Wedding savings accounts: How I saved for my wedding

When my husband proposed to me on July 10th, 2005, I was ecstatic. In fact, I'm pretty sure I screeched “Yeeeeeeeeessssssssssssssssssssssssss” before he could even pull the ring out of his pocket.

Our plan was to move into the little apartment above his work — it was part of his compensation package — then get married the following summer. Unfortunately (fortunately?), a few of the older ladies in the company didn't like the idea of an unmarried couple living together, and they ended up changing the terms so we couldn't both live there until we were married.

I was crushed … until, of course, my mom suggested something novel. “Get married this winter,” she said. “Why not?”

Why not, indeed. I couldn't think of any reason why we couldn't get married six months from our engagement … except for one: money.

Wedding savings accounts

Proof I Didn't Marry for Money

Remember that little apartment I was just talking about? My husband had just accepted an internship that would start January 1st and pay $20,000 per year, and our “apartment” was actually two rooms and a kitchenette above the funeral home where he worked.

And aside from some junky furniture and a closet of outdated clothes, my husband had approximately -$2,000 to his name. And me? I had a car that was almost paid off and a full-time job that paid $10 an hour.

We Didn't Want to Go Into Debt

Despite the fact that we didn't come from money and didn't necessarily have any of our own, we desperately wanted to get married and start a family. And even though we weren't as financially responsible as we are now, we knew that we didn't want to charge our wedding on a credit card. We just knew it.

So, instead, we opted to do things the simple way and create a frugal and minimalist wedding that would get the job done without much opulence or fanfare. For us, that meant appetizers instead of a full sit-down dinner, a simple wedding dress off the rack, and fake flowers from Walmart. Yep, I said it. (Believe it or not, my mom did one heck of a job with those.)

I don't regret our little wedding at all, and I am so glad we didn't take on a mountain of debt to finance our wedding. But there was one thing we did that truly made it all happen — we opened a wedding savings account. Here's how it worked (and how we saved on the entire shebang)….

Step 1 — Start Saving

One of the first things I did when I got engaged was to open a separate account to start building up funds to pay for our small affair.

Complicating matters was the fact that our family members are spread all over the country. (Mine are in Indiana and most of my husband's are in Minnesota.) So we compromised and opted for a small ceremony and two simple receptions.

We were so lucky that my husband's parents sponsored a simple reception in his home state so that a hundred friends and family members didn't have to trek across the country for our event. With that taken care of, we were left with a simple ceremony and reception in our home state to plan for, so I started planning that immediately.

Wedding Savings Accounts in Action

Our wedding savings account started out small. One of the first things I did was to quit over-paying my car payment for a few months so that I could focus on building up our account. My husband also did his part by getting a part-time job at a pizza joint so that he could cover his bills and contribute to our pending nuptials.

We sold some stuff and added any extra money we came across to our account, and I picked up extra cleaning jobs on the side to raise funds. In the meantime, we set a wedding budget that seemed in line with what we intended to spend on our wedding. That way, we wouldn't be tempted to spend more than we saved. And I'm so glad we did.

Step 2 – Make it Frugal

We booked a small chapel for our wedding, a small event hall for our reception, and started planning other details like food and décor. My sister made the wine (thanks, Sis!) and my mom used her excellent computer skills to draft up some lovely invitations. Our wedding savings account showed up when it was time to purchase my dress — a $250 sample piece — and our appetizer package for our guests, which was around $900.

My mom paid for the chapel as our wedding gift (it was around $300), and I happily accepted. I picked up a used unity candle from a divorcee's garage sale (is that tacky?) and bought some matching candlesticks to go with it.

Like I mentioned before, my mother took the liberty to create decorative Christmassy-looking flower arrangements and a bouquet for my wedding out of silk flowers. (I loved them, and I actually still have them!) We served wine at our reception instead of having an open bar, and chose a simple three-layer sheet cake instead of something fancier. The total bill came to somewhere around $3,000.

Wedding Savings Accounts for Any Budget

I didn't write this post to try to one-up anyone on their wedding frugality prowess. The fact is, many people have had much cheaper weddings than mine, and many others have no desire to have an uber-frugal wedding at all. For most people, their wedding is their one big day to do things right and enjoy it, and cutting corners isn't for everyone.

But I would argue that wedding savings accounts are a good idea for everyone. According to a recent Real Weddings Study from TheKnot.com, the cost of the average wedding recently reached a staggering $30,000. Thirty Gs is a lot of money to everyone I know, and the last thing most of us want is to start a new marriage off with tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt.

I am so glad we didn't take that path, and we are just as happy as we've ever been after more than 10 years together. If we had more time to save, I think we might have splurged a little more for our big day; but I am happy overall with the way everything turned out.

I think it just goes to show that the amount of money spent on a wedding has no bearing on the quality or success of a marriage. Spend the money if you want, but don't do it with the expectation that a dream wedding equals a dream marriage. It just doesn't.

And either way, a wedding savings account can help just like a college savings account or new home savings account would.

It never hurts to save and plan ahead, but the consequences of not doing so can last a really long time.

Try the savings goal calculator above to help you figure out how much to budget and help you get started opening an account if and when you are ready, too.

If you are planning a wedding, how much do you expect to spend and how will you save for it? If you are married, did you start a wedding savings account to plan for your big day?

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Britni @LazyGirlFinance
Britni @LazyGirlFinance
5 years ago

It’s really inspiring for me to read your frugal wedding success story. I have been trying for months now to plan my own frugal wedding later this year. And to put it lightly, planning a wedding on a budget is a beastly challenge. My fiancé and I have hunted tirelessly for a venue for the wedding and reception that will not break the bank. We finally found a really great little place that we can rent for $350 for five-hours, but this means limiting the guest list. On the one hand, a short guest list is good. It means fewer… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
4 years ago

I was one who would have preferred to get married at city hall with just him and me, but both my husband and I were from very big, very Catholic families who would have been devastated at the idea of a marriage taking place outside of a Church. And with a Church date comes reception expectations and so, we sucked it up basically for our mothers and threw together a reception as cheaply as we could without embarrassing ourselves in front of work people. It was a reception I really resented. Our brothers and sisters and their spouses and children… Read more »

Melissa
Melissa
5 years ago

My new husband and I started a wedding savings account when he proposed. By having this account, we came home from our honeymoon without having to put any wedding expenses on credit cards. We were just talking the other day about how fortunate we are in that there was no wedding debt that needed to be paid back later.

We eloped, so there was no fancy wedding. But the savings account let us save up and pay cash for our little ceremony, honeymoon, gifts, souvenirs, and a small party for family and friends when we got home.

JoeM
JoeM
5 years ago

Personally not getting married, but standing in two weddings this year (July, September). I expect to spend between $1,500-1,750 all said and done. That’s two bachelor parties, tux rentals, hotels, alcohol, miscellaneous, etc. That might not even include a gift that my friends aren’t asking from the wedding parties either. To pay for it, I’ve had $25/week since last spring/summer get deducted from my account to go into an online savings account to just let it slowly build up. Out of sight, out of mind. Currently sitting at $770 and growing. In terms of wedding costs, it is crazy. One… Read more »

Rebecca@TheFamilyFinder
5 years ago

Our wedding in 2008 costs less than $5000 and that included the honeymoon. It took 30 days to plan from engagement to Wedding Day so we had to use money we had and our parents both chipped in a little. No specific savings so we only spent the money we could generate at the time which set our wedding budget. Big savings were a sheet cake from a regular bakery, we had family take pictures and make sure that we had copies, appetizers instead of dinner. The biggest savings was to have the ceremony for immediate family only on a… Read more »

Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom
Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom
5 years ago

We had a 6 month engagement too! It helped limit our options and kept our wedding around $12K (for rings, photos, everything). Way more than your wedding, but small enough that we didn’t go into debt.

Jordan
Jordan
5 years ago

So sweet of your husband to get extra work just to help pay for your wedding! And it’s always good to know that you can have a beautiful wedding without having to splurge. Can’t wait to share this with some brides-to-be I know.

Mrs. Frugalwoods
Mrs. Frugalwoods
5 years ago

That’s awesome, Holly! I love that you bought a used unity candle–too funny. I’m really impressed with how little you spent and how quickly you pulled it off. That’s a serious frugal win!

We didn’t have any money when we were first married either and we lived in a dank basement apartment and didn’t have a car :). I think there’s something to be said for starting life together basically at $0 and then building dreams from there. Its made us a really unified team and we’ve been able to stay really focused on our shared goals.

nicoleandmaggie
nicoleandmaggie
5 years ago

My parents paid for our wedding (which cost ~$2K about 15 years ago) and my in-laws threw a cake and punch reception in their home town for people who didn’t want to come. We didn’t really have any money so we would have gone to the courthouse if my parents hadn’t offered to pay. We did pay for our honeymoon (which involved putting a circle of a day’s drive around our wedding location) and our rings and so on and that savings came from me saving my work money from my work-study job and DH’s summer earnings (which I guess… Read more »

Ella
Ella
5 years ago

My husband and I took a different philosophical approach than Britni (Comment #1). We decided that in fact the day wasn’t about us, that instead it was about making the best experience possible for our guests within our limited budget (~$5K). We defined best based on the many many weddings we, and my parents, and attended in the last five years. What we determined was that big gaps in time, driving around a lot, having to wait forever for dinner, and long speeches full of personal and often inappropriate references were the things we wanted to avoid. Flowers are beautiful,… Read more »

Maggie H
Maggie H
5 years ago
Reply to  Ella

Sounds similar to my wedding.I wanted to be able to invite all my cousins and (gasp!)all their kids along with my 15 or so nieces and nephews. We had our reception in the church hall and had cheap catering, sandwiches and relishes. A family friend made the cake for our gift. I still have those young cousins tell me it was the first (and sometimes only) wedding they were invited too. Also, we bought our rings at the pawn shop. I honestly never think about who owned them before us and I think I can safely say after 20 years… Read more »

Erin
Erin
5 years ago
Reply to  Ella

I agree so whole-heartedly with this! While we are super-frugal people who got married when we were just starting out with not a lot of financial help, there were certain things we just would not compromise on. They all had to do with making our guests feel special. We wanted to have a beautiful reception venue (not the roller rink in my husband’s hometown, LOL.) We wanted to have a meat carver who would slice up beef. We wanted to have an open bar before dinner. There were a lot of things we cheaped out on or went without, but… Read more »

Juli
Juli
5 years ago

Weddings definitely can be well done and memorable without breaking the bank. I think ours came to about $5000 all together, but that included about 150 guests served a full dinner. We loved it. My husband had a co-worker who was wanting to get into full time photography, so he gave us a good deal on the pictures. The cake came from Publix grocery store – they have amazingly tasty cakes, very nice decorating, and a lot cheaper than the other bakeries we checked out. My dress was off the rack from a bridal store – it had been a… Read more »

Kate
Kate
5 years ago
Reply to  Juli

30 years ago, we got married in a simple church ceremony. DH’s best friend and my sister stood up with us. DH’s brothers were ushers. We did not do tuxes, and my and my sister’s dresses were bought off the rack at a local bridal salon (her dress was on clearance!) Then we had a jazz brunch for a wedding reception at a local restaurant. Everything — rings, fees, reception, invitations, etc. — cost us less than $7K, and even in 1984 that was considered inexpensive. We had fun, our guests had fun, and we’re still married!

Mom of five
Mom of five
4 years ago
Reply to  Juli

You know, I think a lot of it depends upon where you live and with whom you hang out. If you were to hold a wedding reception in the NYC area without alcohol, people would think you were cheap (unless you were some particular religious group that forbids alcohol). And while guests might be polite about it, a lot of people would be bothered by it.

PawPrint
PawPrint
5 years ago

I was lucky enough to have a BFF who had a daughter who was a stylist and did my hair, another who worked in a flower shop and put together a bouquet, and another who liked to bake and who made the cake. That was my friend’s gift to me. Another friend made my dress for the cost of the material. My mother gave me $100, which I used to rent chairs. The venue was the yard of the place my husband was renting and another friend gifted us by mowing the large lawn. People brought food and basically we… Read more »

Ely
Ely
5 years ago

We were engaged less than 2 months before the wedding, but I am a saver so we already had some cash on hand. The wedding was very small, our circle of friends and family very generous, and our needs minimal, so we got everything we wanted for very little outlay.

Another reason for keeping a ‘well you never know’ savings account. 🙂

Kat
Kat
5 years ago

We spent just under $12K when we got married in 2012. We wanted a nice reception for our closest friends and family, so we skimped/DIY’d for everything else. That made the wedding feel like a family affair, because everyone got to contribute their talents: his sister used to do people’s hair for prom, so she did my hair. My sister is a professional artist, so she designed our wedding invitations. His brother is a professional choreographer, so he choreographed our first dance. My sister and I took a flower arrangement class when we were kids, so I made my own… Read more »

Chelsea @ Broke Girl Gets Rich
Chelsea @ Broke Girl Gets Rich
5 years ago

I really like this idea of having a separate savings account altogether for wedding expenses – because to be honest, I’m not sure I would have thought of it.

I’m not planning to get married any time soon, but I might start a separate savings account for travel, to help me budget for wonderful, amazing trips that I would think I couldn’t otherwise afford or I’d have to hustle the following month to make up for it.

Jeff
Jeff
4 years ago

I use separate savings accounts for many things, Capital Onr 360 (formerly ING Direct, formerly Netbank…) makes it trivial to open additional ones in just a few minutes. I use them to segregate funds for vacation, auto maintenance, home improvement, veterinary care, etc in a way that makes it unlikely to accidentally spend it on other things plus it makes tracking progress much easier.

Beard Better
Beard Better
5 years ago

I don’t mean for this to sound like I’m indulging in sexist cliches, but I didn’t see the problem with a lot of the supposedly controversial stuff in this article. Two unmarried people living together; who cares? The flowers are fake, but look real; who cares? The unity candle was from a divorcee’s garage sale; (after looking up what a “unity candle” is on Wikipedia) who cares? Good on you for getting what you wanted out of the whole thing without putting yourself into a lot of debt. You and your spouse are the only people that whose criteria mattered.… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff
4 years ago
Reply to  Beard Better

“Two unmarried people living together; who cares?”

If you read further the issue was other tenants in the apartment building who had some pull with the landlord.

Melissa
Melissa
5 years ago

My new husband I started saving for our wedding as soon as he proposed. We waited a year to get married in order to save enough, but our savings allowed us to come home from our honeymoon without any credit card debt! We actually just had a conversation about this! We eloped, so we did not have a lot of traditional wedding expenses. I found a dress for $8. My husband wore a suit he already had. With our savings, we were able to pay for everything, including our honeymoon. It is such a nice feeling starting married life without… Read more »

Doug
Doug
5 years ago

Great story, thanks for sharing. My wife and I did a similar wedding within six months of engagement. We depended a lot on friends and family for labor and planning. Our church let us use the facilities for free and we had an ice cream reception, it was a summer wedding. The kids and adults enjoyed the topping bar and our friends dressed up like old time soda shop employees. We still get friends telling us how much fun they had at the wedding. I don’t remember exactly how much it cost, but it was very inexpensive but a fun… Read more »

Sharon
Sharon
5 years ago

My husband and I decided to get married while we were on vacation. I found a minister who wrote our vows and took us to her private beach for the ceremony. She suggested a photographer who took 2 rolls of pictures and handed them to us to develop as we liked. I wore a sundress I had hanging in my closet and my husband wore shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. I had my hair done and had a flower shop create a bouquet. Everything was done online or over the phone and it was all arranged when we left. We… Read more »

Jim
Jim
5 years ago

Instead of spending $30,000 like the Marital Industrial Complex wants you to, spend $5,000 and invest the other $25,000 at 7% for 30 years and you and your spouse will have $190,300!

Cvanz
Cvanz
5 years ago
Reply to  Jim

Fantastic, love it!

ART
ART
5 years ago

“According to a recent Real Weddings Study from TheKnot.com, the cost of the average wedding recently reached a staggering $30,000” Please note that this is not an accurate reflection of the actual average wedding cost of a couple getting married in the U.S. – this is from a poll of users of TheKnot.com, a self-selected sample that almost by definition is going to spend more than average on their weddings. You CAN spend that much if you have it and it makes you happy, but YOU ABSOLUTELY DON’T HAVE TO! Just wanted to put that out there in case anyone… Read more »

Brittany
Brittany
3 years ago
Reply to  ART

I have had multiple heart attacks over that number, so THANK YOU for clarifying this. I didn’t realize that.

Aaron Davidson
Aaron Davidson
5 years ago

I do not know how we did but we paid for our wedding ourselves (we had some family help). My (now) wife got a part time job, and we just cut everything. We had 120 people show up, we had a fantastic venue, incredible (expensive) food and a great time. We were under the “average wedding cost” but not my a ton and planned/save over 1.5 years.

Helen
Helen
5 years ago

We got married in 2012 in Belgium and spent about $7000. We had 50 guests, a beautiful ceremony at our city hall, a 4-course dinner with wines and drinks in a gorgeous restaurant, champagne in the garden, and a more informal reception at our house the day after with food and drink for friends and family. The biggest cost wast the meals and drinks, which we paid for everyone. I did not spend any money on decorations (the restaurant and garden were beautiful and all included in the price of the meals), my flowers cost $30, my vintage second hand… Read more »

kate
kate
4 years ago
Reply to  Helen

Saving $100 every month for 18 months (1.5 years) only gets you $1800, hardly realistic to save for a wedding, unless parents are helping pay the rest of it.

Monique
Monique
1 year ago
Reply to  kate

I thought it was both Helen and her husband saved $100 each so that puts the saving at $3600 which isn’t bad

Melissa
Melissa
5 years ago

I think this is an awesome idea! We’re actually having a longer engagement for this reason. We want to be able to pay for the wedding we want in all cash – which will keep us from overspending, but will also allow us to have some spendy “extras” that we really want 🙂 Never thought about opening a separate account though – thanks for the idea! 🙂

Cvanz
Cvanz
5 years ago

We paid for own wedding in 1992. $3000. That was alot then, it included the pictures, rings, ceremony and reception. My invitations were hand drawn and typed on a type writer and then copied on white paper and then we used colored pencils to put some color on them. Kind of corny, but hey everyone just threw them away anyway. My wedding dress cost $32.00 and the flowers cost $6.00 with a bow included. Can’t wear the dress in a box, the flowers are dead, still have one invitation in my wedding book, the original one we copied, still wear… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff
4 years ago
Reply to  Cvanz

“But sometimes Mom gets in the way and wants the wedding she has always dreamed of and it gets expensive.”

Then Mom needs to foot the bill herself.

Carla
Carla
4 years ago
Reply to  Cvanz

I agree! I too made my own wedding invitations when I got married 2.5 years ago. I purchased some supplies from a paper and art supply store and spent a few hours making them (almost) by hand. I’m sooo glad I didn’t spend more than I did on that and glad we didn’t spend much for the wedding.

Our rings together (just a wedding ring, no engagement cost $65) total. One day Ill “upgrade” but its not a priority.

Julie
Julie
5 years ago

I definitely agree with Cvanz. The best tip for saving money for your wedding is to cut off expenses that are not importat in long term.

One of my colleague had wedding last month with just 8 people and then go to honeymoon in Asia. The best he could do…

Jason @IdeationMoneySolutions
Jason @IdeationMoneySolutions
4 years ago

Saving for the engagement ring and our wedding is what got me started on creating a budget and paying down my debt. Having that goal that you emotionally connect with does wonders for you motivation!

Latoya @ Femme Frugality
Latoya @ Femme Frugality
4 years ago

We didn’t start a separate savings account but we did make cash payments with our paychecks and any additional income we had. In total, we spent about $8,000 and that INCLUDED our honeymoon. We don’t regret our decision to keep costs low one bit. It was a beautiful day that everyone is still talking about 7 years later and folks actually think we spent a fortune on it;)

Karthigan Srinivasan @ StretchADime
Karthigan Srinivasan @ StretchADime
4 years ago

I really love this statement: “The amount of money spent on a wedding has no bearing on the quality or success of a marriage.”.

Wedding is very personal and everyone has their perspective. However, there is no point getting into debt for one day and suffer for many years paying it off.

The last thing you want to do to a marriage is to add the stress of debt at the get go.

Jen From Boston
Jen From Boston
4 years ago

I became engaged this past August – complete surprise! So I’ve switched from paying down the mortgage to saving for the wedding. We also modified the budgeting spreadsheet I use to allocate a certain % of any budget surplus to the wedding, and re-allocate savings buckets to the wedding and honeymoon. For example, I had a bucket for large purchases, e.g., furniture, but that got re-purposed to wedding. We’re shooting for a $15,000 wedding budget, and I think we can get close to that. We’re having the ceremony and reception at our church, which will help save on dish and… Read more »

Max
Max
4 years ago

“the amount of money spent on a wedding has no bearing on the quality or success of a marriage.”
My wife and I had a simple, traditional ceremony in Taiwan, followed by a dinner banquet. We’re still happily married 23 years later. My sister had a huge wedding and reception costing $10K in 1988. She divorced ten years later. Kind of supports your point.
My cousin’s wedding a few years ago cost $100K I heard (she’s still married with two kids).

Jessie Pullman
Jessie Pullman
4 years ago

My grand-daughter and her husband had a destination wedding. It was far less expensive than a traditional one. In total I don’t think they spend much over $10,000.

Mom of five
Mom of five
4 years ago

We had a six month engagement and paid for the reception with every spare penny we had but we still owed about $2000 which was due the day of the reception. We handed over the credit card we had been planning on using and the lady said, “Oh, we’d rather have check for the final payment.” We said that we would be happy to write her a check but it would bounce. She said, “No problem. Write the check. We won’t cash it until the end of the week after your wedding (gift) checks clear. No worries. We do it… Read more »

Samantha Peterson
Samantha Peterson
4 years ago

My finace and I got engaged in October, and we’ve been thinking a lot about this! I actually wrote a blog post about it a week or so ago…the thing about wedding budgeting is that it really shines a light on your REGULAR budget and that’s where people get into trouble. The higher-than-normal costs exacerbate flaws in the couple’s current financial systems (or lack thereof). They think, “okay, how much can we afford to spend on a wedding?” and don’t realize that they don’t know where they are at with everything else.

Papa Foxtrot
Papa Foxtrot
1 year ago

The Mrs. and I have used poinsettas for our wedding and decorated it with blue and silver (our wedding colors). It was almost too fitting for a December wedding, which is a good month to get married on a budget. Many people can get carried away for their weddings. I know someone who spent over $30,000 for less than 30 people. Our wedding cost $12,000 including our honey moon and a the rings (neither of which were cheap) and that was for 80 people.

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