Can I afford a wedding?

By: Jessika Toothman

Getting hitched can cost as much as a first-class college education, but it certainly doesn't have to. See more pictures of wedding gowns.

Can I afford a wedding? This is sort of a loaded question, and it depends a lot on the couple who'll be saying "I do." Weddings can be super cheap -- that's all you elopers out there who aren't interested in pouring hours into planning a wedding or spending the next several years paying for it. Or they can be mind-blowingly expensive -- and that's even before we climb up into the celebrity wedding category. Of course, most weddings tend to fall somewhere in between.

In a minute, we'll get into a sampling of the things a no-holds-barred wedding might include. But as you're reading down the list, you might see some corners you wouldn't mind cutting in the interest of saving some financial heartache. Once that engagement ring goes on, it's time to decide whether you want to hire a wedding planner or set up your big day with just the help of friends and family. Professional help isn't cheap, but it can be a huge relief for busy brides. Next, it's time to choose a date and start the hunt for venues for both the ceremony and the reception -- which can be very pricey! If you're looking to save money on what will likely be your biggest expense, you can consider using the pretty backyard of a family member or friend, although you'll still need to stock up on items like a tent, tables and chairs.


Once you've settled on a locale, it's time to get your guests there. That can involve save-the-date notices, invitations and reply cards, along with all the other stationery you'll need at the event or afterward, like ceremony programs, seating cards and thank you notes. These can be fancy -- embossed, monogrammed, logoed, or penned by professional calligraphers -- or they homemade, as simple as a design you've laid out and printed at your local copy shop.

Then there's the music for the reception, which can be as elegant as a string quartet, as swinging as a DJ, or as simple as a well-stocked iPod. Now on to food for the rehearsal dinner, catering for the reception and chow for the following morning's brunch, not to mention copious amounts of alcohol and related expenses regarding table and bar service.

Next up, we hit venue decorations, like table centerpieces and other décor to liven up the reception site. You'll also have some major event expenses like the wedding officiator's fee, the photographer and videographer's fee, and the wedding cake. There could also be a limo or car rental involved, a hotel room for the newlyweds, gifts for the parents and wedding favors.

Another big cost consideration is attire. The bride's dress will likely be the biggest expense, but you'll also need to consider her accessories, hair and makeup, headpiece, veil and bouquet. Floral expenses will extend to the bridesmaids' bouquets and flower girls' flowers, as well as groomsmen's boutonnieres and corsages for others in the wedding party. The groom's tux or suit and accessories can cost a lot or a little depending on whether you decide to buy or rent. You'll also need to spend some time (if not tons of money) on thoughtful gifts for your wedding party.

Last but not least, you'll need two wedding rings and a marriage certificate. Now just pay for a romantic honeymoon and you're all set!

While there is an awful lot there for a bridezilla to demand, much of it can be whittled away to make a wedding more affordable. Saying "I do" doesn't always have to involve simultaneously saying "Hello" to debt.


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More Great Links


  • Bridal Association of America. "The Wedding Report." July 2006. (6/2/2010).
  • "Budget & Basics." (6/2/2010)
  • The Knot. "The Knot Unveils 2009 Real Weddings Survey Results." Feb. 17, 2010. (6/2/2010).