If you’ve gotten married, odds are you spent quite a bit. The cost of a wedding these days is ridiculous (as you’ll read below).

But if you’re planning to get married soon—know that there’s hope. You don’t have to spend a year’s salary on a single day. You can have an amazing, unique, and memorable wedding on a budget.

Is anyone getting married anymore?

It sure doesn’t seem like it, does it? By in large, people are getting married later than they ever have, and sometimes not at all.

According to a study done by Avvo, less than half of millennials think of marriage as a life goal. And about one-quarter of the millennial population will remain unmarried into their mid-40s, and up to their mid-50s.

Antonia Hall, a psychologist and relationship expert, told Bustle.com that millennials don’t see the need to get married in order to commit to one another. Add in the fact that about 25 percent of millennials aren’t financially secure and have compounding student loan debt, and you have a recipe for no nuptials.

With more and more data suggesting that the younger population is less interested in marriage, you’d think that the ones who are getting married are spending very little—since it doesn’t seem worth it.

But that’s just not the case. In fact, according to CostOfWedding.com, the average cost of a wedding today is approaching $27,000.

To put this into perspective, this is higher than the current median salary of many millennials. For example, the median salary for a millennial living in California is $21,900. Unless you’re living at home and eating Ramen noodles, I’m not sure how you afford to live, let alone bankroll a lavish wedding.

Why are weddings so expensive?

There are several reasons why weddings cost so much money – but you can argue that none of them really make sense. Here are the three biggest money suckers from an average wedding:

1. Venue, catering, and rentals

Using the data provided by CostOfWedding.com, people spend the most (on average) on their wedding venue, their catering, and any rented equipment they need to arrange. This accounts for about 45 percent of the cost of an average wedding.

2. Jewelry

A big thing to note here is that this doesn’t include the cost of an engagement ring. This is simply the jewelry for the wedding—which will include your wedding bands. This may also include jewelry accessories for the bride and bridesmaids (or groom and groomsmen, depending on your flavor of wedding).

How much does this stuff cost? About 16 percent of the total average cost of the wedding.

3. Photography and video

How could you possibly enjoy your special day without hiring a professional to snap pictures of every move you make? And this doesn’t include the free pictures and videos you’ll surely get from the crowd snapping away with their iPhones all night. This accounts for around 11 percent of the total average cost of the wedding.

You know what this list doesn’t include? The honeymoon.

If you add in the average cost of a honeymoon after the wedding, you’re looking at about an extra $4,000.

What are the long-term impacts of a budget wedding?

Obviously the biggest impact to having a budget wedding is the cost-savings. You’ll go into your marriage with little to no wedding debt and probably thank yourself later. But there’s a much bigger impact—marital happiness and lower divorce rates.

In a unique study done by Emory University Economics professors, Hugo Mialon and Andrew Francis, there were some shocking correlations found between big weddings and unhappy marriages. Here are a few of their findings:

  1. Engagement rings. The study showed that men who spend between $2,000 and $4,000 on an engagement ring were, on average, 30 percent more likely to get to get divorced than those who spent between $500 and $2,000.
  2. The wedding. Couples who spend more than $20,000 on a wedding are, on average, 60 percent more likely to get a divorce than those who spend between $5,000 and $10,000 on the big day. What’s even better is data suggests that spending less than $1,000 on a wedding correlates to a 50 percent lower chance of getting divorced.

Everyone’s situation is different, and you shouldn’t think that spending too much will cause you to get divorced. But this is genuine food for thought.

Here are some case studies of people who have actually pulled off budget weddings.

Case study #1: Christine Stoddard

Christine Stoddard wrote a heartfelt piece for Ravishly last year about how she got married on an extreme budget for a number of reasons. First and foremost, she didn’t have the money for a huge wedding. But as your read her story, you’ll realize that she probably wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Here are some of the things Christine did to save money on her wedding:

  • She and her sister made all of her bridesmaids’ bouquets and groomsmen’s boutonnieres out of crafts from Michael’s, Craigslist, and her own art bin
  • She made the centerpieces for each and every tableand what couldn’t be made was done by a local artist or from Etsy
  • The ceremony was in the morning and guests got a small lunch buffetnot a ridiculously expensive dinner
  • The wedding was at a local historic house owned by a non-profit organization—making it incredibly cheap
  • A harpist played music during the ceremony instead of a band
  • They hooked up their iPod for reception music instead of a DJ

As I read Christine’s story, I felt totally inspired. I’m already married (and my budget story is below) but this is something that I still wish I read before I got married. So please be sure to do Christine the honor of reading and sharing her story.

Case study #2: Sara Cotner

Sara went into so much detail about her wedding that she put together an entire blog (and book) about it. Her goal was to spend no more than $2,000 (spoiler alert: she only spent $1,962!) on her big day.

Sara and her husband sat down and went over their goals for the wedding all at once. Her and her husband figured if they could determine what they wanted people to learn from their wedding, they’d have an easier time planning it.

And plan they did. There were nine goals Sara and her husband decided to stick to throughout the planning process and the wedding. 

As she walks through her story about how she planned the wedding with her husband, there are several instances of potentially “breaking a rule” that she had to put a stop to. One was even a relative offering to pay for more expensive options—but Sara declined and stuck to her rules.

Make sure you read the entire story here—I’m sure you’ll find it as inspiring as Christine’s experience.

Case study #3: Me

Yes, that’s right. I also had a budget wedding. Mine wasn’t as cheap as Christine or Sara’s but I think we had a pretty awesome wedding at a pretty low cost.

My wife and I decided to have a destination wedding, with just the two of us. We did this primarily because we didn’t see the need to spend a ton of money for everyone else. We agreed that our wedding was our day.

Most of the “big” weddings we’ve gone to make it clear the day isn’t entirely about the bride and groom. We saw our friends stress out, spend tons of money, and spend the entire night thanking people for coming to their reception instead of enjoying the moment for themselves. 

So we decided to make it all about us, save money, and do everything in one trip. We went to a beautiful resort on the beach in St. Lucia, which is in the south Caribbean. We spent a week relaxing, snorkeling, eating, exploring, and just having fun with each other. Our wedding was great—we got married on a pavilion that overlooked the water, the beach, and the Piton Mountains.

Did we miss our families? Sure. But we had a reception when we came back.

We got married in December and had a champagne brunch in February. By then we had all of our wedding photos (and videos) to show our entire family. Instead of a traditional sit-down dinner, we hosted the party at a local country club, with champagne and fruit to start (and a piano player who was a family friend), which later opened to a full buffet including an omelet bar.

It was from 11 AM to 2 PM, so people were able to attend without giving up their entire night.

It was perfect. And it was cheap.

Summary

So as you can see, having a budget wedding isn’t just to save money—there are plenty of other benefits. As the case studies showed, it can be done as eloquently as you want. If you’re considering getting married, do what’s cool and have an awesome, money-saving, budget wedding that fits your style.

Read more

  • How To Save On Engagement Rings
  • How To Save Money While Planning A Fabulous Wedding