community.
Campgrounds. An outdoor wedding in the woods makes for a beautiful, rustic scene. Modern, rustic weddings have been popular for years. Wedding publications love photos from them.
Someone’s Home. If you know someone that has a good amount of land, you can ask to have it hosted there. You can hire caterers to handle the food, and hire a couple of people to serve drinks. Having been at a wedding like this, I do recommend some outdoor fans for July and August weddings.
Recently Owned Floral Decorations
For flowers, look again to Facebook Marketplace or reach out to a recent bride. I’ve seen bouquets and floral decorations for cheap.
Also some floral shops have excess inventory and are willing to give them away or sell them cheap.
7. Forgo Gifts for Help
The chances are leveraging your relationships for help will be more meaningful than actual gifts for your wedding. You get help, and the value of their help will probably exceed the gift.
When my wife and I planned our wedding, we did a significant amount of bartering with people in the wedding industry. We secured our wedding photographer and videographer by bartering. We also had family members call in some chits as well.
Just remember what I said, we have 450 people at our wedding.
While you might not have that many wedding guests, you can still ask friends to chip in on the tent rental so that you can provide your guests with cover from the sun or a shower.
You might know a relative or friend that do photography for a living. If not, perhaps see if you can book a photographer for a couple of hours for formal and creative pictures.
While these are all great ways to save money on your wedding, nothing will save you more money than avoiding a costly divorce.
I highly recommend scheduling routine Money Dates with your partner. Most relationships operate under a “You do it, or I’ll do it, but let’s never talk about it” philosophy when it comes to finances.
This is a poor way to approach finances and often leads to negative feelings and finger-pointing.
My wife and I ran our finances this way as well until I realized it didn’t work. It’s very stressful to be solely responsible for the finances. But it also makes the other partner unaware of what’s going on financially.
Today, we schedule Money Dates every other week, on the first and fifteenth of each month (give or take). During those Money Dates, we go over our finances and pay our bills together. We talk about things we want to do or experience the following year, and we take some action to make it a reality.
Afterward, we do something fun together like prepare lunch or dinner, go for a walk, or just sit outside and talk some more. Admittedly, there are times where I don’t really do much on our Money Date, but my presence there puts my wife at ease.
Also, if you’re credit isn’t where it needs to be (for buying your first home), CreditKnocks shares some tips to easily boost your credit score.
Now I want to hear from you. Are you planning a wedding? How are you planing on saving some money?
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Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Guide
Income-Based Repayment or “IBR” is one of four income-driven repayment plans designed for borrowers with high federal student debt balances, as compared to their income.
Income-Based Repayment (IBR): is the staple income-driven repayment plan for borrowers. Here’s everything you need to know about it:
As the cost of college started to rise, so did the need for a more affordable repayment option. Higher student loan balances meant higher monthly payments, especially on a balanced-based repayment plan like the 10-year Standard.
Paying back student loans would be unaffordable.
Instead of using student loan balances and interest rates to determine monthly payments, income-driven repayment plans like IBR would use a percentage of a borrower’s income.
IBR Plan Eligibility
Income-Based Repayment (IBR) was designed to help students with higher federal student loan balances relative to their income and family size.
To be eligible for IBR, you have to demonstrate financial need. It’s available to student borrowers (not parents) with either Direct or FFEL loans.
The fact that you need to qualify for IBR is a blind spot for busy professionals.
REPAYE ends up being the repayment plan of choice due to the lower monthly payments and the ability to earn forgiveness. However, REPAYE payments can end up higher than those on a 10-year Standard plan as your income increases.
Your monthly payment must be less than what you would pay under the 10-year Standard repayment plan to qualify for IBR. A mistake could end up with a much more accelerated repayment schedule.
Messing up will most certainly eliminate your chance to earn forgiveness.
Eligible Loans: Direct Loans (Subsidized and Unsubsidized), Direct Graduate PLUS loans, Direct Consolidation loans.
What are IBR payments like?
Income-Based Repayment (IBR) is one of four income-driven repayment plan options (IBR, ICR, PAYE, & REPAYE).
Income-driven repayment plans calculate your monthly payment by using a percentage of your “discretionary income” whereas balanced-based programs (like 10-year Standard) calculate your payments based on your student loan balance and interest rate.
In short, IBR makes payments more manageable. It keeps payments lower while simultaneously allowing borrowers to earn forgiveness.
IBR will cap monthly payments for loans disbursed before July 1, 2014, at 15 percent of your discretionary income. Any balance remaining after 25 years will be forgiven.
Loans disbursed on or after July 1, 2014, will use a newer version of IBR. Often called, “new IBR,” this program caps monthly payments at 10 percent of your discretionary income (instead of 15 percent). Any balance remaining after 20 years of repayment will be forgiven.
As you can see, the new IBR is much more favorable but only applies to newer borrowers.
Upside to Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
There are many upsides to the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan. From affordable monthly payments to the ability to earn forgiveness, it’s easy to see why it’s become a staple repayment option. While there are a lot of upsides, they all vary based upon the type of work you do, how much you make, to whether you plan on getting married.
Here are just a few remarkable benefits to the program that our clients enjoy:
- Affordable monthly payments. IBR uses a percentage of your income to determine your monthly payment. This makes monthly payments more manageable to early-career professionals.
- Ability to earn forgiveness. While earning forgiveness through an income-driven repayment plan like IBR is taxed as income, not having to pay a six-figure student loan balance takes the cake. With IBR, you earn forgiveness in 20 to 25 years.
- IBR is easier to understand. Out of all your income-driven repayment options, IBR is the most straightforward. You’ll never find yourself in a sticky situation.
- PSLF friendly. If you have the right kind of loans and the right employer, you can earn forgiveness through PSLF while on IBR. It might be a more desirable repayment option if you’re married.
- Marriage-friendly. With IBR, you can rest assured that you can invite Uncle Sam to the wedding without much consequence. You can control your monthly payments depending on how your file your taxes (Married Filing Separate or Married Filiing Jointly).
The Downside of Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
There are pros and cons to every repayment plan. Income-Based Repayment (IBR) is no different. Here are some hurdles I’ve seen people have with the program.
- IBR is a long-term strategy. Because monthly payments are typically lower, you’ll be paying back these loans for a lot longer. That means the Net Cost of your student loans will be substantially higher than if you were aiming to pay it off —unless you’re shooting for forgiveness.
- A potential hefty tax bill. Unless you’re trying to earn forgiveness through PSLF, forgiveness through income-driven plans like IBR is taxed as income. Earning forgiveness through this method takes careful planning because I’ve seen clients with potential tax bills as high as $60,000.
- Negative amortization. Your balance can go up despite making on-time monthly payments. Some people’s payment doesn’t cover the interest that accrues each month. This creates an “Outstanding Interest” balance that will periodically get added to your balance.
You need to certify your income. Income-driven repayment plans like IBR require that you submit documentation to prove your income. If you forget, your payments will match the 10-year Standard payments. That could double your bill for that month.
Switching to IBR isn’t a guarantee; you need to qualify. If you’re on REPAYE, your monthly payments can exceed the 10-year Standard repayment plan.
If that happens, you could find that your payments may become unaffordable and your only other repayment option would be the 10-year Standard plan.
Income-Based Repayment (IBR) is a staple repayment option. It ties your monthly payments to a percentage of your income, and for many that make those payments more manageable.
Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” or a “set it and forget it” repayment option. Major life events such as marriage, divorce, children, change of employer, or changes in income will affect your repayment strategy, requiring you to re-evaluate.
Identifying your most ideal repayment strategy takes a lot of thinking, planning, and oversight.
At Clear Path Financial Planning, we import student loan data directly from the source —the National Student Loan Data Systems database. We can explain the pros and cons of various strategies as it pertains to your unique situation.
Now I want to hear from you. Are you wondering if IBR is for you? If you could get one question answered, what would it be?
Enjoy Your Life. Let us help.
There are more important things in life than money and stressing over student loans. Focus on your family, your hobbies, your spiritual walk —most certainly, your health.
Let us worry about managing your money, student loans, and your long-term plan.
In this post we share the pros and cons of REPAYE —what payments look like and how people get into trouble.Continue reading
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is an amazing student loan forgiveness program. Unfortunately, very few people get approved.Continue reading