According to a study of newly married couples by WeddingWire, the parent company of GayWeddings.com, most LGBTQ-identified couples (74 percent) paid for all or most of their wedding on their own. Compare that with just 45 percent of straight couples doing the same, and there’s a real gap between how queer couples are funding wedding shindigs and how straight couples are doing the same.
Regardless of whether your parents, future in-laws, or other family members will be giving you a hand in paying for the wedding, how will you handle the money part?
Look, not everyone is a “math person.” I get it. And, when it comes to smaller events, it’s perfectly acceptable to wing it. Your wedding, however, is not a small event—no matter how rigidly you’re planning to limit your guest list. You need a budget. You need to know exactly how much money you have to spend, how much you can realistically save, and how much other people might be contributing.
Better still if you can base all or most of your budget on cash in hand. So, for example, if your great aunt has $1,500 she’s set aside for the day you tie the knot, call her up and grab those funds. If you’re planning on selling your old Trinity guitar to put towards the wedding, do it now, then stash that cash in your wedding fund. Try your best to have as much money up front as you can.
Now that you’ve got a budget built to your liking and a little bit of help, it’s up to you and your partner to pick up the rest of the tab. Learning how to work, save and budget together to achieve a shared (expensive) goal is great training for marriage. So, starting with your end target dollar amount (the money you’ll need to pay every vendor, plus tip), work backward, and see how much you’ll have to save monthly between now and your wedding to get there. Then, divide those monthly savings goals in half to establish what each of you should be stowing away each month. You could even set up a direct deposit from your paycheck to your savings, so you don’t have to see the money before it zips into a safe zone.
And stay that way. I’m not saying you have to let your budget or financial circumstances bully you, but rather, be clear-headed and realistic with the funds you have and every choice you make, from the date you set (don’t pick a date eight months away from your engagement if you have serious saving to do) to your dress shopping strategy (that old adage about not trying on dresses over your budget? It exists for a reason).
If you plan a dream wedding within the budget constraints you have, rather than within the budget you wish you had, you’ll 100 percent be able to achieve your goals. The best part? Thanks to the internet and its endless stream of inspiration, plus talented wedding vendors, it’s easier than ever to throw a beautiful wedding with just about any budget.
Even if you and your partner are going to be the primary financiers of your wedding, that doesn’t mean you won’t get help here and there—and believe me, a little bit goes a long way to chip away at that total dollar amount!
Have lunch with parents and close family members and see who’s willing to help with what—and, if you and your partner are comfortable—opt to trade in a wedding present for help with your wedding costs. Explain that having a delicious meal for your family and friends, or beautiful photos to look back on forever, are worth more to you than any present you could ever ask for—trust me here, they’re going to spend the money regardless, so give them a little direction if you’d rather them spend it on helping you with the wedding!
If you find a few takers, try and arrange it so they can cover an entire element (like, the DJ or the catering) rather than simply writing a check. It’ll be a huge load off your and your partner’s shoulders if you can cross an entire vendor’s cost off your list, rather than just throwing some cash into your savings to be used on who-knows-what six months down the line. Of course, if someone simply offers cash—that works too! It would be great to include all family helpers in your ceremony program, or a thank-you speech during the reception.
If after everything, your target monthly savings amount seems…not quite possible? That’s when you go back to your must-haves/nice-to-haves and make some adjustments. You’ll be amazed by how much money you can save with the tiniest tweaks—shrinking your bridesmaids bouquets by 50 percent, for example, or streamlining your tablescapes to cut down on your rental costs. The more you trim off the top of each expenditure, the more you’ll add to your total savings in the long run. Another way to ensure you’re stretching your money as far as it can go is by negotiating with your vendors. More often than not, the original quote you get from a vendor is just a starting point, and you may be able to wiggle their price down. It can feel uncomfortable to negotiate costs at first, since none of us are used to talking that intimately about money with strangers, but remember that this is a part of the job for wedding vendors, and you shouldn’t feel intimidated.