You’ve champagne-toasted to your engagement, basked in post-engagement bliss, and happily researched the latest table decor trends on Pinterest.
It’s easy to get lost in the excitement of your wedding and focus on the fun parts, like trying on dresses. But before you get too far into planning, it’s a good idea to take a breath and crunch a few numbers.
In addition to being a joyous occasion, a wedding can also be a significant expense. While the price tag can vary widely depending on the level of luxury you go for and where you live, the average wedding costs $30,000, according to The Knot 2022 Real Weddings Study.
Besides the basic expenses like the dress, venue, catering, and rings, there are also lots of unexpected wedding costs, both small and large. And those can really add up. Being aware of these costs can help you plan ahead and save for your dream wedding.
Whether you’re paying for your own wedding, or getting help from loved ones, having realistic budget can help ensure that your wedding doesn’t wreak havoc on your finances.
1. Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties
Since these events happen in advance of the wedding, it’s easy to forget to include them in your initial budget. But planning for these festivities is crucial, since they can come with a hefty price tag.
Guests spend an average of $1,500 on these parties, according to Savings.com. When travel is involved, the cost can go up even more. For instance, those who flew to an international bachelor or bachelorette destination spent about $2,000 in total.
Sometimes the host and guests will opt to cover the cost of accommodations and activities for the bride and groom, but that’s far from guaranteed.
And even if your costs are partially covered, you may still need to chip in for your airfare, meals, and incidentals.
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2. Marriage License
In the whirlwind of wedding planning, it can be easy to forget about some of the more technical steps of getting married.
You’ll need to apply for a marriage license, of course, typically with the relevant county clerk’s office. Some states have a fixed fee, while others vary by county or city. The fees can range from about $10 to $115.
You know that you’ll need to pay for a wedding venue, but you may not be aware that many of them require you to also purchase insurance. These policies typically cover damage to the venue or injuries to guests or vendors.
Some wedding insurance policies also reimburse you if something goes wrong, such as a venue becoming unavailable or a vendor not showing up. Wedding insurance costs range from about $125 to $550 for basic coverage, but the price can be higher for more expensive events.
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If you’re mailing correspondence to your guests, don’t forget that you’ll need stamps, too. These can add up when you consider that you may need them for save the date cards, invitations, RSVP envelopes, and thank you cards.
A postcard stamp costs $0.48, and a First-Class Forever Stamp for an envelope costs $0.63. Let’s say your save the date is a postcard and your invitations, RSVPs, and thank you notes use envelopes. Mailing these items to 150 guests in the U.S. could cost more than $300.
The perfect wedding-day outfit requires not only paying for a dress and a tuxedo or suit, but also likely shelling out for alterations.
Some stores and custom tailors include the cost of alterations in the price of the garment, but others don’t. For a wedding dress, changes such as hemming the gown, adding lace or beading, or taking it in can cost anywhere from $200 to $800 or more.
6. Beauty Treatments
You’ll want to look your best on your big day, and that likely requires spending some cash. Hair and makeup for brides costs $250 on average, and some stylists charge extra for a trial. If you’re paying for your bridesmaids to get hair and makeup done as well, the cost could also be around $170 per person for both services on average.
Brides may also choose other beauty treatments, such as facials (with an average cost of $50 to $100) and manicures and pedicures (the average cost ranges from $45 to $80). Body art, like mehendi for Indian brides, can cost hundreds of dollars.
The groom may also choose to pay for services like a haircut (an average cost of $30) and professional shave (about $15 to $50).
You are probably expecting to receive gifts from your guests, but don’t forget that you may want to give some out, too.
It’s customary to give thoughtful thank you gifts to your wedding party, with especially nice presents going to the maid of honor and best man. Expect to spend $75 to $100 for each bridesmaid or groomsman.
You may also want to give tokens of appreciation to your parents and grandparents, particularly if they helped pay for the wedding. If you have friends who helped out, perhaps by doing a reading at the ceremony or serving as an officiant, you may want to thank them with a gift as well. And you’ll also want to give a gift to any children participating in your day, such as a flower girl or ring bearer.
Last but not least, it can be meaningful to exchange gifts with your new husband or wife. By including these significant items in your budget, or by exploring the option of a wedding loan to help cover them, you can make sure you can afford them when the time comes.
8. Wedding Weekend Events
Your initial wedding budget may not have included other gatherings you’re hosting, such as the rehearsal dinner, welcome drinks, or a brunch.
Depending on the number of guests, all of these events can cost a pretty penny. The average cost of a rehearsal dinner is around $2,400, while brunches can start at $22 per person.
9. Lodging and Transportation
You’ll probably be paying for a hotel for one or more nights if your wedding isn’t in your hometown, or if you just want to stay somewhere special.
You also likely won’t want to drive yourselves around on the big day. If that’s the case, factor in the cost of a limo or fancy bus to get you to and from the wedding locations. The average cost of a wedding limo is $75 to $150 an hour.
If you’re providing transportation for guests as well, expect the amount you spend on transportation to go up significantly.
More likely than not, your wedding venue and caterer won’t provide everything you need. You’ll typically need to pay extra to rent linens, flatware, and glassware. You may also want to rent other items, such as heating lamps, a cake stand, string lights, candles, or a photobooth. These items can add hundreds of extra dollars to your costs.
Financing Your Wedding
So how do you afford all the wedding expenses — both the ones you plan for and the hidden ones that crop up? Here are some ideas for financing your dream wedding.
Budgeting and Saving
The first step is to a make a budget, but you’ll want to be sure to avoid some common budgeting mistakes. Add up all the anticipated wedding expenses, including the lesser-known charges above. Then, you and your partner-to-be can track your monthly expenses and income and see how much you have left over to save each month.
If that isn’t enough to get to your goal, see if you can find ways to reduce living expenses or earn extra cash. SoFi Insights, a complementary tool for SoFi members, can help you track your spending and cashflow in real time against a set budget, to help prevent you from going over — and help you save for the big day.
If your wedding budget is more than you can afford, you may be able to find ways to lower some of the costs. For example, perhaps a friend can officiate instead of paying a professional.
Family and friends may be able to help you create DIY paper goods, bouquets, and centerpieces. Or you could send digital Save the Dates and invitations, rather than paying for printing and postage. Some couples even self-cater their weddings. There are a number of creative ways to save money.
Along with saving and cutting costs, a wedding loan, which is a type of personal loan, could help finance your wedding. With SoFi, eligible borrowers may qualify for loans with interest rates that are generally lower than the interest rates charged by credit cards.
Personal loans are flexible and may be used for almost any purpose, so they can help you cover wedding expenses that come up. It takes just a few minutes to apply online, and these loans have fast funding and flexible repayment options.
SoFi personal loans offer low rates and no-fee options. Plus, if you happen to get laid off, you may also be eligible for Unemployment Protection: Your payments could be temporarily suspended for up to one year, while SoFi would provide assistance with finding a new job for qualified borrowers.
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