The Smart Couple's Guide to Financially Planning a Wedding

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A dream wedding with all its pomp and circumstance easily can turn into a nightmare if a couple still is paying for it years after walking down the aisle. If there’s one thing couples should take to heart when planning their wedding, it’s this: Get real about the bottom line and what matters most for creating lifelong memories.

“In deciding how to fund your wedding, to a certain extent, you’re setting a precedent for how you’re going to manage your finances together when you’re married,” says Linda Leitz, a certified financial planner with Pinnacle Financial Concepts in Colorado Springs, Colo. Here are some smart steps for starting your financial future on the right foot.

Pre-Wedding Planning

It’s important to get a “values-based vision” of your wedding first, says William Timpson, a certified financial planner at Financial Focus, in Livingston, N.J. This vision addresses all of the must-haves for the celebration rather than every whim. “Once you have that vision down, then you can begin financial planning,” Timpson says. He also suggests creating a separate savings account to add to regularly in preparation.

Couples who have more time tend to spend more, says Laura West, a certified financial planner with West Financial Advisors Certified in Nevada, Iowa. She suggests spending only three to six months planning: “You have to make quicker decisions, and you don’t add as much of those bells and whistles.”

Cutting Costs

“All those shows that are on TV really get women thinking that they need to have this off-the-charts wedding,” West says. But budget-friendly elegance is possible when a couple focuses on what’s important to them personally. After finalizing their “values-based vision,” they can target areas where costs can really add up, such as the dress, flowers and food.

Planner Leitz advises couples to travel off the beaten path for deals. Thinking about not only the time of day but the day of the week and the time of year has always been a way to save money on a wedding. Off-season and weekday plans don’t put you in high competition for venues.

Ask for help

When couples have beaten the unconventional path down to dust and are still coming up short in funding their wedding. It’s time to turn to family and friends for help.

Timpson suggests couples start with their parents. “They’ll be pleased to see that you’ve put together a budget and that you have a vision and that there’s a reason why you’re doing this,” he says. If the bottom line still lies overhead after exploring all cost-saving options, a smart couple will know it’s time to amend their plans, such as opting for a longer engagement period to allow for saving more for the wedding.

Whatever you do, don’t go into debt, Timpson says. “It’s a really tough way to start a relationship.”

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