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Krista Gramstad of South Carolina, an October bride, said she sometimes wishes she and her fiance had just eloped.
The 31-year-old has already spent an estimated $10,000 on her wedding and is trying to figure out ways to cut additional costs. But with high demand and inflation driving up prices, she said budgeting is tricky.
Gramstad has already trimmed down the guest list from 250 to 180 to reduce costs and is trying to find an additional 30 names to cut.
“I didn’t realize how much goes into actually planning a wedding obviously until I got engaged. It’s an endless list,” she said. “The more we packed on the more I’m like, ‘Oh my God, where are we gonna get all this money from?’ “
Wedding website Zola found two-thirds of more than 3,000 surveyed couples are going over budget for their 2022 wedding. Industry experts shared seven tips with USA TODAY on how couples can cut costs.
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1. Cut the guest list
The most common piece of advice on how to save money on a wedding: Trim the guest list.
“Most couples want that grand experience where you have 150-plus guests, and I have a couple of brides who want like 300 guests to show up to the wedding,” said wedding planner Simone Sophie Walker. “(Sometimes) it’s not going to be in the budget.”
Wedding planner Alyssa Pettinato of Alinato Events said a higher percentage of guests this year are RSVPing “yes” to weddings.
“People used to do this thing where they would over invite and then have a 20% drop off rate or something like that. And now it’s like, oh no, people are RSVPing. We might be over our number,” she said. “Outside of (moving your wedding to) a Sunday or Friday, I always tell people that are trying to save money: Hey, the only way to cut money without compromising too much is to cut the guest list.”
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2. Get a credit card with rewards
Maria Roloff, a wealth management adviser with Myklebust, Horne and Fies Financial Group, a Northwestern Mutual Private Client Group affiliate, said using a credit card for wedding purchases to earn rewards points for the honeymoon can be an “excellent idea.”
“If you’re going to be putting expenses on a credit card, I always say go for one that has rewards,” Roloff told USA TODAY.
She did caution couples to check the interest rate on the credit card before signing up to make sure they’ll be able to pay the full balance off, or the card “could potentially become more costly than the points that you’re accumulating.”
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3. Delay the wedding
Shane McMurray, CEO of The Wedding Report, said couples can push back their wedding date to see if inflation and demand die down.
“The best thing to do is probably wait it out,” he said. “I know that sounds crazy, but the supply chain issues and the demand on supplies and services (are) going to subside at some point. Things are going to get caught up. We’re going to get back to some sense of supply normalcy.”
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4. Budget for the unexpected
Wealth management adviser Roloff suggests couples set aside 10% of their overall budget to cover unexpected costs and last-minute expenses like vendor tips or transportation.
“This isn’t something that will save you money right now, but it definitely can keep you from going into debt while you’re planning and provide some peace of mind,” she said.
5. Offer to pay in cash
Taking the time to find the right vendor – or negotiate with the one you’ve chosen – can be worth the extra effort.
Roloff suggests shopping around different wedding vendors to find the best bang for your buck. Once you’ve decided on your vendor, prices can be negotiated further.
One simple way to reduce costs: Offer to pay in cash.
“If vendors know they won’t have any credit card fees for the transaction, they oftentimes will provide a little discount,” Roloff said.
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6. Evaluate ‘wants’ vs. ‘needs’
Barbara Hearne, owner of wedding coordinating company Barbara’s Brides in Texas, recommends couples reevaluate their “wants” versus “needs” for the wedding to cut costs.
A few examples include having guests use Uber or cabs instead of renting a shuttle; opting for a DJ instead of a band; or using a DIY “selfie booth” instead of a photo booth rental.
Jove Meyer, owner of Jove Meyer Events, also said couples looking to stick to their budget need to be more flexible this year because of supply chain issues. Being flexible with what sort of flowers you use, for instance, can help your florist avoid species that have seen prices skyrocket.
“Find the places where you can cut and still feel good about the party that you’re having with the resources you have allocated,” Meyer said. “I don’t encourage anyone to go into debt to pay the extra fees that happened at a wedding. In my opinion, it’s just not worth it. I think it’s about being honest, having an honest conversation with your planner, with your vendors, and then trusting their recommendations because they know best.”
7. Avoid going into debt
While lenders offer wedding loans, wealth management adviser Roloff said couples should consider other ways to raise money before borrowing.
“If you can’t dip into savings for this, you can consider taking out a wedding loan,” she said. “However, I recommend looking into other options first. A lot of times these wedding loans have higher interest rates, and oftentimes you might find a family member or grandma or somebody that’s just so thrilled you’re getting married that they’ll loan you some money at low interest or no interest.”
Roloff added that taking out a loan and going into debt can make sense for “some people,” such as couples with “a good income” that expect to be able to pay off the debt relatively quickly after the wedding.
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But for others, Roloff advised reassessing their budget.
“There are so many things that you can do today to make a wedding special where everything doesn’t have to be super expensive,” she said. “Remember: It’s a moment in time. It’s one super, super special day. So it’s good to get it right and to spend the time planning, but it’s never good to have regrets if you have a lot of debt lingering afterward.”