Planning A Wedding During A Recession

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2008 Leftovers: Dime © by daveoratox, used under Creative Commons license.

Planning a wedding is tough stuff. Unless you have a ton of disposable income or can count on the ‘rents for a large chunk, it can put a real dent in your wallet and in your credit score. Pile on a recession, sky high fuel costs, scarce job market and less than savory housing situation — and you've got a full scale wedding budgeting nightmare.

Nervous brides are scraping the bucket and turning their luxury destination weddings into backyard BBQs, all in the name of saving a little dough. In fact, for the first time in over ten years the average cost of an American wedding is expected to drop, and nearly half of all caterers and event planners have noticed a drop in wedding spending due to the recession.

Monica, a fellow Offbeat Bride Tribe member, is downright apprehensive:

“Is all this recession chatter making any one else nervous? Our wedding is about five months away and every time I hear about people losing their jobs, the economy, high gas prices, grocery prices, etc. it makes me really nervous. I'm concerned people won't be able to travel because they can't afford it, or our caterer will have to charge us more for food or travel expenses.”


A majority of the monetary strain on bride-to-be's and their mates seems to come from either a lack of employment or fear of an impending layoff. Teri B is in the same boat.

My poor fiance has been having to work as a temp for the past two years, with long, long stretches of no work. She's looking really hard for a job, but there just dont seem to be enough to go around … I don't know what the hell all those Bachelors Degrees were for.

Job security is a hot topic right now whether you're planning a wedding or not. Some Offbeat Brides are worried about making ends meet period, much less deciding between beef and fish for their full-dinner reception.

If you aren't pulling your hair out over the steadily-increasing guest list, and in turn increasing dollar signs, then you're likely feeling guilty for wanting something grand, like Melissa.

“I too am planning a wedding in this summer and feel a recession may have an impact on my wedding (guests not wanting to travel, price of food, etc.) but my wedding is not a lavish affair. I'd feel guilty for having a big bash when a lot of other people are falling on hard times. “

Even if you're rolling in the money and have no problem paying for the wedding of your dreams (or letting your parents or fiance's parents pay for the wedding of your dreams), the guilt factor may still come into play. More and more couples are paying at least a portion of their own wedding costs. In these economic times, sometimes our parents aren't any better off than we are. I know that my parents struggle in general and I wouldn't dream of expecting them to fork over more than they have. Especially when their credit card debt far exceeds mine (not to mention loans out the wazoo for my schooling).

Mich is staying optimistic, and through being a savvy planner and doing a little leg-work she's managed to do a little damage control on the financial end:

I've found other ways to save during this recession… I'm getting most of my accessories off of etsy.com. Some vintage, some new. But on the bright side, at least I'm helping someone who might do their craft as a side job out a little more.

There is hope for us, cash-strapped brides on the verge of a planning breakdown. DIY Bride put together a great tip list on ways to recession-proof your wedding, mainly in regards to finances and how to manage yours. The list won't save a slipping budget but it will help you stay organized and keep your eyes on the prize.

Comments on Planning A Wedding During A Recession

  1. I think the silver-lining in all this disheartening/depressing economic turmoil is that our credit card, consumer culture bubble is being popped. As we plan weddings, we’ll be forced to distinguish needs from wants and we’ll have to get creative about how to make weddings meaningful and memorable with sincerity and creativity rather than money.

    My partner and I got married in July with a $2,000 budget because we didn’t want to let ourselves get pressured by the Wedding Industrial Complex to spend, spend, spend in order to create The Perfect Day. We also wanted to save money for our first house, as opposed to dumping it into one day.

    Honestly, our wedding was better off because of our tight budget.

    I don’t mean to make light of the serious economic trouble our country (and the world) is in, but I do think it will help make weddings less “over-the-top” and narcissistic.

  2. sara, i totally agree. i think that we had a fairly generous budget of $5000 (the wedding was yesterday and i’m not sure of the numbers but i’m pretty sure we came in under-budget) we had a beautiful, FUN wedding that was about people and love, and not about things. i’m so glad we are thrifty and did it within our means because two days before the wedding, i found out that my dad had just been laid off. obviously it was a stressful and unsettling thing to learn, but it was a sudden reminder of how glad i am that my frivolity wasn’t a huge drain on my parents or anyone else.

  3. I agree with Jennifer.

    While we have been fortunate with a few finacial windfalls throughout of the planning process, we will be paying the vast majority of the $5000 we are spending on this wedding. I found that by doing things myself or with the help of friends I could cut corners like nobody’s buisness. And since the wedding is in a week I guess we will see how it all comes out.
    I guess the best advice to brides who are trying to keep it low-budget (because who wants huge debt hanging over their heads to start their new life) Would be to not be afraid to shop around at places not related to wedding and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty doing some of it yourself. 🙂

  4. I love this article, and I’m going to share it with everyone I know getting married.

    We actually decided before ANY planning (since we’re paying for this whole wedding ourselves) that nothing is going on a credit card. Zero.

    We’re actually paying for a wedding over the course of a year and are enrolled in a debt management program.

    What’s fabulous also is that we’re having an amazing wedding IN Washington DC for only $4500. (Seriously, for this city, that price is almost unheard of.)

    It is possible, and I remember feeling like a doom cloud hung over us because we didn’t have a lot of money for a wedding… but now I feel like we’re really getting the wedding WE want.

    • I just got engaged and live in the DC area. PLEASE tell me how you had a wedding here for only $4500?!

  5. Ooh yes, no credit at all. We were so pleased that we’d done this top tip: work out your budget, divide it by the amount of months until your wedding, and then save that amount a month. If it works out as too much to save, then adjust your budget. Do this before you even start and by the time you’re married it’s all paid for! Oh, and have that spreadsheet on hand at all times so that you don’t go over budget!

  6. FYI: The recession ended up not having much of an impact on our wedding in the end -perhaps because we had our wedding 8/30, before the economic crisis really hit. The only fear that came to fruition is that we had to pay a larger delivery fee (due to gas prices) to have our rental items delivered.

  7. I think the central question is what is your goal??? To get married or to have a “wedding”…you don’t need a wedding to get married. We were married in our living room with only two people each invited…and NO family as that would have been impossible. It was lovely and intimate, as is our marriage.

  8. During these times we all have to look at our spending habits, in particular spending for luxury items. Unfortunately, our future spouses may think a wedding is a luxury expense. There are still ways to cut back but have a great day to remember! Good luck to all of those getting marred in the end of 08 or early 09!

  9. Thank you so much for this post! I’ve been feeling ridiculous about planning a wedding lately when our country is going through so much, and our economic future is uncertain. I see this as a great opportunity to focus on the things that really matter, instead of matching your napkins and candles. Having a less formal, less expensive wedding can be more fun for everyone anyway!

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