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Ask Chuck: Planning a Budget-Friendly Wedding

by Chuck Bentley June 26, 2020

Dear Chuck,

We anticipate two of our girls will be getting married in the near future. Due to the uncertainty with COVID and the economic setback in our family business, we are unsure how to proceed. Any advice?    

Father of the Brides


Dear Father of the Brides, 

These are in fact strange times for those who are planning a wedding. Two of my four sons are married. My experience is that it is a lot easier being on the groom’s side of planning. One had a church wedding and the other eloped. The second told us ahead of time. They came to our house afterward where we surprised them with cake and wedding gifts. Both events were celebrated. One was far less expensive for the bride and groom’s family than the other and both marriages are doing fine. 

Money and Weddings 

I once read an article that argued the higher the cost and the lower the attendance at a wedding, the less likely the marriage would work out. The inverse was also true, the lower the cost and the higher the number of guests in attendance, the more likely the marriage would last.

I’m a firm believer in planning for a marriage, not just a wedding. Far too many people invest tens of thousands of dollars in weddings with very little thought of future financial stewardship.

My advice: keep it simple with the focus on Christ and the wedding covenant.

In 2019, Trip Savvy reported the average American wedding costs just under $35,000. That’s a WHOLE lot more than Ann and I spent on our wedding! Most couples don’t have that kind of cash, and it’s a lot to ask of parents. Here is a good way to avoid the financial stress of your daughter’s marriage: don’t borrow money for a wedding. Instead, create a reasonable wedding budget and let your children use every dollar saved for their future. If you can afford $5,000 and they can do it for $3,000 then bless them with the $2,000 saved.

Humility and beauty under the umbrella of faith will testify of God’s goodness on their wedding day. The example you set could bless many. My observation is that the simpler the plans, the less stress is typically involved. The Bible says, Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. (Proverbs 12:25 ESV)

Wedding Plans

First, make a budget for the rehearsal, wedding, and reception. Then, involve family and friends to help with everything from food and flowers to invitations, music, and photography. You will be surprised at how much friends from church or family are willing to do to help make the day special. 

Marriage Preparation: One way to help your children prepare for marriage is by getting them started off on the right foot financially. Our Money Dates will give them a firm foundation in Biblical stewardship.

The Dress: 80% of Western wedding dresses are manufactured in China. One of my nieces is a bridesmaid for an August wedding. Her dress was ordered months ago but was recently informed that her dress would not be ready until that month. If you have a daughter, I recommend buying a dress off the rack. We attended a beautiful simple wedding where the bride wore a dress she found on sale at Anthropologie. Think outside the box and don’t let the world dictate your decisions. Years ago, my wife loaned her dress to two people: a good friend and a relative. One of my sisters-in-law wore her grandmother’s.

Guest List: Some experts predict the coronavirus to increase due to travel, ongoing protests, and virus mutation. This could impact the size of the weddings. Considering flight restrictions, think about your out-of-town guests. Remember that older people are the most susceptible to the virus, so precautions will be needed. Consider allowing people to join the wedding from a distance by streaming it live on the internet. 

The Location: With the increase in destination wedding locations such as on the beach, in a barn or outdoor venues, costs can vary greatly. Consider lowering your cost by going the old fashioned way of using your home church. If your wedding and reception can be managed at your church, you will likely save lots of money. One simple wedding we attended in a church just a few years ago had the wedding party singing a beautiful hymn as they proceeded down the aisle. The bride and groom joined in the final stanza as their guests stood and sang along. I can hardly remember the other elements of the wedding, but that feature was so beautiful that it has remained in my mind. 

Honeymoon: The average couple spends more than $4,000 on their honeymoon, but it is not necessary.  If you already have credit card debt, and need help eliminating it, reach out to Christian Credit Counselors to help you get started on a debt management plan before  the weddings. With the travel restrictions experienced this year, a honeymoon planned in a safe location within driving distance may be less stressful. If you know someone who has a lake house, cabin, or second home, ask if you can use it. People are typically thrilled to provide in such a way. If that is not an option, inexpensive vacation options are available. A weekend away may fit the budget now with the hope of a later trip when the economy rebounds. Many couples enjoy a later honeymoon after they have a few months to adjust to being married.

 This is a one-day event so keep an eternal perspective. Don’t allow the world to dictate your plans. My prayer is that you and your daughters are pleased with the wedding, avoid financial stress, and set them up for a wonderful marriage.


This article was originally published on The Christian Post, June 26, 2020.

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