This is a guest article by Jennifer Calonia, Junior Editor at GoBankingRates. In the article, the author helps couples in search of their dream wedding decide which expenses are worth paying more money for.
The pressure to plan a perfectly executed wedding is a monumental undertaking, especially for those lacking a savings fund or a generous benefactor. Instead of focusing efforts — and funds — on every wedding detail, couples can save thousands just by allocating funds strategically.
While saving money on wedding planning is a common dilemma to contend with, some view their wedding as a once-in-a-lifetime investment, which is why certain key details merit a splurge to help keep the day memorable.
Being able to recognize when to save or splurge on wedding elements makes all the difference when investing in the big day. Despite the minute intricacies involved in wedding planning, particular wedding to-dos are simply not that vital.
For the perfectionist, it may be difficult to accept that a limited budget often means sacrifice in one way or another. However, in letting go of the little things during the planning phase, couples can put earned savings toward big-picture expenses and possible have ample funds to work with well into their first years as newlyweds.
The wedding dress: splurge
Brides should not sell themselves short in the dress category, as being comfortable and confident on the big day sets the tone for the entire event. All eyes will be on the dress, but that’s not to say that tapping into a 401(k) account is merited for a designer gown.
To find a quality wedding gown at a value, visit sample sales, trunk shows, and bridal expos in the area. These limited time events offer discounts of 75 percent or more for the perfect “splurge” on a reasonably priced dress.
Invitations and paper goods: save
If traditional wedding invitations are a must for your main event, steer clear of costly stationary, calligraphy and unnecessary letterpress services. These additions come at a premium price as most designs are done completely by-hand. Calligraphy invitations can churn out $2 to $10 per envelope, equating to hundreds of dollars pulled from more important things like the dress budget and the venue budget.
As an alternative, couples can turn to laser-printed invitations and basic paper types from stationary stores, as they have gone a long way in terms of their aesthetic quality.
Photographer and videographer: splurge
It’s sad to say, but the ceremony and reception go by so fast, it’ll be difficult to remember every single highlight of the wedding — this is where the photographer and videographer work their magic.
Appropriating a generous portion of the wedding budget to these key players ensure that all the sweat and tears that went into planning the wedding are well documented for you to reminisce about 50 years later.
For added value, make sure to negotiate packages (think about services included in the package, rather than just the price) with both the photographer and videographer. Try also purchasing a CD of the edited wedding images so you can make your own prints for family and friends on the cheap.
Flower girl’s flower: save
To save a few bucks, skip the long-stem roses for the flower girl to toss down the aisle. No one will really be paying attention to what she’s throwing anyway, so why not save money in this category?
Rose petals can cut down florist expenses and even fake rose petals from a local craft store can replicate this time-honored tradition.
Wedding favors: save
Couples should do themselves a favor and opt out of extravagant wedding favors for reception attendees. Among the many weddings I’ve attended, I’ve probably only kept about 25 percent of the favors I’ve received.
Wedding favors sometimes even go unnoticed in the midst of the excitement. While favors act as a take-away for guests, spending less on favors and using saved funds toward things like lighting and venue can give them a much more memorable experience.
Wedding planner: splurge
Wedding planners carry the misconception of being a luxury expense among newly engaged couples. While it’s true that planners are another service to cut a check out for, their industry know-how can help couples determine the best venue, vendors and creative ideas with a specific budget in mind.
Also, there is less risk of being dazzled into unnecessary upgrades by vendors looking to squeeze an extra buck out of couples’ pockets.
It’s important to keep a level head when planning the details of the wedding, despite being on cloud nine. In the long-run, tactical money management during the process can keep couple on track with other big milestones to come, including buying a home and starting a family.
Editor’s note: It’s dangerous to refer to an expense as an investment. An investment implies that one is not spending money, but trading money for an asset that will, if one is lucky or smart, appreciates over time. Perhaps a relationship is an asset that appreciates, but a wedding is not the representation of that asset. A wedding is an expense, not an investment, pure and simple.
That said, the best type of expenses are related to once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The word “investment” is a trigger that allows people who spend what they can’t afford to rationalize their behavior. Feel free to spend what you can afford or what you like on your wedding, but I wouldn’t refer to a wedding as an investment.
Updated February 25, 2012 and originally published February 21, 2012.