How to Pay For Your Own Wedding

July 17th 2015

Laura Donovan

Unless your Facebook feed hasn't been bombarding you with wedding photos for the past few months, you probably know it's wedding season. Chances are, you were invited to at least one ceremony this summer. If you decided to go, it probably wasn't a cheap decision. As ATTN: reported earlier this year, guests spend an average of $673 per wedding, a nearly 15 percent jump from 2014 and nearly twice as much as the 2012 average.

The High Cost of Weddings

Here's why you might want to rethink your next wedding :)

Posted by ATTN: on Friday, July 3, 2015


That's pricey for sure, but it's much more expensive for the bride and groom. A survey from The Knot found that the average wedding cost is $31,213. Though Slate's Will Oremus dug deeper into the findings and revealed that the median cost of weddings is actually closer to $20,000, that's still a lot of money to drop on one day, even if it's meant to be the greatest of your life.

Wedding costs

That's why I wanted to talk to people who paid for their weddings themselves. It's one thing to have a $30,000 wedding if your family is covering the entire event, but if you're getting little to no assistance from others, you have to make sacrifices and cut corners (unless of course you're super wealthy). Here's what three women had to say about paying for their big days totally or mostly on their own.

How they went about their weddings

"I got married the first time with a budget of $10,000 (1992), still not very much $$$ to spend even back then! I wore a vintage dress from 1905 or so (as did my maid of honor, no bridesmaids), total cost of shoes/earrings/dress was $1,000. Looked and felt gorgeous as we got married in an 1833 chapel on the Hudson River. We only had about 65 guests, buffet dinner, DJ.

Second wedding was in Toronto (i.e. a big city) VERY small ... 25 people ... just close friends (we also have very small families and knew that most U.S.-based friends would not come.) That was deliberate and strategic -- weddings are really expensive IF you assume you MUST do what all the wedding magazines and blogs tell you to. NO! Decide your priorities and STICK to them ... you will have to make some choices. Again, no bridesmaids or groomsmen."- Caitlin, Tarrytown, New York-based author and writing coach

"When [my husband] and I started looking at venues, we did not have a date picked out. We met with several venues and discussed their availability and what would work for them. We then narrowed it down but what dates we were given and what pricing we could get. Ultimately, we decided that the price of the wedding was more important to us than the date." - Allie, Tucson, Arizona-based corporate and government events planner

"My husband and I paid for the majority of our wedding, though my parents did help out with a few key things. (My momma bought my dress!)." - Hartman, 29, Corporate Sales Coordinator, Fort Wayne, Indiana

1. Think outside the box

"The very most important thing I would suggest to couples paying for everything themselves is to have maximum flexibility. Most cities/venues/locations have peak and off seasons. During the peak season, pricing is higher because the demand is higher; however, venues tend to offer lower prices during off seasons because the demand is lower. The same can be said about days of the week. Typically, Saturdays are a prime date especially for social events like weddings. Thursdays and Sundays are typically not as sought after so venues will reduce rates and offer their best discounts." - Allie

"It's a little counter-intuitive, but the best investment I made with my wedding budget was to hire a wedding planner. It seems like an easy expense to write off if you're trying to save cash. However, my wedding planner did an amazing job of looking at my budget, telling me where I needed to focus my dollars, what I could do myself, and where to find the best deals. She knew what my budget was, so she kept me on the right path and didn't let me get caught up in spending and adding on last-minute items. More than anything, she saved me time and sanity, so that I didn't have to feel stressed about every cent.

If it sounds like I'm just advertising her services, it's because I would. Having her made my wedding planning so much easier and it kept us within the budget we set." - Lindsay

"Just because 'everyone else' has 100 to 200 guests and every possible $$$$$ item they buy or feel compelled to make by hand (or whatever) ... Meh. Just don't." - Caitlyn

2. Know your budget and read contracts before signing

"[Our total] budget was maybe $6,000 or $7,000 ... NOT including our rings/hotel rooms ... We hired a photographer we knew well who had a FT newspaper job so she did it (very well!) for very little ($500) and paid for 2 nights' hotel for her and gave her a gift ... For the service's music we used a laptop with pre-selected music ... no church flowers, the church is set in parkland so the place was very beautiful.

I think it's useful to decide the feeling of your wedding and budget to make sure you are happy that day, and not BROKE/in debt for months or years afterward. Not worth it! Do not succumb to endless peer or parental or media pressure about what you think is necessary .... it's YOUR $$$$ (or possibly your parents')." - Caitlin

"[My husband and I] used the per person pricing to figure the total cost of the venue and used that number to budget the total amount we could spend. When we were comfortable with the number and sure that we could commit to saving a specific each paycheck, we started the contract process. This leads me to my next peace of advice, for the love of God, read the contracts. Know what minimum the venue is charging, the deposit schedule and your due dates for tasting, menus and final numbers.

I can't tell you how many people I have seen get themselves into trouble because they didn't understand or read their contract. If you aren't comfortable with the terms, ask questions and don't be afraid to negotiate. A contract is an agreement between two parties. Never, ever sign a contract if you aren't comfortable with it." - Allie

3. Get creative and do your research

"We decorated the tables ourselves. I wore a long bias-cut dress I'd had for years and bought a gorgeous embroidered silk jacket at a sample sale for $150 (then spent $600 for Manolos!) ... felt and looked terrific. I hate wedding dresses ... very few people look great in white! No DJ, my husband made a fantastic mix-tape of 90 minutes and we cleared the room and danced there ... Be CREATIVE about where you buy your items and who you choose to hire." - Caitlin

"As for flowers, photographers, and DJs, shop around. Go to bridal fairs and look at wedding wire. If a friend knows someone that is starting out, their pricing will probably be less than a more seasoned professional (but still get everything in writing). If you choose the most popular DJ in town, you're probably not getting the best deal.

Because we did this, we were able to have our wedding at an upscale resort in Tucson in mid-January for a very reasonable price (VERY reasonable). We did not take out loans or have a substantial savings to take money from. In fact, we didn't even touch our savings and we had money leftover in our wedding fund when everything was said and done." - Allie

4. Decide what is most important to you

"[For my second wedding, my] priorities were:

1) finding a beautiful small church (on one of the islands in Toronto harbor, rental was $700, which was a lot)

2) cost of water taxis getting guests back and forth

3) rental of minibus with driver to get people from the dock to restaurant

4) we rented the small/intimate upstairs room of a Toronto place we liked ... total cost for 3 courses AND wine for 25 people was still less than $2,000, which I considered cheap and a great value

5) I adored my bouquet, jewel colored flowers, $150 or so. I used all local vendors (I know Toronto well since I grew up there)

I would strongly urge NOT to scrimp on photos. [M]y husband has shot weddings (charging up to $6,000 for the day) ... this trend of 'oh, my friends have cell phones' is a HUGE mistake. A skilled and experienced wedding photographer knows how to maximize a very short day with a LOT of details to remember and do well. You will very deeply regret skimping on that price if your photos are lousy and/or incomplete.

I wanted both of my weddings (and they were) to be elegant, welcoming, fun, stylish/memorable, a little quirky, and personal. I did not scrimp on the invitations or my flowers, which mattered a lot to me. I never wanted to wear a white/official wedding dress (SO expensive and not how I wanted to spend our limited funds.)" - Caitlin

"If the price is the most important factor, then you have to be willing to work with the venue to get it. You can't walk in to a venue with a concrete date and vision and expect the best possible price. You also need to shop around to see what everyone is offering. It takes a lot of work but if you do it right then you can still have the perfect wedding at a more reasonable price." - Allie