Now that the big question has been popped and the ring’s on her finger, it’s time to put the wedding planning machine in motion. Then the question becomes, “How are we going to pay for this?”

From the venue to the videographer, the bride’s gown to the groom’s tux, wedding expenses can mount quickly. Which is why, according to financial planners, it’s wise for couples to have a plan to pay for their Big Day. Here are some important planning steps to make it a worry-free walk down the aisle:

  • Build a budget. Discuss the goals you have for your wedding — type of venue, number of guests, reception food and entertainment, etc. — then build an itemized list of all potential wedding-related expenses (with feedback from a wedding planner, or someone who’s been through the process recently so you don’t forget anything). Next figure out how much money you’ll have to cover those expenses, including your own funds plus contributions from your family. To what extent will parents or other family members contribute to the cause? Answer that question early in the planning process, suggests FPA member Matt Showley, CFP®. “Knowing who’s paying for what and setting those expectations early, makes the process much smoother.”
  • Start stashing cash. Establish a dedicated, joint savings account — preferably one that provides interest along with unfettered access to funds — to deposit and withdraw funds earmarked for the Big Day. Later, Showley notes, the couple can use that account for other purposes, such as saving for a home.
  • Prioritize. There may not be enough money in the budget to pay for everything on your wedding wish list. That means determining which items on the list are most important and which might be expendable.
  • Seek ways to save. From taking a tier off the wedding cake to moving the wedding day from Saturday to Friday to save money on the reception venue, there are many ways to trim costs without compromising the wedding wish list. “Here’s where it can really help to leverage family contacts and your circle of friends to find people in the service industry who can help save you money,” says Showley.
  • Be budget-conscious but flexible. “If you stretch the budget in one area,” says Showley, “look to cut back in another. Because once you have a budget in place, it’s important to stick to it.”
  • Don’t dance with debt. Entering a marriage burdened with a mountain of wedding debt is a recipe for strife. Resist the temptation to spend above your means, Showley suggests, and avoid relying heavily on credit cards to cover wedding expenses. Instead, consider borrowing money from family or asking for a cash wedding gift early to help cover expenses.

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