Today’s post is part two of a three part series on engagement/wedding-planning.
In 2015, the average cost for a wedding was a record-breaking $32,641 according to a survey of 18,000 brides as reported by The Knot. Let’s also think about this number in light of the fact that many couples bring college debt and credit card debt into a new marriage. Since conflict over money is a big reason for divorce in our culture, I believe it is critical that couples who are planning to marry focus on a plan to:
- Eliminate and/or pay off debt.
- Get on the same page financially.
- Avoid overspending before and after marriage.
- Be honest about all assets and all debt going into marriage.
- Get godly financial counseling about how to be good stewards of finances.
- Have godly marriage counseling before marriage.
When we live in Christ Jesus, we don’t have to be slaves to the world’s ways of doing things. We don’t have to be tied down to specific cultural expectations. All we really need to do is seek to honor and please Him alone. 🙂 There is so much freedom in that!
Godliness with contentment is great gain.
Some things Greg and I did financially that I am glad we did:
- We had no college debt or debt of any kind going into marriage.
- We combined our checking accounts immediately and have no separate accounts.
- We agreed to not spend more than we could afford.
- We agreed to tell each other if we were going to spend over $200.
- We spent about $4200 for our wedding in 1994 with 350 guests.
- We had no credit card or wedding debt going into marriage.
- We have always paid off our credit cards every month.
- We have always tithed 10% to our church.
- We have always tried to put money into savings and retirement.
- We both like to be responsible with money – neither of us tend to spend lavishly.
- We avoid being financial dictators to each other – we don’t interrogate each other about every cent spent each week.
This has created a very low-stress financial situation that is such a blessing!
As you consider venues, flowers, dresses, food, photography, and all of the things that surround a wedding in our culture, please keep a few things in mind:
- You don’t have to do things the way that our culture does them necessarily.
- You don’t have to overspend.
- You can have a godly, beautiful, Christ-centered wedding that is very meaningful.
- Your financial well-being and the health of your marriage in the future is more important than a very pricey wedding day.
- Debt is slavery – do everything you can to avoid it!
- Examine your expectations and see if there are any that you can let go of or change.
The average price spent on a venue was over $14,000 in 2015 according to the survey by The Knot. Perhaps you can find a venue for free, like your own backyard. Or a local park may not be too expensive. Many smaller churches are willing to rent their facilities for weddings – maybe even for just $100-$200. Often, your own church may have a reduced rate for using their facilities.
DRESS, SHOES, and VEIL
In 2014, the average cost of a wedding dress was over $1,300, according to the survey by The Knot. But you don’t have to spend that much money to have a beautiful gown. You’ll also want to consider modesty as a believer in Christ. You can look beautiful and radiant for your groom and also show respect and honor for the Lord, yourself, and others by dressing modestly on your wedding day without plunging necklines, an exposed chest, or a dress that is skin-tight.
Perhaps you know someone who would be willing to sew for you. Maybe your mother’s gown fits or could be made into a gown you would love. Maybe you can find a used gown or even rent a gown for a fraction of the cost of buying a new wedding dress. If you have your heart set on a new dress, there are sometimes sales you can find and there are sites dedicated to modest and even frugal gowns where you can find a lovely dress that is reasonably priced.
Also, keep in mind that you will be on your feet all day. Heels are beautiful, but if your dress covers your feet, no one will see them! You could wear white running shoes and no one would know – but your feet and back will thank you later! Wear something comfortable, is my advice. 🙂 You can even add some ribbons or bling to your Keds if you want to.
I personally made my own wedding veil for $20. All it takes is some tulle, some artificial white flowers (if you like – these are available at Wal-Mart or Hobby Lobby), and a barrette clip or headband. I am sure there are lots of ideas on Pinterest now, as well.
Modest and affordable gowns (I cannot guarantee the quality of these gowns and sites, so please do your research, ladies!):
- David’s Bridal – some are also reasonably priced
- Allure Bridals
- ieie Bridal
You don’t have to have bridesmaids at all. But if you do, don’t feel pressured to have lots of attendants. Decide with your groom what would be best. If you do have bridesmaids, you don’t have to have them buy dresses from a bridal shop, necessarily. I had my bridesmaids order dresses from a regular women’s clothing catalog for $80 and then just asked them to wear black shoes.
Or you could ask your bridesmaids to each simply get a dress of the same color. Or you could have them each where a specific different color and have a “rainbow” effect.
FLOWERS, DECORATIONS, and MUSIC
I know that some couples spend over $20,000 on flowers. But – is that really necessary? Or wise for your budget? Flowers are not actually needed for a wedding. They are beautiful, but you could skip them and still have a lovely wedding. You may know some people who would let you borrow ferns to decorate the sanctuary and altar area or the reception hall. Or you may be able to pick wildflowers or use fall leaves or pinecones for decorations for free. Perhaps you would like to have each bridesmaid carry a battery operated flickering candle with ribbon if you are having an evening ceremony.
Ask your friends and family for help with the wedding rather than wedding gifts. Use a CD for music or invite family and friends who are musically talented to sing or play for you. That is what we did! It was so special to have lots of our friends and family sing and play instruments before the wedding, during the wedding, and during the reception. Keep in mind that you don’t have to have a DJ. You don’t have to have a bar, certainly. You don’t have to have dancing, unless you really want to.
PHOTOGRAPHY, VIDEO, and INVITATIONS
If you have friends that are talented amateur photographers or videographers, perhaps you can ask about their services being a wedding gift to you, or perhaps they may offer a reduced rate. You could have a friend video the wedding on a cell phone with a tripod for free, most likely, but the quality will not be professional grade. Of course, it will still be much better than the quality of our wedding video that was on VHS almost 23 years ago. 🙂
Keep in mind that you don’t have to do 2 hours of pictures. You really only honestly need a few dozen pictures of the day, not hundreds or thousands.
You may also want to do invitations yourself. Possibly send most of them online. Or have friends help you make them. Keep the list of guests to a reasonable and affordable level on which you and your groom (and family, if they are helping to pay) can agree.
You can order a small “display cake” from a bakery, even from a local grocery store bakery – that is beautiful. And then you can order more sheet cakes to use to serve all of the guests. The display cake doesn’t have to feed everyone. And sheet cakes are much less expensive. You don’t actually have to feed guests a meal. You could have the wedding between meals in the afternoon like we did. You are not obligated to have a reception. You have freedom to decide what you really want to do. Don’t feel like you are tied down to certain expectations.
You could elope – although that may be sad for your families. But it sure would take a lot of stress off of your shoulders. You could choose to have an intimate family wedding or just family and closest friends. You could have a wedding after church one Sunday like a couple at our church did. It was a surprise! Only the pastor and the couple’s families knew what was happening. Of course, if you had out-of-town guests or friends and family that don’t go to your church, you would have to let them know ahead of time.
I’d love for us to see weddings as something primarily spiritual. We can enjoy them even if they are simple. They can be beautiful and elegant without creating mountains of debt. Perhaps you can start some new traditions that will catch on as you share what you did – maybe you will be an inspiration to many other brides. Let’s lay down our expectations and our culture’s ideas. And just focus on the things that are most important. God, our future spouse, the marriage, friends, and family. Let’s love each other well. Let’s enjoy the wedding and our time together as friends and family.
Most of all, let the ceremony and your conduct and attitude reflect Jesus. His love. His gospel. His truth. His beauty. Let the music glorify Him. Focus on honoring your Lord and your husband and families. Enjoy this special day – but more than preparing for the wedding – be sure you both prepare your hearts for a godly marriage.
Much love to each of you!
“Our Frugal, Christ-centered Wedding” by a reader