The cost of a wedding can be very expensive. For those who are footing the bill, figuring out how to pay for it and how much to budget for all its myriad costs can potentially add a lot of stress to newly formed relationships. 

While a wedding is a wonderful and joyous occasion, it is very easy to waste a lot of money and get carried away in the euphoria of the moment.   

The average cost of a wedding in Arizona in 2019 is currently running a little over $30,000, and based on my own experience, that might be a low estimate. When you get down to trying to figure out the cost of a wedding or your budget there are several categories to look at. The single largest component of the wedding is usually the reception venue. Within that category you would normally include items such as bar service, catering, venue rental, wedding planner, equipment rentals, reception band, photographer and videographer.

The list above doesn’t include many of the smaller items that are less expensive but can add up. These other expenses are invitations, favors, wedding cake, ceremony musician’s transportation, reception dinner, wedding brunch, wedding dress, etc. The costs and expenses can quickly skyrocket. So what is one to do? 

My advice for a large expense like a wedding is to put in the time needed to create a detailed budget and to set some realistic goals. Part of the planning is to figure out if the costs will be shared by the couple’s families and the couple themselves. By having a firm budget and sticking to it you can avoid the tendency of adding on more expenses and making last-minute emotional upgrades that can be very costly and draining. 

There are a lot of online resources and apps dedicated to getting married and specifically to wedding planning and budgeting. The Knot offers a wedding budget tool called My Budgeter. Through a series of questions, it identifies the wedding areas most important to you and provides customized, budget-friendly solutions tailored to your unique style and financial situation.

Where is the money coming from? In a perfect world you have previously planned for this expense, budgeted and saved for this day. If you find yourself scrambling to figure out where the money is coming from, I suggest getting professional advice from a financial advisor, especially before you start to raid places that are for your future or current retirement. 

Outside objective advice can ease the stress surrounding money issues. In our practice we create detailed financial plans and we try to incorporate large future expenses such as a wedding. I recognize that not everyone has planned and saved for this simcha so for many of you, one of the first exercises is looking at where you might have resources you can tap for this expense.

 I always caution clients not to raid their retirement accounts for a wedding, and I try to discourage parents and the couple from spending money they can’t really afford or going into debt. Often when the parents get carried away with spending, it usually impacts their future or current retirement which potentially causes them to have to work longer or have less to be able to spend in retirement. 

I suggest being realistic with what you can afford to spend and learn to say no and set limits. While a wedding is a wonderful occasion that will create lasting memories, one can also argue that there are aspects to a wedding that can be considered nonessential. Put things into perspective: This is a one-day special event, but it is one day out of what we are hoping will be a lifetime together creating and sharing memories. 

I can’t tell you what to spend or how to spend it, but I will point out there are areas where costs can be cut without impacting the overall day. 

One example might be a wedding dress. I know readers might disagree with me on this, but that dress is usually only worn once in a lifetime and the cost can vary from $500 to $15,000. Setting a budget forces the parties to learn to compromise, allocate a fixed amount of money among all the various expenses and make sacrifices. As the married readers well know, learning to compromise is a very valuable marriage skill.

The best advice I received on paying for a wedding was from a friend whose child was married a few years before mine. Come up with a budget of what you are willing and able to spend, and give it to your kids forcing them to learn how to budget and make all the decisions on how to allocate the money. If you are fortunate enough to have money to give and they are savvy and careful with how they spend the money, they might be able to up with end up with some money left over that they can use toward a honeymoon or toward a down payment on a house. 

The hidden benefit of forcing my daughters and sons-in-law to budget is that it removed almost all of our stress in planning the wedding and instead gave them the control. We were able to enjoy the wedding without agonizing about the details. I also realize that some parents don’t want to lose control over the wedding details, but if you are able to push the decisions and allocation of money to the children who are getting married, I think it is a wonderful strategy. 

My final piece of advice is to shop things around and try to be flexible. The location, the date of the event as well as the number of people you can realistically afford to invite to the wedding will have a major impact on the overall cost.  

Do not stress out. Talk to your friends and learn from their experiences and mistakes. Most of all, enjoy the wonderful and momentous simcha that is happening! JN

Lee Eisinberg is a managing partner at ABLE Financial Group in Scottsdale and also serves as the board chair of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix. 

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