The months leading up to my wedding were full of excitement, anticipation, and a sense of bliss. But the planning process wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows—it also involved some pretty serious financial stress.
It all worked out in the end; within a few weeks of our wedding date, my husband and I were completely free of any wedding-related debt. But if I could go back and talk to my pre-wedding self, I’d have a serious heart-to-heart with her about money—and dish out some advice that would save her a whole lot of energy, stress, and cash. Here’s what I’d tell her.
Budget more than you think you’ll need
Shortly after we got engaged, my husband and I sat down with our parents (who were kind enough to chip in) and set a budget for the big day. By the time the wedding rolled around, we’d completely blown through that budget—by about $10,000.
The problem was that my husband and I had zero knowledge of how much it would cost to put on a wedding. (Did you know that a DJ can cost upwards of $2,000?! We sure didn’t!)
If I could go back, I would’ve done a lot more research before that meeting, so that we could settle on a more realistic number. I would have also padded that budget with additional funds for all the inevitable last-minute expenses (like getting wedding-day breakfast delivery and stocking up on extra ice for the bar) that cropped up as the big day got closer.
“I recommend itemizing all the items that you know you’re going to need to cover, and then adding another 20 percent as a buffer,” recommends Danetha Doe, accountant, money mentor, and founder of the financial education blog Money and Mimosas. “This will give you some wiggle room.”
Keep on saving
My husband and I are both pretty good about saving—we pad our savings accounts every month, put away money for retirement, and try to maintain a “rainy day fund” for any unexpected costs or emergencies.
But that commitment to saving? It went right out the window when we were planning our nuptials.
We were spending so much on the wedding, it felt impossible to save anything—and while we’re back on track now, we both regret letting our savings (both the amount we saved each month and the total balance) dwindle in the months leading up to the wedding.
If I could go back, I would set up an automatic transfer into my savings account every month—and have a strict “hands-off” policy for wedding expenses.
“Savings should be something that’s a habit—like going to the gym,” says Doe. And that habit shouldn’t disappear just because you have more expenses on your plate.
Don’t stress too much about money
From a financial perspective, there are a lot of things I wish I had done differently during wedding planning. But the biggest piece of advice I wish I could give my newly engaged self? Don’t lose sleep over the budget.
In the months leading up to my wedding, I spent countless hours stressing about money. I obsessively checked my credit card balances, felt on the verge of panic when faced with (yet another) unexpected cost, and worried about how wedding debt might negatively impact my marriage. All that worrying took some of the joy out of the wedding planning experience. In hindsight, that gives me some serious pangs of regret.
And you know what? It was all for nothing. My husband and I buckled down and were able to pay off all our wedding expenses in just a few months. Today, we’re completely free of credit card debt. If I could do it all over, I wouldn’t have lost so much sleep over how much we were spending on the wedding—and, instead, I would’ve been more present and enjoyed the experience.
Doe recommends using a mantra to get through times of financial stress. “I always like to tell myself ‘There’s more where that money comes from,’” she says.
Carry these lessons into your marriage
There is a lot of financial advice I wish I could’ve given to myself before I planned our big day. But let’s be real—the wedding is certainly not going to be the last time my husband and I experience financial stress. So I plan to take everything we learned with me into our marriage. And the next time I start losing sleep over a stressful financial situation, I’ll definitely take a deep breath and remind myself that it’s all going to be okay.