Well, I’m back from my honeymoon in Puerto Rico and getting back into the swing of things here at home. Now that I’ve been married for a week, I can comfortably say that I’m now an expert in all things marriage-related. If you ever need marriage advice, I’m your man.
But seriously, the entire wedding process was super stressful for Mrs. FP and I. Those last few weeks, in particular, were a nightmare and looking back, there are a bunch of things I wish I had understood more or had thought about back when we first got engaged.
Here are five things I’ve learned from putting together a wedding.
1. Weddings Are Expensive
Probably a “duh” moment for anyone who’s ever had a wedding, but yeah, you should know that your wedding is going to cost you a significant sum of money – there’s really no way around it. Even your cheapest wedding will cost thousands of dollars, which if you think about it, is still a ton of money for most people. I always knew that weddings were expensive, but the actual costs never really sunk in until we actually had to pay them.
The thing that sort of stinks about weddings is that the expenses are sort of unavoidable. The wedding industry knows that the demand for its services is high and they mark things up accordingly. And unless you’re the sort of person who really doesn’t care what anyone thinks about you, you’re going to feel obligated to spend money. This is especially true if you have family coming in from out of town or overseas. We had people flying in from France, Canada, and both coasts, and as a result, we felt obligated to make sure we gave them the best food we could afford and all the booze they could handle.
Thankfully, we did have parental support to help us out with some of our expenses. It’s part of the reason I haven’t talked about wedding expenses at all on this blog – not everyone will be as fortunate as we were to have family willing to help out. We were responsible for paying a third of the wedding expenses ourselves though, so we did feel some of the pain.
If you’re getting married in the future, you already know this, but save a ton of money for it. It’s going to be expensive.
2. Plan Ahead Better Than We Did
The last few weeks leading up to our wedding were super stressful. A part of it was just natural stress that comes from planning a wedding.
But a lot of our stress came from us not feeling all that prepared. We opted to do a lot of stuff ourselves, which meant that we needed to figure out the ins and outs of putting together a wedding without having any experience in it. Perhaps the most interesting thing was figuring out the logistics of an actual wedding ceremony. We didn’t have a professional officiant doing the ceremony – instead, one of our best friends agreed to be our officiant. It felt more meaningful to us to have him do it, but it also meant that we were figuring things out as we went along.
In the end, everything came down pretty close to the wire. Just as an example of how unprepared we were, we literally asked people to do readings on the morning of the wedding. It all worked out in the end, but it definitely added some stress that we probably didn’t need.
In hindsight, I wish I’d put more effort into planning ahead by listening to wedding podcasts and reading some wedding blogs. A Practical Wedding is one of the big blogs I found in the last few months that I really wished I’d utilized more. Another resource I wished I’d utilized more was the Wedding Planning Podcast.
3. Outsource Tasks
One of the bigger mistakes I made during our wedding planning stuff was not outsourcing more tasks. There’s a lot of administrative stuff that you don’t necessarily need to do yourself and it can save you a ton of time if you just ask your friends and family to do it for you.
Take the always loved wedding slideshow. Stupidly, we left this task until the last minute and by the time the wedding came about, we weren’t ready. We ended up having to scrap the entire slideshow.
In retrospect, I could’ve easily given the pictures to my brother, had him make a slideshow for us, and then had him send it back my way for review.
4. Get Into Travel Hacking From The Beginning
Probably the biggest mistake I made during this entire process was not understanding the concept of travel hacking.
I’ve always been afraid of opening up credit cards. The last real credit card I opened was in 2006 – a Citi Forward Card that I’ve religiously used my entire adult life. The only other credit card I’ve opened up since was a Target Red Card back in 2013 – and that’s a card that you can only use at Target in order to get 5% off on all of your purchases.
If I could go back in time, I’d definitely have gotten into the travel hacking game a year earlier. If you’re going to be spending all this money on a wedding, you might as well take advantage of the costs by opening up new cards and getting sign up bonuses.
Just to show you the missed opportunity I had, back in January of 2016, I bought my wife’s engagement ring. I ended up putting the entire cost on a credit card, which I then promptly paid off. Had I known about travel hacking, I could’ve easily opened up one or two cards, met the minimum spend requirements, and then pocketed $2,000 or more in free flights.
Luckily, I got wise to the travel hacking game earlier this year and ended up throwing a ton of wedding expenses onto three cards that I opened up. One of those cards resulted in us getting both of our flights to Puerto Rico for free – a solid $1,000 in free travel. Altogether, I should pull in about $3,000 or so worth of flights from our normal wedding spend.
I’m still learning about travel hacking and it’s a subject I’ll definitely try to address more in future posts. The whole travel hacking world is pretty intimidating, so there is value in following a non-expert like me as I try to figure this world out.
5. Remember That Things Will Probably Work Out In The End
Probably the most important thing you can remember is that your wedding will probably work out in the end. Even though we went into it feeling like the most unprepared people in the world, we came out of it feeling like we did a pretty good job. I think people really just want two things at a wedding – good food to eat and plenty of stuff to drink. We provided both.
And even though we were super nervous about the ceremony, I think that was the best part of the whole wedding. Our best friend made an amazing officiant – so much so that I think he could make officiating a side hustle if he wanted to. The whole thing just felt really authentic to us. There’s something to be said about not having every little detail planned out.
We’re still waiting on the photos from our photographer, but once those come out, I’ll be sure to share some of them with all of you.
Fervent Finance says
Congrats on the marriage and I hope the honeymoon was fun. We’re planning our wedding right now. Fun times… (not) 🙂
Financial Panther says
Thanks! Yeah, enjoy that wedding planning process, haha. It’s a real bear going through all that. In retrospect, maybe we should’ve eloped.
Jack Catchem says
Congratulations again, Panther. I look forward to the travel hacking post. We use the Sapphire as well for the no foreign transaction fee and automatic trip insurance (we travel internationally a lot).
As for the wedding, #5 is by all means the most important. I was engaged when I deployed to Iraq in 2003 (initial invasion). I could have made more money by marrying my fiancé before I left, but I was too concerned about accidentally making her a widow at 20.
We got married when I returned. We had a small, dry wedding (50 guests) and loved it!
Financial Panther says
Thanks Jack! Definitely agree with just knowing it’ll all work out. I think when you’re planning a wedding, you assume everyone cares about every little thing, but really, no one remembers. I can barely remember any weddings I’ve been too.
Personal Finance King says
Congrats! I had a friend who decided to get married in a months time. That really simplified planning – nothing focuses the mind like a fast-approaching deadline! And it caused them to really focus on what was important (and not so). If I were to do it over again, I’d definitely shorten the engagement.
Financial Panther says
Yeah, having a month is crazy, but I can see the advantage. You basically get an “excuse” if everything isn’t perfect. We were engaged for 14 months and pretty much didn’t do anything until the last few months. Basically the worst of all worlds then. Long engagement, so we should’ve been prepared. But we were both way too crappy at planning to actually be prepared.
The Grounded Engineer says
Congrats on a successful wedding, FP! Looking forward to seeing some pictures when you have those back… Also, hoping we can get together in the near future – sorry I haven’t reached back out!
The one expense that I hated paying for was flowers! We spent almost $1,500 in flowers!!! The total cost for our wedding was north of $20k – not cheap 🙂
Financial Panther says
We definitely should get together for a drink soon. It’s my fault too – just been so busy and haven’t been doing a good job keeping up with folks.
Yeah, the flowers are a chore. We had a florist do all the bouquets and then bought flowers ourselves from Sam’s Club. Helped to cut our costs down by buying the flowers and doing them ourselves.
Gary @ DebtFreeClimb says
Congrats the successful wedding, FP!
I will check out the wedding resources you posted when I get closer to when I plan to propose. Thanks for those!
Luckily, I got my GF on board with Travel Hacking. My goal is to plan out when we both open new cards and get our honeymoon flights and hotels free.
I was able to meet min spends (for the CSP and CSR cards) very quickly a year ago b/c I was able to put my Student Loans on my credit card. Now, I have to be more selective on what cards I open. But, with wedding talk in the future, I think that will be another great opportunity to open some more travel cards.
I’d love to see some future posts on your process to buying a ring and more details on the total wedding costs.
Financial Panther says
Definitely use A Practical Wedding. It’s basically just a big wedding blog and it’s pretty helpful to figure out how to do things. That’s awesome that you’ve figured out the travel hacking thing already. I really missed out by not understanding that stuff.
The Luxe Strategist says
As someone who’s getting married soon, this post was like crack for me. As a natural, Type-A planner, I’ve done so much research and planning, my head hurts. But I think it mostly has been worth it. Our timeline is officially 5 months out, in a competitive city no less, so I had to bust a move. I didn’t want a long engagement because I’m pretty decisive, and I didn’t want to be twiddling my thumbs later and then second-guessing decisions. Second guessing decisions that have already been made seems like the absolute worst when it comes to wedding planning.
Besides doing online research like visiting the APW site, I hit up one of my insanely organized married friends for some tips, which definitely helped me understand which tasks I had to handle first. She highly recommended getting a day-of coordinator to manage the day, which seemed like an unnecessary expense at first, but now I realize it’s a must or else I’d be worrying about how things are going all day.
And I feel you on the pain of losing out on some points. My wedding florist only takes cash or check and I basically flipped out when they told me. I’m still trying to make them let me pay by CC by brute force…
I second one of the commenters who said you should do a post on the engagement ring process and finances. I always find those fascinating.
Financial Panther says
Thanks! You definitely seem to be more on top of your game than me! We ended up going with our own bootleg day of coordinator – my sister-in-law. It worked out well for us, but yeah, totally agree that you’ve got to have someone on the day of to handle everything and make sure things are working out right.