7 Things to Do Now to Afford a Wedding Next Year

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SAVE IT FOR THE HONEYMOON

Sure, the wedding may not be until next year, but to shave some serious money off the bottom line, now is the time to start saving and planning. Thinking long term will lead to handsome rewards and possibly a more relaxed big day.

SET A BUDGET NOW (AND STICK TO IT)

Wedding costs can add up quickly, and couples who don't know their budget are just buying trouble. Make a spreadsheet or checklist with every expense broken down, including an approximate amount. Whether your budget is $1,000 or more than $15,000, sticking to a plan from the beginning contributes to an overall feeling of financial success. For couples with other debt, such as student loans, budgeting is even more important.

SAVE FOR WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT

Decide early which aspects of the wedding you care most about, then budget appropriately. Allocate enough to cover the most important expenses to your satisfaction and see how much is left for everything else. Respondents to a Cheapism.com Facebook poll identified music, food, and photography as the three expenses that were most worth the extra money. Décor and favors fell to the bottom of the list.

KEEP AN EYE ON SALES

Try not to buy wedding items that aren't on sale. It helps to start collecting items now, so you don't get backed into a corner and feel the need to buy things at full price right before the wedding. Getting to know the sale cycles at favorite stores makes this even easier. For example, Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores customers suggest that Thursday is the best day for sales there. Many other stores seem to start discounting on Sundays.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OTHER FESTIVITIES

Stock up on holiday mints or chocolates for favors or a candy buffet. Christmas candy may coordinate with red or green accents in wedding décor, and Easter candy could go on sale with perfect timing for a spring wedding. Just be aware of expiration dates. If the wedding isn't until summer, be sure the treats aren't going to taste like they've been sitting around since the holidays.

START COMPARING PRICES

Even on a shopping trip that has nothing to do with the wedding, note the prices of items you'll eventually need, and keep a running tally in a planner or app. Remember, items for a wedding don't need to come from a party store or the "wedding aisle." There may be comparable items that are much cheaper just because they aren't designated specifically for weddings, with the accompanying markup.

DO IT YOURSELF

Being crafty can save hundreds, maybe even thousands, of dollars. The earlier you start, the more you can do yourself. Couples can create name cards, ceremony programs, and centerpieces to save money. Miranda Kerr of Chicago said she saved hundreds by designing, printing, and folding her own invitations. Those who don't feel like they have the skills to pull off some DIY projects can enlist friends and family.

IGNORE THE TIMELINE

Many online wedding resources have good intentions in posting wedding planning checklists, and they might be a good place to start -- but feeling rushed to check something off makes a couple more likely to overspend. On the flip side, seeing an item further down the list might encourage you to put it off. Buy at a pace that's comfortable and affordable, and don't worry much about the order.