Wedding Financial Tips: A Survivor’s Guide

It’s that time of year again: wedding season.

These few months are full of joyous moments to celebrate love with your family and friends. Between the two of us, we have been to a few weddings already this season, and, during a recent discussion, determined that we always ponder the same thing; “I wonder what the cost was for this extravaganza??” With the average cost of a wedding at an all-time high of more than $31,000, and some much more costly, the affordability can be difficult for a lot of couples.

Also, the tradition of the bride’s family covering all of the expenses is starting to become a thing of the past, which puts even more stress on the soon-to-be married couple. In today’s world, it is common for the couple to share the costs of the wedding with the groom’s family. The costs also branch out to the wedding guests, considering their travel, lodging and/or clothing expenses.

Clearly, the financial burden of putting-on, or even attending a wedding is something to think about. However, with proper planning, it’s possible to keep wedding costs under control!

In this article, we hope to share a few financial tips so you can enjoy your day without depleting your savings.

If You’re Planning a Wedding

Asking the right questions up front can help you avoid any unpleasant surprises as it comes time to pay the final bill. Some things to consider are:

  • Using Outside Professionals: Depending on where you hold your reception, following the wedding, there is a chance that you could face an additional fee if you hire outside vendors. For example, if you have a friend who is a florist and you planned on using them to save money, it could actually end up costing you more! To avoid this, check to see if the wedding venue you chose has a preferred or required vendor list.
  • Cake Cutting and Corkage Fees: As ridiculous as it sounds, some event venues have been known to charge around $2-$5 per guest for cutting the cake, and even an additional $1.50-$3.00 for every bottle the staff opens! While this may not be verbally communicated, it is important to be aware of since it would be written into your wedding contract.
  • Overtime Costs: When planning the whole event, you have booked the DJ, photographer, and wait staff for a certain amount of time. If your wedding were to run a little longer than expected, they will start charging per hour! This can easily cause you to go over your budget in the course of an extra half hour! You can avoid this by being realistic on how long the event will be, and if necessary, get the overtime costs in writing so you know what to expect if you do decide to keep the party going.
  • Taxes and Gratuities: It is so easy to overlook the additional cost of taxes and gratuities when planning a wedding. While there is no getting around paying taxes, paying the entire bill in one lump sum can help lower your overall costs. It is prudent financial planning to allocate a portion of your budget toward covering these costs.
  • Negotiate Hotel Rates and Amenities: To be courteous to your traveling guests, you have the option to reserve a group of hotel rooms. While the guests will still pay for their own accommodations, the overall price for the room will be lower. The earlier you do this, the better since hotels get booked up quickly, which limits the power you have to negotiate.

If You’re a Wedding Guest

According to American Express, the average American will attend three weddings this year – spending more than $700 at each one! If you are a member of a wedding, that number jumps to $900. While these costs are quite material, below are a few financial tips to make the most of this expensive occasion.

  • Travel: If it is a destination wedding, why not turn it into a mini-vacation? If you were to travel mid-week and stay throughout the weekend, this could lower your travel costs considerably. To speak from experience, a couple we know did this for a recent destination wedding and they saved hundreds.
  • Lodging: The longer you wait to book your reservations, the higher the costs will be. You might even run the risk of not booking a room if you wait too long.
  • Attire: Renting formal outfits in a great alternative for those who do not want to break the bank for a one-time event. But be careful, if it costs $200 to rent your dress/suit and $300 to buy it – depending on your future use of the outfit, it could make sense to buy it.

If you’re Contributing to your Child’s Wedding

As a parent, it is important to be aware of gifting issues if you plan to give to your son or daughter. For 2016, you can give $14,000 per person under the annual gift tax exclusion. If you were to give any amount over $14,000, you will need to file a gift tax return. To prevent this, you can avoid writing large checks directly to the couple. Or, if you plan to cover certain portions of the wedding, it may make prudent sense to pay the vendor directly rather than giving money to the couple.


Weddings are meant to be blissful occasions to share with family and friends. The last thing you want to be worrying about is the financial aspect and overspending. Though the costs are a factor, with a little planning, these aforementioned costs do not have to break the bank.

Co-authored by Gary S. Williams, CFP®, CRPC®, AIF® and Nicholas Ibello, CFP® 

Click here for a free download of the Foreword (written by NFL Legend Ronnie Lott) and Chapter 1 of The Art of Retirement written by Gary Williams, CFP®.

Gary Williams, CFP® and Nicholas Ibello, CFP® are Wealth Managers with Williams Asset Management. They offer securities and advisory services as Investment Adviser Representatives of Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. 

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