How to Have a Debt Free Wedding

Marriage is a hot topic for millennials. We all know someone who is getting married, whether it be yourself, a family member, a good friend, a coworker, we all know someone going through the process. If you’re like me, you may be wondering how in the world everyone can afford to even have a wedding. A wedding is essentially an elaborate party, but obviously when you’re the one getting married, it’s the best celebration of your entire life. Naturally, this creates a lot of pressure. This pressure causes people to do crazy things, like take on debt just for this one day. I’m here to tell you, that doesn’t need to be the case! Believe me, I should know. I just got married last year (July 30, 2016 for those of you who are are curious about specifics).

Set a Budget

One of the first things I did when I got engaged was start a budget. I know, how romantic, right? But thankfully my husband is a numbers person like me, so we knew we needed to figure out the financial aspect as soon as possible. There are a number of great budgeting tools available for weddings, such as Microsoft Excel, or We chose to go the simple route of a Microsoft Excel template. I’m a huge fan of Excel because it’s the most customizable. For those who are interested, here is a link to download the Excel template we used for free: Wedding Budget.

It is important to keep a very detailed budget when planning a wedding because there are so many different costs to manage. A few things you should absolutely include are: venue, catering (if not included in venue cost), ceremony site fees, attire (everything from dress to tux to shoes to jewelry, etc.), invitations and other stationary, photographer, DJ or band, videography, floral arrangements and other décor, transportation, bridal party gifts and bachelor/bachelorette festivities (if you need to chip in at all). The more detail, the better, so that you have no unplanned costs.

Stay Within Your Means

If you are paying for your wedding on your own without any help from your family financially, you should have a good sense of how much you can afford. If your combined income is only $75,000 a year and you are getting married a year from when you got engaged, your wedding should not cost $100,000 unless you’ve got some crazy savings set aside for this purpose. And even if you are receiving help financially from family members, don’t use that as a justification to spend more on everything else.

I’m not saying you need to cut all your expenses down to the cheapest you can possibly get them. I would be lying if I said that is what I did. Sometimes you do have to pay more for better quality, but you also may not need the BEST quality for EVERYTHING and that is the difference. If you’re a DIY person, use that to your advantage and do whatever you can for yourself. I am personally not a DIY person, so between that and the lack of time I had there was no way I was going to be doing my own decorations and such.

Stick to Your Budget

This one is easier said than done, but you should still at least try to do it. Be realistic when setting your budget. Don’t allot $1,000 for all attire when you know that the wedding dress you want is $5,000 alone or allot $15,000 for décor when you know it will be much less than that. Everyone has a different budget for their wedding, so make yours as realistic as possible for your lifestyle and your financial situation. Keep yourself honest, too. I recommend asking friends or family members how much certain things cost at their weddings and using that as a guide.

Setting a realistic budget is a good starting point, but you also need to be mindful of that budget. Maybe you truly did think you were only going to spend $1,500 on transportation, but then when you met with the limo company, they tried to convince you to upgrade the cars you are choosing for your wedding day. Don’t be fooled by the vendors. Many of them are essentially salespeople. They want your business and they want you to spend as much as possible with them. They also know that people are very overwhelmed when planning a wedding and, therefore, can be easily persuaded. Stay strong and try to stick to the numbers you originally planned. Some fluctuation is unavoidable, but you don’t want to be over budget in every single category. Some things should balance each other out to get you close to your total budget number.


Some vendors have set prices and offer no wiggle room with them; however, a majority of vendors are willing to negotiate on price. Sometimes customizing your own package can help save you money. For example, maybe you can negotiate your cost down by changing your alcohol package to a lower one or offering less entrée choices possibly. Another negotiation tool is payment method. Ask your vendor if they offer discounts when paying in cash. Many will offer cash discounts because there are processing fees associated with credit cards. There were multiple vendors we met with who included the cost to cover the processing fee in the amount they charged and didn’t mention that until you asked about a cash discount. With florists, you can negotiate simply by asking if you can replace a certain flower with something similar that is a little cheaper.

Shop Around

I highly suggest getting multiple quotes for each expense category for your wedding. Unless you’ve been married before or have had very thorough conversations with people who have been through the wedding process, you do not know what is considered a good price on wedding costs. Maybe your cousin spent $5,000 on flowers and she thought that was a great, but she may have only gotten price quotes from expensive florists. It is worth it to get as many quotes as you have the time for because you never know who will come in cheaper. Plus, shopping around may give you a leg up in negotiation because you can tell a competing vendor that you are able to get a better price elsewhere and they may want to match or beat that price to get your business.

Keep Your Focus

Remember the reason you are having a wedding in the first place, and that is to celebrate that you are marrying the love of your life. Don’t let the pressure from magazines or friends or relatives or websites cloud your decision-making. You will look just as amazing in an $800 dress as you will in a $6,000 dress. Your guests will not notice if you didn’t have personalized napkins, signature cocktails or a customized cake-cutter. You will get to and from your venue at the same speed whether you get a Rolls Royce Phantom or a Chevrolet Suburban. These details do not matter in the grand scheme of things, so don’t make yourself broke trying to have the best of the best all for one day. What matters is that you and your fiancé/fiancée are there and that you get the chance to celebrate with the people who matter most to you.

For my married readers, did you keep yourself wedding debt free when you got married? If so, do you have any tips to share? For those of you currently going through the process, how is it going? Also, check out 20 Questions to Ask Before Getting Married!

10 thoughts on “How to Have a Debt Free Wedding

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  1. I’m in the process of wedding planning. We are a year out. Booked our venue, photographer, and DJ. You’d think that is it, but there is just so much more stuff and it is all expensive.

    What did you do for transportation? We are doing our reveal at a really nice garden beforehand, so our wedding party will be there. I really don’t want to book 2 limos to drive everyone because that’ll be stupid expensive.

    1. Sounds like you guys are doing great on timing! There seriously are so many little things when wedding planning and they just add up.

      Our hotel was 10 minutes from the church and the church was 20 minutes from the venue, so we didn’t really have much of a choice. We did a car for the two of us, a car for both sets of our parents, a limo for the bridal party (there were 15 of them), and a shuttle was offered for guests to and from the hotel.

  2. My wife and I tried to utilize friends and family that had connections to various wedding industries. They were able to help get us the best deals and definitely helped us stay within budget. I think if we had to do it all on our own we would have been way over budget.

  3. We ended up debt free after our wedding. Our parents helped us out too (LOTS of gratitude goes to them)! We had over a year to plan so talked to many decoration vendors, hotels, caterers and piggy backed off referrals from our friends who got married before us. We also have a big family so people helped out with some decorations, food preparation, make-up etc.

  4. Another thing I’ll comment on: make sure you know what ‘average’ is in your area. A 100-guest wedding in the Midwest is a lot difference in cost versus a 100-guest wedding in Los Angeles – trust me, I just did it and saw what the other price was.

    If it means having to wait another year or a few months so you can save up a little more money, do it. The last thing you want to do on your wedding day is think about how much you owe on it.

    1. Great point, David! A 100-guest here in Westchester is probably similar to that of an LA one. It’s definitely worth it to push it back to save up if need be, or as we did, set the date and make sure the cost of your wedding falls within what you can save in that time!

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