How to save money on a child's wedding

Your child's dream wedding doesn't have to be at the expense of your retirement savings. Here are tips on how to save money on a wedding.

Your child's wedding is cause for celebration—and a little trepidation if you intend to help plan and pay for the day.

As excited as you are to celebrate your child's union, planning a wedding can be hard work and a lot of money: The average cost is $33,391.1 When figuring out how to budget for a wedding pops up at the same time you're ramping up your retirement savings, how can you stay on track?

These tips will teach you how to save money on a wedding so you can give away the bride or groom without giving away your future.

Set expectations early

1. Set expectations early

Whether you're the parents of the bride or groom, before any contracts are signed, sit down and talk with the coupleOpens pdf in new window about how much you can realistically spend for their big day.

  • Explain how your other financial obligations (e.g., retirement) helped you arrive at that number.
  • Identify the couple's top priorities—like a breathtaking venue, foodie-worthy menu, or top-caliber entertainment—and how to save money on a wedding overall so the budget can best be used to achieve those priorities.
Don't make financial decision based on tradition

2. Don't make financial decisions based on tradition

No, the couple isn't obligated to host a catered brunch the day after the wedding for family and out-of-town guests just because your cousin did. (How many newlyweds would rather sleep in and not be hosts, anyway?) 

Similarly, the bride's family is not obligated to pay for the entire wedding. That tradition has been fading for decades. More typical today is everyone paying a part of the overall wedding budget. On average the bride's parents contribute 44% of the wedding budget, the couple contributes 43%, and the groom's parents give 13%, according to The Knot.2 This could also be a great time to engage the happy couple in a conversation about saving and budgeting for what will matter to them down the road—and how saving money on a wedding can help them get started.

Never borrow from your retirement plan for a wedding

3. Never borrow from your retirement plan for a wedding

Keep your hand out of your retirement cookie jar. If you're asking yourself, "Should I borrow from my retirement account or reduce the contributions I make from my paycheck?" remember that those diverted funds would lose the earning power that you're counting on to fund your retirement. Withdrawing money early may increase your taxes and result in penalties.Instead, ask vendors about granting discounts for booking early or paying cash. It's a great way to save money on a wedding.

You can also get creative with bartering. For example, if you're a CPA, perhaps you can agree to prepare the florist's tax return in exchange for wedding flowers. That way, everything comes up roses for both parties.

Look for small cost-cutting measures within your control

4. Look for small cost-cutting measures within your control

Work with the couple on how to save money on the wedding, from flowers to invitations. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Would guests care if there's an appetizer buffet instead of passed hors d'oeuvres?
  • Is the DJ's lighting package worth the extra money?
  • Do you need fresh floral centerpieces, or could you fashion a cheaper, yet striking, alternative like a bowl of lemons?

Guests won't notice what's not there, so zero in on the important features that are fixtures in both your budget and the couple's picture of their perfect day.

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1"The National Average Cost of a Wedding Is $33,391Opens in a new window, "

2"Cost of US Weddings Reaches New High as Couples Spend More Per Guest to Create an Unforgettable Experience, According to The Knot 2016 Real Weddings Study," XO GroupOpens in a new window.

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