I got married last spring and I still believe it was a dream wedding, even though I was never one who fantasized about having a huge event.

The timing was perfectly imperfect for us. We got married after an eight-month-long engagement. We also had debt at the time and didn’t want to take on more. As a result, we chose to pay for our entire wedding in cash and ended up spending a little less than $10,000.

The Truth About Wedding Debt

The average wedding these days costs anywhere from $26,000 to $30,000. If you can’t afford to spend that much on a wedding, you’re not alone. And like us, don’t do it! I mean do the wedding — just don’t spend that kind of money.

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I don’t think there’s ever a reason to go into debt for a wedding.

Owing money is never fun, so ignore the hype attached to big weddings on borrowed funds. At the end of the day, you’ll be saddled with a personal loan that has a hefty interest rate.

Ask yourself if you really want to wake up the morning after your special day with the unpleasant anticipation of having to deal with credit card bills and loan schedules. Why not wake up to a morning free of wedding debt?

How Big Should Your Wedding Budget Be?

Base your dream wedding budget on what you can afford to spend, avoiding debt at all cost. It may be $1,000, $5,000, $10,000, or more. Everyone has different resources and expectations.

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Some people have traditional weddings, some have destination weddings, and others elope. Your choice will heavily affect how much you’ll spend. And if you opt for a high wedding budget, you can always take a bit longer to plan in a way that allows you and your partner enough time to set the money aside.

Creating Your Dream Wedding Budget

If your object is to get married only once, I highly recommend planning your wedding based on frugal values. My husband and I made a list on which we made our priorities. This helped us determine what areas we should spend money on and what areas we should save on.

What Was Important

  • Having a first song: We were really looking forward to the first dance.
  • Customized vows: We’re both writers and wanted to customize our ceremony by creating our own vows.
  • An appealing, spacious venue: We decided to go with an all-inclusive venue.
  • Providing a meal for everyone: We wanted to enjoy dinner with our family and guests, so we chose a budget buffet meal.
  • Pretty centerpieces and decorations: Fortunately, our all-inclusive venue did this for us.
  • Gorgeous bridal bouquets: I had a friend make my bouquets using a combination of real and artificial flowers.
  • Good music at the reception: My uncle found a great DJ who gave us a discount.

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What Wasn’t Important

  • Expensive engagement photos: We went to the mall and took photos for only $20.
  • Save-the-dates: It seemed like a waste of paper and material. We had a short engagement and felt it was unnecessary, so we skipped it.
  • An expensive designer dress: My wedding dress was only $500, and I loved it.
  • An open bar: Supplying guests with free alcohol was very low on our priority list.
  • An elaborate rehearsal dinner: We had ours at a pizza buffet.
  • A pricey wedding cake: We had cupcakes and a small cake for the top tier. It was delicious.
  • Inviting a ton of people: Rather than inviting tons of people, we kept our guest list to about 100, which helped reduce stress and keep our overall wedding budget low.

Expensive Outfits

At $500, my dress was still a splurge for me, and I didn’t require my bridesmaids to spend a ton on their dresses just to be in the wedding.

Instead of doing a huge fitting at a fancy boutique, bridesmaids were okay with ordering dresses on Amazon. I started a private Facebook group where they voted on the best options, and everyone settled for a $40 lavender dress that was absolutely beautiful.

A Values-Based Dream Wedding

I suggest sitting down with your partner and creating a list for your dream wedding, just as I showed above. It will help you to get a clear idea of what you want and to avoid being swayed by others’ opinions.

By putting our frugal values up front, my husband and I were able to focus on future goals like paying down the rest of our debt, building our emergency fund, having a memorable (and debt-free) honeymoon, and traveling together.

Today, more than a year later, it feels great that my husband and I stuck with our values and planned our dream wedding exactly the way wanted and within a budget.