How to Have an Amazing Wedding That Won’t Break the Bank

By Jon Dudzinski, Portfolio Manager

In 2022, 47% of engaged couples were planning their wedding on a budget, according to a 2022 study from The Knot. That same study also revealed that couples are most likely to pay for their wedding (or a portion of it) via checking account (57%), cash (54%), credit cards (39%), or gifted money (28%).

It’s understandable that planning a wedding on a strict budget can be a stressful and difficult at times. To help with your planning, I want to share how my wife and I prepared for our wedding, our unique approach to the celebration, and creative tips you can apply to yours.

Buying the rings

Buying engagement and wedding rings can be a tricky subject. Many designer or name-brand options are often similar to the styles of more cost-effective brands, but sometimes we can get stuck on the brand’s significance rather than the item’s cost-to-benefit.

In my case, I spent months researching gemstones and jewelry and sourced my wife’s mined sapphire directly from a gemstone dealer rather than a jewelry store and then worked with a local jewelry artist to create a custom setting. The ring was appraised for quadruple what I spent, and my wife gets compliments everywhere we go; that was a massive success to us! What you choose to purchase is a gesture and a symbol. If the brand is essential to you or your significant other, splurge for the brand name. But, if you’re considering the DIY route, The Natural Sapphire Company and Brilliant Earth are two excellent sources I would highly recommend for loose gemstones.

How to keep wedding costs down

Guest List

The easiest way to keep costs down is to keep the guest list small. If your family is footing the bill, they can invite just about anyone they want (within reason). But if they aren’t, then it’s important to be strategic about the guest list. If you and your future-spouse agree, there’s nothing wrong with a small intimate wedding. Plus, if you’re willing to be a little less traditional, you can save money by throwing a backyard wedding or ditching a sit-down dinner and having a cocktail style shindig. Whatever you choose to do, choose something that’s authentic to both of you.

In my opinion, big weddings are only worth it if you are motivated by non-monetary things. I’ve always used the rule of thumb that a wedding gift should be at least as expensive as what I estimate the couple spent for us to be there. You can use a wedding gift calculator to get an idea of what to spend on the couple.


Flowers are one of the most-expensive parts of a wedding. Our wedding venue had a florist, but we had spectacular flowers for our rehearsal party that we got from a flower merchant at the farmer’s market. Seriously, you can make it look like a royal wedding for a few hundred dollars!


Curious about a unique way to tackle photos? Do yourselves a favor and do this: Before dinner was served, we had our DJ play a song in which the goal was for us (the bride and groom) to get a picture with everyone before the song ended. This allowed us to get a fun/candid shot with everyone at the wedding.

Rehearsal dinner

We made our rehearsal dinner into a full-fledged rehearsal party. Your wedding ceremony/reception will go by faster than you can imagine. To make the most of it all, we had a backyard party with the wedding party, immediate family, and anyone who had to fly in the day before. This allowed us to spend more time dancing and having a blast at our wedding! Not only did this allow us to party it up twice, but it also gave us a chance to chat with many of our guests during this party and thank them for coming.

Big picture: You can’t take a wedding with you, and you only live once! The average wedding costs $30,000, and if a young couple chooses to invest those funds instead, through the power of compounding, they’d likely have roughly $1.5 million at retirement. Life is about tradeoffs and maximizing your total lifetime happiness; choose wisely.

I would also tell families that while it is customary to help pay for a wedding, they are within their rights to set a budget!

How couples can save enough for a wedding

If you need the funds within a few years, there are better places to keep your money than the stock market. The stock market periodically drops by >45% or more from peak to trough. Imagine what they would do to your budget. If your wedding is only a few years away, you may want to look at bonds or CDs now. For the first time in over a decade, they are offering a decent rate of return. You should also make sure your cash is earning more in high-yielding online savings accounts. Connect with a financial advisor to discuss your options!

How wedding guests or the wedding party can save money

Rent the Runway is a great way to get designer dresses at affordable prices. And, if you know some of the other guests, renting an Airbnb and splitting the costs can be fun and affordable vs. a hotel room. I rented a lake house for my groomsmen. It was fun and ended up being cheaper than hotel rooms.

Buying a house vs. hosting a wedding

As someone in the financial industry, some law or code of ethics binds me to say that the home is the far better use for your money. And technically, that is true. But the reality is that you only get to live once, and hopefully, you’re only getting married once.

Before making the decision, have a good understanding of the tradeoffs between an elaborate wedding and achieving financial security much earlier in life.

I always like to point out that millions of people argue that student loan debt is debilitating for young graduates. But the average new graduate has roughly $38,000 in student loans, and the average wedding costs $30,000!

There’s a lot to consider when planning a wedding, and everyone’s situation is different. Find a balance that allows you to celebrate your big day without compromising your financial future.

For professional help with reaching your financial goals, contact Merit Financial Advisors today!

Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Merit Financial Group, LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser. Merit Financial Group, LLC and Merit Financial Advisors are separate entities from LPL Financial.

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. This information is not intended to be a substitute for individualized legal advice. Merit Financial Advisors and LPL Financial do not provide legal advice or services. Please consult your legal advisor regarding your specifics