Something Blue Costs Something Green

Wedding Cost GraphAs is tradition, the bride's family is responsible for the wedding ceremony. In "Father of the Bride," Steve Martin plays George Banks, a father who embarks on a journey that includes live swans and major home renovations. While the movie makes light of the wedding planning process, it does speak to some truths. Yes, fathers may never be ready to walk their daughter down the aisle, and, yes, weddings can be incredibly expensive.

Today, the average cost of a traditional wedding is about $27,000, which includes the ceremony, as well as the dress, the food, the reception—the whole package. Still, $27,000 is just the average. Including all of the variables—region, venue, date—weddings can cost less, but they can also cost more.

To put all $27,000 on a credit card? With a 15% interest rate and a minimum payment of $500, it would take you 91 months (roughly 7 ½ years) to pay off the wedding, with an additional $18,238 of interest.
So, how does one go about saving for a wedding? Unlike college—which typically happens after our kids graduate high-school— it's hard to know when to start saving for a wedding. Start too late and you may have to dip into your retirement account.

Say you start saving the moment your daughter gets engaged. According to, the average length of an engagement is 15.4 months (1.28 years). To have enough come wedding day, you'd have to put away $1,753 each month.

Well, that's a sizable monthly contribution. Considering that most couples date 2 to 3 years before engagement, maybe you begin saving when your daughter starts a serious relationship. Now you have 39.4 months (3.28 years) to save, and are looking at $685.28 per month. Still a sizable amount.

"Really, as soon as your daughter starts dating, begin saving," said Associate Portfolio Manager Keith Stabasefski, only half-jokingly. As the average age of a first-time bride is 26.5, you can lower your monthly savings to $225 if you start saving when she's 16.

"When I first proposed to my wife," said Keith, "both my father and father-in-law offered us $5,000 if we eloped. It was an enticing offer, but my wife really wanted a traditional wedding, and you can't put a price on our wedding pictures." And that is just it: when it comes to a day as special as a wedding, it's hard to cut costs the way you would with any other event.

Fortunately, there are ways you can prepare for the day your daughter says, "I do."

wedding savings picAt Secrest Blakey & Associates, we typically assist clients by helping them determine an affordable amount to spend, reminding them that the goal involves making memories, not measuring up. We designate a separate investment account tied to a measurable goal, investing the funds conservatively until the big day.

Nowadays, wedding planning and cutting costs has become a little easier with sites like TheKnot that offer budgeting planners and advice. Aside from the basic cost-cutting measures (inviting less guests, hand-making the centerpieces) brides are also saving by spending money on accessories, rather than the dress. With retailers like JCrew selling wedding gowns at $500, brides are using family heirlooms, high fashion jewelry, belts, or shoes to detail their dress. When the wedding is over, they can continue to wear the accessories. Brides are also selling their dresses, some even before they get married, while the style of their dress is still in fashion.

Some couples even consider eloping to save money. When New York Times writer Marianne Rohrlich's son announced he'd eloped, while at first shocked, Rohrlich later threw the couple a wedding party. "As I saw it, there would be no angst, anticipation or jitters about bringing families together, no arguments and no hurt feelings... no seating plans to obsess over no need for expensive bridesmaids' frocks, and best of all, no more than a party to worry about." All in all, less than $2,000.

Like eloping, destinations weddings are not the norm, but are about $3,000 cheaper than traditional weddings. Fewer guests are invited, and hotels often provide incentivized packages to the bridal party. And, if they have to travel, some wedding goers prefer traveling to the Caribbean or Mexico and making a vacation out of the event.

However your daughter chooses to celebrate her wedding day, know that a savings goal that includes enormous emotional sentiment, and is wholly focused on making memories, is important to plan for. We can help you plan when you are ready; call us today!