According to Brides magazine, the average American wedding costs close to $27,000. That's a hefty price tag when you're just starting out as a couple. You'll likely spend less on the down payment for your first home.
Even a small, simple ceremony can cost a few thousand dollars when you add up the dress, the reception hall and the food. Going into debt for a wedding just doesn't make sense, so unless you're getting loads of help from Mom and Dad, it's time to start saving.
"After the wedding many life changes are right around the corner -- a new house, a mortgage, home improvements, moving, travel and often a new baby. Couples do not want to be saddled with debt for an event that is in the past," says wedding consultant Emee Pumarega, an event planner and owner of EJP Events.
"The first year of marriage can be an adjustment all by itself, so the last thing you need is to stir in financial problems," says Betsy Pruitt, a social and corporate events planner who opted for a cash-only wedding.
"My husband and I planned our wedding for $8,000, which is well under half the national average. We cash-flowed the entire wedding by doing consulting work on the side and saving our tax returns that year. If we couldn't pay for something in cash, it didn't make it into the wedding ceremony," Pruitt says.
Luckily, budget-minded brides and grooms can find plenty of small ways to save -- and make -- extra money in the months leading up to the nuptials, and all those small savings can really add up in just a few months.
1) Entertain at home. Instead of expensive restaurants, new releases at the theater and drinks at the club, opt to stay in for game nights with friends, BYOB wine tastings and Netflix movie marathons. Then shift those savings into the wedding fund.
2) Sell your stuff. From clothing and home goods to furniture and sports equipment, the resale market is booming, and couples combining households are in the perfect position to make some extra cash. Do you really need two toasters, two couches and two copies of your favorite movies? Host a yard sale, post to Craigslist, auction it off on eBay or drop it off at your local consignment shop.
3) Make a donation. If tax time is near, consider donating duplicate household items to charity instead. There's a good chance that the tax write-off for your charitable donations will put more money in your pocket than parting with your items at a yard sale.
4) If you receive an extra-large tax return this year, review the W-4 on file with your employer and adjust your withholding to put more cash in your paycheck -- just be sure you have enough taken from your check to cover the balance due next year.
5) Redeem rewards points. From banks and credit cards to supermarkets, gas stations and utility companies, loyalty rewards programs are everywhere you look. If haven't signed up at the places you frequent most, now is the time -- and if you have signed up, now is the time to cash in. Redeem your points for gift cards that you can use to help pay for the wedding or cash them in for savings on the items you buy most like gas and groceries.
6) Cash in on unused gift cards. Whether you spend them on items for the wedding or trade them for cash on sites like PlasticJungle.com, those unused gift cards are money in the bank.
7) Collect your change. A big coin jar on the counter can be a surprisingly simple and effective way to save for the big day. Leave the debit card at home and spend cash instead, but only bills. After each purchase, stash the change. You'll be surprised at how quickly it adds up. When it's time to cash in, take it to the bank to avoid the fees at self-service kiosks.
8) Stretch it out. When all else fails, extend the engagement. The longer the engagement the longer you have to save -- and the longer you have to find some great deals to make your savings go further.