How to Plan a Wedding During a Recession

Say "I do" to the marriage but "I don�t" to the debt

There are some things you still need to spend money on, even when the economy’s bad. Weddings are one of them. I think many couples feel the way my fiancé and I do: we want to be responsible with our wedding budget, spending an amount that is appropriate during these uncertain times. And we want to make sure that when all the wedding bills are paid, we’ll still have an emergency stash plus something set aside to get us started on our goal of buying a home. But we also don’t want to look back on our big day in a few years, when the economy is back on track, and feel like we settled for choices that didn’t make us happy just because we were worried about the recession.

wedding-budget-5How to plan the biggest and most expensive bash of your life when you’re not even sure you’ll still have a job by the time you make it down the aisle is one of the biggest challenges facing engaged couples. In the last six months, at least five Black Enterprise employees have popped the question … or said yes. One got married at city hall, one is eloping, and two are having destination weddings-all of which are choices that considerably cut down the budget. So of the bunch, I am the only one planning a “traditional” wedding, in that it’s a local, Saturday night affair. And that’s a sign of the times.

“I am trying to push alternative reception styles to my lower budget brides. If you cannot afford the sit down dinner, why even try?” asks Lisa R. Nelson of Elegant Event Planning and Design in Maryland. “What about a very classy dessert reception, maybe a signature drink, or just a dessert wine and Perrier? And I try to get them away from a large metropolitan area. Often the suburbs offer more possibilities. I try to push thinking outside the box.” Nelson even has ideas for pulling off a wedding on a $5,000 budget.

But the No. 1 tip experts give, almost unanimously, for cutting costs is to cut the guest list. “The cost of the wedding is directly proportional to the number of guests that the couple invites,” Nelson says. “The total of the catering bill goes up with each guest that attends the wedding. And it’s just not the food, but also chairs, tables, linens, alcohol, silver, glassware, china, etc.”

If you’re like us, having a more intimate wedding just might not be doable. We both have large families, and an equally large circle of friends we wanted to include in our celebration. So we found other ways to save. In my next blog, I’ll share some of those tips plus Nelson’s advice for what to do if your wedding budget is suddenly slashed because of a layoff.

Alisa Gumbs is the managing editor of Black Enterprise magazine.

Other posts in this series:

When Your ‘Something Blue’ Meets The Pink Slip

Love Don’t Cost A Thing