expensive weddingIn my years as a financial advisor, I counseled many young couples regarding their financial matters. In that time, I never heard a newlywed couple say they wish they'd spent more money on their wedding. In fact, a year or two after the wedding day euphoria dissipates and couples start thinking about the rest of their lives together, most couples wished they'd spent far less cash on their big day. Let's face it: A wedding day is just one in the long calendar of our lives.

A survey of 18,000 U.S. brides married last year found that their average wedding cost $27,000. And according to Carley Roney, co-founder of The Knot, "In 2011, 20% of U.S. couples spent more than $30,000, and 11% spent more than $40,000 on their weddings." And that isn't even including the honeymoon that, according to Bankrate.com, costs roughly $5,000 on average.

With financial problems cited as one of the biggest causes of divorce, draining our piggybanks on our wedding day holds massive potential for starting marriage on the wrong foot. Instead of plunking down a whopping $32,000 on average (wedding plus honeymoon), let's see what financial options we open up by spending far less.

Let's assume you and your spouse-to-be spend half the average amount on your big day and save the other half. Regardless of your financial goals, $16,000 is a great head start. Consider how this hypothetical savings can make an enormous dent in the six most common financial goals I heard from young couples.

Goal No. 1: "We want to buy a home"
The $16,000 saved secures half of a traditional 20% down payment on a $160,000 house. And with mortgage interest rates at an all-time low, getting in a house now as opposed to in a few years -- when rates may very well be higher -- can also save you big money over the life of your loan.

Goal No. 2: "We have credit card debt that we'd love to pay off"
According to NerdWallet, the average credit card debt per indebted household is roughly $14,500 and the average APR on credit cards with balances is nearly 13%. Assuming an average level of debt, a couple could wipe this out completely with the above-mentioned $16,000 savings. Otherwise, the interest you pay could add almost $2,000 every year to your expenses.

Goal No. 3: "Our dream is to travel the world"
A couple could use the $16,000 saved to take one $4,000 vacation every other year for nearly the next decade. A honeymoon on a scaled-back budget doesn't sound so bad now, does it?

Goal No. 4: "Someday we want to have a child. Ideally, we'd like to pay for our kid's college education"
One of the best ways to help your child with the rising cost of college is to get a head start on savings. By investing in a college savings plan returning an assumed 7% annually for a future child, the $16,000 saved would grow to an impressive $67,000 in 20 years.

Goal No. 5: "We want to start our own business someday"
Invested at 1.75% annually in a five-year certificate of deposit, the $16,000 saved would give the couple a $17,450 start on their own business. This cash could be the difference between chasing a dream and letting it die on the vine.

Goal No. 6: "We'd love to retire early"
For a couple marrying when each of them are 30 years old, the $16,000 savings could grow in a retirement account at an annual 7% assumed rate of return to equal a remarkable $122,000 nest egg when the couple is 60 years old.

Before shedding tens of thousands of dollars on your walk down the aisle, strongly consider jump-starting your financial future with a portion of this money. Beginning your relationship with an open and honest dialogue about personal finances is invaluable. Not to mention the arguments this may save you both in the formative, early years of your marriage.



Fool contributor Nicole Seghetti is happy she and her husband opted for a small, intimate wedding years ago. Nicole welcomes you to follow her on Twitter @NicoleSeghetti.

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27 Comments

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Dj Sam

Do not save hiring your cousin to do the music. BIG mistake. Invited friends will remember more the party than the veggie burgers served at the reception. Hire a professional DJ. Average Dj charges $1300, for his services. Believe me it is a good price. We dont have retirements plans or 401k. We love what we do and we invested a lot of money in our professional equipment. Any Dj will be more than happy to show you his equipment that will be used for your wedding. Demand to see it before your hire him. Do not go for home type of stereos. Most of us have also a full time job. The true is Dj can't get married b/c we don't make enough money doing weddings.

September 03 2012 at 3:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bcheerful3

"An annual assumed rate of 7% " On what planet???????

September 03 2012 at 1:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
phpoling

Have your wedding in the most beautiful backyard of your friend's or your parents' houses or just go to Justice of the Peace. That will save you tons of money.

September 02 2012 at 11:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to phpoling's comment
bcheerful3

And when it pours rain, or is 105 degrees in the shade - look like a drowned rat.

September 03 2012 at 1:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bcheerful3's comment
sfc

We purchased tents in the back yard and had the wedding in September to avoid the heat. Not as hard as you think.

September 12 2012 at 1:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
edzackly

Just go to the Justice of the Peace. You can even go to the court house and just sign the paper without any ceremony. Maybe 15-20 bucks. If you get divorced in the first year you haven't wasted all the money for a wedding. Wedding planners just totally rip you off anyway. Another idea is just live together until you are common law, no expense here at all.

September 02 2012 at 4:28 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
nymexdvd

What planet do you people live on? $27,000 for a wedding? The band alone costs that much. The average wedding here costs between $75,000 and $100,000 and that's just the average.

September 02 2012 at 2:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to nymexdvd's comment
bcheerful3

Thankfully the rest of the country are not as insane as Newyorkers. And spare me the litany, I am one.

September 03 2012 at 1:19 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jenniferjeremy

My fancy, country club wedding cost me less than $2000. My B-I-L's "third-rate golf club" wedding the same year cost him and his wife over $20,000 and it looked cheap and trashy. If you are creative, you and your family can do most of the preparations for a substantial savings. You can have your professional portraits taken before the wedding at a studio, and then have a friend take digital photos on the wedding day. Peruse photography websites to get some ideas on what kind of photos you like and then afterwards you can use photo-editing software. Having your wedding "off-season" can save a fortune. Discount stores have floral departments, you can often get inexpensive bouquets there, arrange the flowers, cut the stems on a slant with a knife, and then wrap the stems with white ribbon. Store the bouquets in water in the refrigerator (not too cold) on the bottom shelf. It only takes minutes to make the bouquets and they can be stored in the fridge for a day or two. HD cameras are cheap now, you can have a friend put one on a tripod and film your wedding which would save you thousands. Then you can put the vid on YouTube with a private link for all of your friends and family to view. I have plenty more ideas as well jenniferjeremy@aol.com.

September 02 2012 at 12:37 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jenniferjeremy's comment
bcheerful3

Good common horse sense Jenn. I like some of your ideas.

September 03 2012 at 1:21 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
flymach83

I think there is more thought, time, effort, and money involved in planning a wedding than in planning a marriage.
But, then again, I am a guy :)

September 02 2012 at 10:41 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
jeviga

My first wedding cost $600. My second wedding cost $235....

September 02 2012 at 9:51 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jeviga's comment
Bob B

Yeah, but how much did your divorce cost you?

September 02 2012 at 10:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lucy

Most couples getting married today have been living together for some time. I see no reason for a big wedding much less a honeymoon.

September 01 2012 at 5:15 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Engorgio Penissio

Be smart, skip getting married

September 01 2012 at 3:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply