Why You Should Save for Your Wedding, Even If You’re Single

Why You Should Save for Your Wedding Even If You're Single

A few weeks ago my mom and I were on the couch watching “Say Yes to the Dress.” My mom marvelled at the dress budgets that flashed on the TV screen, starting at $3,000, and increasing comically as the show progressed. But the prices didn’t seem real, especially since someone else was going to be paying for it—the bride’s parents. That was a foreign concept to me.

I elbowed my mom jokingly, “Hey mom, where’s my $3,000 for a dress?”

She looked at me like I was a piece of gum on her shoe.

In my mom’s culture, saving up for your kid’s wedding is not a thing people do. Growing up, I always knew I’d be on my own if I ever wanted a wedding.

But weddings are infuriatingly expensive. In 2016, the average cost of a wedding was $35,329. With costs like that and no one to have your back, it’s easy to start feeling down on your luck. Extreme options start running through your head:

Do I elope on a beach or go to city hall?
Do I have to settle on a generic, cheap-looking, forgettable wedding?
Do I go into credit card debt to have the kind of wedding I want?
Hell, do I find a rich guy to marry who can front the entire bill?

Then less-extreme thoughts:
I guess I could scramble and save once I get engaged. But scrambling and saving isn’t really my bag.

I guess I could whine and complain about why it’s my parents job to bankroll my wedding. But I don’t want to make my mom cash out her retirement fund.

So, for those of us who are on our own, how do we afford the kind of wedding we want?
We do what we always do. We plan AROUND our circumstances.

How I Saved $10,000 for My “Someday” Wedding

Every month for five years, I had $170 automatically transferred to a savings account, nicknamed Wedding Fund. I set up the automatic transfer one day, and then I moved on with my life. When it comes to personal finance, I know that the small, consistent wins add up over time. Proof: A few years ago I looked one day and saw I had managed to save up $10,000 for my future wedding.

I was sure about one thing for my “someday” wedding: As someone who loves design and style, I did know that when the time came, I’d want my wedding to be my version of “nice”, and that would cost money.

But there were some major unknowns:
When I started saving, I didn’t have a boyfriend at the time, had no idea IF I would ever marry, and had no desire to save dream wedding dresses or decor to my Pinterest account.

But I wanted to give myself options. Because if I didn’t, who would?

Time Is Not on Your Side

Universal truth: Engagements POP UP OUT OF NOWHERE. Do you know anyone who knew exactly when they were going to be engaged? Me neither. Weddings are a major life event that a lot of people do, yet it seems like no one ever plans for it.

Let’s compare the savings timeline to other life events:

Retirement: $1,000,000 – 40 years to save
Buying a house: $20,000-$40,000 – 5 years to save
Wedding: $10,000-$20,000 – 18 months to save

Wedding savings can be as much as a down payment on a house, and yet you have less than HALF the time to save for it. Most people plan for long-term things like retirement or mid-term goals, like a down payment on a house. But even though 2 million people get married each year, saving ahead for weddings seems to get the shaft.

Why is that?

Maybe it’s because there’s a stigma against people who think about their weddings before they’re engaged. We’ve all seen the rom-coms. These characters are viewed as presumptuous, overly romantic, or a desperate loser. Then you have people creating secret wedding Pinterest boards because no one wants to be judged for even THINKING about a wedding when it’s not a sure thing. With this kind of negative thinking, it’s no wonder people wait to save until AFTER they’re engaged. But waiting to save can result in things I personally wouldn’t want to do: scrambling to save, funding the wedding on credit cards, or delaying their engagement for years.

Being practical about how you’re going to fund your wedding is not desperate. It’s plain smart.

The Benefits of Saving Ahead of Time

When you save up your own money ahead of time, you’d be amazed how so many problems seem to melt away. Like:

  • Being able to set your wedding date as early as you want (pending the venue’s available, of course)
  • Having more creative control over your wedding. Let’s face it: when someone else is footing the bill, they have a say in how you spend their money. I’m someone who has laser-specific tastes, and having a third person weigh in on decisions would have been a bad scene.
  • Starting off your marriage feeling empowered about your money, not stressed or controlled by it

Breaking Down the Math

You need to start saving for your wedding, as of yesterday. But how do you figure out how MUCH to save? I wanted to spend the least amount of money to pull off the kind of wedding I wanted, so my number was $10,000. Then I divided the number of months I wanted to save, which was 60 months, or five years.

Let’s check out an example:

If you want to save, say $12,000, which is these do you think is harder to do?

Scenario A:
Starting at age 22, having $200 automatically put into your Wedding Fund account each month for 5 years

Scenario B:
Waiting to save until you’re officially engaged at age 27, and eating ramen every day to save $1000 a month for a year

It’s a lot less painful to save smaller amounts over a longer period of time, than larger amounts in a shorter amount of time.

If you think $170 a month sounds like a lot to save, then try this on for perspective: my mom made $12 an hour, raised two happy kids, and saved more than $200 every single month. Most people are blowing that amount in some way that isn’t meaningful to them. Take a good hard look at what you’re spending your money on and make sure every dollar spent aligns with your values and goals. If not, considering allocating those misaligned funds to the Wedding Fund. Even if you save $100 a month, that’s $100 more than you had before.

I know there’s some 22-year-old reading this, thinking, ‘But I’m not getting married for another 5 years at least; heck, I don’t even have a boyfriend! This doesn’t apply to me at all!’ Or: ‘I don’t want to look like a crazy person!’

First off, you don’t have to tell anyone you’re saving for your wedding. It’s that simple. Second, people who worry about looking like a crazy person are not the ones who get ahead. Since I saved ahead I’m going to get my artful flowers and a venue in an expensive city. I planned for it, and now I’m going to get mine.

Setting Up a Separate Savings Account

For savings accounts, or any bank account really, I recommend online banks over brick and mortar ones. When you use online banks, it makes it harder to raid your stash in a moment of weakness. I like using Capital One ING bank, but another option is Ally Bank. Ugh, setting up yet ANOTHER account? I know, but it’s super easy, I swear.

The best feature of these bank is that you can set up mini accounts, or sub-accounts, so that you can earmark money for all of your goals. For this account, give it a nickname. Mine was Wedding Fund. The psychology of naming the account is that it makes your goal more real, and helps you focus on the end goal.

Final Thoughts

There is literally ZERO downside to saving up for your wedding before you’re engaged. For some people, it’s a non-issue, because they know they’ll have family help. But if you’re like me and you ignore this, you’re denying Future You the freedom to have options. Do it now. And if you decide to skip the wedding, guess what? You’ve now got yourself a head start on a down payment on a house. Or money to quit your job and travel the world. Or the first year of child care all set.

So, what’s it going to be?

Married friends, how did you save up for your wedding?

Image: Unsplash

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  • Piggy

    This is one of my favorite topics to ponder. We spent $19k on our 100-person wedding and honeymoon combined. Some of that was generously paid for by family members, but a BIG chunk was paid for by our savings and second jobs. My husband was working as a bouncer on weekends when we got engaged, which was a terrible, horrible, awful job that paid rather well. And I was freelancing as an editor and writer outside of my 9-5 job. So for the 18 months or so we were engaged, every second job dollar went to the wedding fund. We started our marriage with no wedding debt, and the cash gifts almost covered the amount we’d personally spent. I feel extremely lucky, but I also like to think that scrimping and saving during that time was a good tone to set for our marriage and other life goals.

    Awesome article as always, dearest!

    • Aww, thanks for stopping by, BGR!

      Weddings are fascinating, aren’t they? And where I live it’s not uncommon for venues to cost 15k by themselves, so all in, you’re looking at 50k+ total for weddings. I always wondered the logistics of how people paid for weddings like that, but it’s something you almost never hear about.

      My first thought when I read your comment was , ‘Wow, being a bouncer sounds horrible,’ although I’m glad it was temporary and helped you guys reach your goal. Your savings mix sounds pretty great to me: a little good fortune with the family help, hustling with second jobs, and then the icing on the cake — the cash gifts! It’s like your friends and family paid you to get married. I doubt the cash gifts will offset much of my wedding costs due to a much smaller guest size, but a girl can dream, right?

  • Jane @ Cash Fasting

    Saving for your own wedding, pre-engagement, is so so practical! I’m years away from my own wedding, but I’ve always known that my parents wouldn’t be able to foot the bill, not that I would ever ask them to.
    Plus, the real point here is to not let a wedding put you in debt! That would be a terrible financial start to anyone’s marriage. Thanks for the great post!

  • Awesome article Luxe!

    That is awesome you thought ahead to save. My wife was the same way and her father also had money saved for her wedding as well. We spent around 20k on our 100ish person wedding and honeymoon but luckily most was covered in advance. What wasn’t covered we took from our savings account. It didn’t set us back on any goals and the memories were worth it.

    We had only a seven month engagement, so without the savings in advance we would have had an iPhone picture at the courthouse and shots at the dive bar on happy hour….

    • Thanks, as always 🙂

      The iPhone picture at the courthouse thing made me LOL, because that would have been me, too, if I hadn’t planned to save. Not that there’s anything wrong with courthouse weddings–I think they’re super chic–but doing the vows in front of people we care about was really important to us.

      I can’t wait to do a recap of my wedding costs because I’m spending way more than y’all per person…

  • Sometimes I wonder if you end up planning better BECAUSE you know you aren’t getting financial help. Not like I ever expect it, either. It’s just not how I grew up.

    It’s funny, but my net worth has stayed pretty steady the whole time I’ve been paying for the wedding because the market is doing really well right now. Investing, FTW.

    Thanks for reading, as always!

  • Great idea about this. I ended up saving for about 2 years before I got engaged. One thing about being being a lawyer is that you get a huge tax refund that first year since you’re paying a ton in taxes but only technically making a small amount since you’re only working for a few months. I remember getting something like $7,000 back on my tax return in 2014, and decided that I’d just put it away for a future wedding. Worked out for us, but even with the money we saved, we still needed significant parental help. And oh yeah, definitely keep it a secret. No need for people to think you’re crazy, haha.

    • Ha, I wasn’t ashamed about saving ahead, but yeah, no reason to tell people if you are. If I didn’t save on my own, than I’d be having a less-than-ideal wedding in a non-desirable location. The best way I get what I want is to set myself up ahead of time instead of doing nothing and hoping something magically works out.

      Your 7k “windfall” is killer. That basically would pay my portion of the wedding costs!

      Oh, and still waiting around for your engagement ring and wedding costs post 🙂

  • Courtney @ Your Average Dough

    This is so true. Weddings are so expensive! We started saving for our wedding about a year a half in advance of the wedding and still needed some additional help. We even tried to cut things out at the end to save some additional costs. I don’t know how some people afford weddings these days if they don’t start saving in advance. We saved aggressively and was able to save ~30K in a year and a half. The craziest part is we spent all that money for one day and it goes by so fast!

  • 30k in a year and a half is impressive! Kudos to you. Even though you had to cut some things, with that budget I’m sure the cuts weren’t noticeable to any guests. Not sure where you got married, but in most places, you can do a lot with that!

    I wish more people talked about logistics for how they came up with wedding money. It still seems like one of those things people feel weird talking about.

  • Lily @ TheFrugalGene.com

    My hubby’s parents gave him $15,000 for our wedding and we had a choice of pocketing it or doing something with it. We pocketed it because we’re both working 60hr weeks and just need sleep.

    I have my own money in a separate account for clothes and I do a clothing haul every year with some wedding / bridesmaid dresses I like. But I only care about the dress. I don’t want the party. So I have lots of cute fancy floofs but nowhere I want to go…

    • Wait, what? A clothing haul for wedding stuff even though there’s no wedding? I’m intrigued. Maybe you can just take pictures, and then just return the stuff…

      That’s awesome that your husband’s parents were able to gift a decent amount.

      • Lol I like wedding dresses but not anything else. It’s a weird dilemma. Now that you mention it, yeah it’s basically a clothing haul lol.

  • bknielson

    At 47, I would give anything to know then what I know now. The only thing about my wedding that I don’t regret was the dress. Why? Because it’s the thing I paid for myself so I got exactly what I wanted. The rest was paid for by my mom which means it was not the wedding I wanted. If I could go back and do it again, even with the option of having someone else pay for it, I wouldn’t. I’d save like a crazy person and pay for exactly what I want. There’s so much freedom in that.

    • I’m sorry you have a lot of regrets on your wedding, but I hope you still see it as a positive experience. But I generally do agree with you that that money is rarely given without some kind of strings. And yes, I wholeheartedly agree–your own money, no matter if it’s for a wedding, house, or savings, really does provide a lot of freedom.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • I’m definitely not ‘the marrying kind’, but this was so fascinating to read! I’ve never really thought about saving for a wedding compared to buying a house or saving for retirement, but it makes so much sense. Having been to a number of weddings in the last two years, I did always wonder how they were paid for and what kind of financial burden the bride and groom were under. Thanks for a wonderful read!

    • Yeah, no one ever talks about the costs of weddings! Like money, it’s so hush-hush.

      Well, thanks for reading, even though you aren’t the marrying kind! It makes me feel like my stuff is somewhat engaging!