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So you’re getting married — congratulations! Weddings are a time to celebrate, and bring together friends and family. However, they can often be an extravagant, expensive affair: The average cost of a wedding was $28,000 in 2019, according to a survey by the Knot.
When it comes to planning a wedding, everyone seems to have an opinion — whether it’s your mother, future mother-in-law, best friend, or wedding planner. But the last thing you want is for a bad piece of advice to derail your finances after your special day. Weddings are already so expensive, and bad advice can really cost you.
Here are three pieces of awful (yet common!) pieces of money advice every woman should ignore when planning a wedding.
1. “Spending [X amount of money] is normal!”
There is no normal price when it comes to planning a wedding. It’s up to you and your future spouse, your financial situation, and what you can reasonably afford. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of planning — especially when everyone around you is encouraging you to spend.
A recent survey in Brides Magazine found that even though 91% of couples set a budget for their wedding, almost one-third end up spending more than they planned.
A wedding is not an opportunity to spend way beyond your means. This is where a budget comes into play. Sitting down with your betrothed early and making a plan can help avoid extra stress later.
First ask yourself, what can we afford? As a financial planner, I would say your wedding costs should never come before long-term financial goals, like saving for retirement or paying off debt.
You should set a number that’s reasonable based on how much you have already saved, and how much you can reasonably save in the time frame you’ve set.
Once you calculate a rough estimate of how much your wedding will cost, make a savings plan to reach your goal. Consider cutting back on unnecessary expenses to help you get there.
2. “Just put it on credit. You can worry about paying it off later.”
The last thing you and your partner want is to go into debt before you’ve even walked down the aisle.
While paying for things with your credit card is fine, you should either have the money on-hand, or have a plan to quickly pay it off. Don’t ignore expenses until after the honeymoon — use a spreadsheet or budgeting tool to record how much you’re spending. This can help you identify when you’re going over budget and make a plan to cut back.
A particularly big-ticket wedding item for women is the dress. Average costs for a wedding dress vary from state to state, but they are about $1,000 on the low-end and almost $2,500 on the high-end.
Maybe you’ve gone wedding dress shopping already, or seen episodes of “Say Yes to the Dress,” but you probably know how easy it is to get swept up in the excitement of shopping and wind up paying double your budget. Looking and feeling good on your special day is important, but you probably won’t feel so good if you’re paying off the dress for months to come. Remember, you’ll likely only wear it once.
Have a clear price in mind that you won’t spend over, make a pact, and stick to it. Explain to your friends, family, and store associates that you won’t budge over this amount. Don’t try on any dresses that aren’t within your range.
3. “You have to invite everyone! You don’t want to leave anyone out.”
Your mom may be thrilled to see her neighbor’s cousin’s girlfriend at your wedding, but you’re the one paying for their meal. The average per-person wedding cost is around $200 a head, which can quickly add up the longer your invite list gets.
Traditionally, the bride’s family pays for some (or all!) of the wedding costs. It’s also not uncommon for other family members to chip in — it really just depends on your family situation. What’s most important is not assuming you’ll receive any financial help, unless you’ve discussed it first. It can be awkward to talk with your relatives about your finances, but it’s important to know what you’re working with.
Remember, it’s no one else’s wedding but your own. Similar to other wedding line items, have a maximum number of invites and stick to that list. Whatever you do, don’t get talked into something you can’t afford. This really goes for any other aspect of your wedding, from floral arrangements to dinner options to entertainment.
At the end of the day, you should choose what works for you and your future spouse. Wedding planning can definitely get stressful at times, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying the process. After all, it really is about the journey.