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VOL. 129 | NO. 30 | Thursday, February 13, 2014

Dana and Ray Brandon

Are Weddings Really Worth Huge Expense?

By Ray and Dana Brandon

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Ray’s Take I once heard it said that large cathedral weddings cost around $1,000 per step – and some churches have long aisles! According to TheKnot.com, U.S. couples spend an average of over $25,600 on their weddings. Of course, that’s the “average” amount. When you take the mean cost – the point where most weddings cluster – the cost is just over $18,000 – still a substantial sum.

If a dream wedding is something a couple in love can afford, and it doesn’t put anyone in debt, there’s nothing wrong with spending that amount, or many times more. But not all parents and fewer about-to-be-weds have the financial resources on hand to do that.

What to do? Save in advance, scale back on expectations or both. You won’t be surprised to hear me state the best way to control wedding expenses is to create a realistic budget and stick to it. The inevitable emotions and expectations intertwined with wedding plans make sticking to a budget more than a little hard. Wedding planners, caterers, florists, and every other professional in the wedding industry will offer a host of unbudgeted but attractive additions to the big day. After saying “yes,” a couple has to spend a lot of time saying “no,” or else start piling on the costs – and debt.

I am a big advocate of starting with the budget and working backward. The couple getting married should identify just two or three things that really matter to them. They should then keep the bulk of their budget focused on those areas – be they venue, flowers, photography, food or whatever – and skimp on the rest.

Keep in mind that wedding guests are there to celebrate the formation of a new family, and don’t notice things like wedding favors or bridesmaid’s bouquets as much as you might imagine. The memories guests will treasure most have much less to do with catering or music. They’ll recall the joy on the faces of those being wed and this very happy and personal moment they shared.

Dana’s Take When planning a wedding, consider going vintage to start the marriage on good financial footing. Ask to look at family wedding albums going back several generations.

In days past, the reception was often held in the house of worship or the parents’ home. Is either an option? These days, we typically think of weddings as evening or weekend occasions, but traditionally weddings were likely to be morning affairs, followed by a wedding breakfast.

Is an heirloom ring or wedding band a possibility? Ray gave me his grandmother’s engagement ring from the 1920’s and I treasure it. If grandmother’s wedding dress is still viable, can it be adapted for the bride?

Thinking outside the consumer-driven wedding industry mind-set can dramatically reduce the wedding budget, it can also make a wedding more distinctive, personal, and memorable.

 Ray Brandon is a certified financial planner and CEO of Brandon Financial Planning (www.brandonplanning.com). His wife, Dana, has a bachelor’s degree in finance and is a licensed clinical social worker. Contact Ray Brandon at raybrandon@brandonplanning.com.

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