From Grads to Brides: How students are budgeting for the weddings of their dreams

As student brides plan their weddings, many look for budget-friendly options to stay in budget. I spoke with three brides in the midst of wedding planning.

May 3, 2016

From Grads to Brides: How students are budgeting for the weddings of their dreams

Most college students planning their weddings have limited budgets, but even those with large bank accounts need to find ways to cut costs.

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SMU senior Alicia Arnold is not only walking across the graduation stage in May, she’s walking down the isle.

Arnold will wed her fiancé Dan Pitts, an SMU psychology and religious studies double major, on May 28 after a 7-month engagement.

Arnold, a marketing and anthropology major, bought her dress and booked the venue within the first week of her engagement. She saved the rest of the planning for this spring, including plans for wedding and reception videos and photography. When it came to her flowers, however, she looked for a way to save money.

“I went with a less expensive option there because I’m not as picky and don’t know enough about flowers to warrant that kind of cost,” Arnold said.

She will marry Pitts at Ashton Gardens, a Corinth, Texas venue. According to the website Cost of Wedding, the average wedding in that zip code costs $33,000.

Arnold is like many other young people getting married. Most college students planning their weddings have limited budgets, but even those with large bank accounts need to find ways to cut costs.

Kimberly Rhodes, owner and principal event planner at Hitched Events, said to divide the wedding budget by category before you start spending. This will allow the bride and groom to see the effects of just one purchasing decision.

“You definitely don’t want to spend so much on a dress that you end up not being able to feed your guests,” she said.

According to Cost of Wedding, the average cost of a wedding in the United States is about $26,500, although prices vary by region. The average cost of a wedding in the 75205 Dallas zip code, where is SMU is located, is $40,000.

Cost of Wedding is owned by The Wedding Report, Inc., which provides wedding statistics and wedding market research for the industry.

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The venue, catering, and rentals are the most expensive aspects of a wedding, according to the website.

An immediate way to cut costs is by having fewer guests – food, table and chair rentals, and invitations depend on the number of people attending the wedding, said Rhodes.

Arnold said she found it difficult to cut costs.

“I just try not to go overboard and go for less expensive options on aspects I don’t care about as much,” Arnold said.

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Emily Provost, a soon-to-be SMU graduate majoring in communication studies and public relations, is also a soon-to-be-bride in the midst of planning her wedding.

Provost, like Arnold, is getting married on May 28. She is marrying her fiancé Joseph Magnuson, a 2015 SMU graduate, after an 11-month engagement.

Provost started planning her wedding a month after Magnuson proposed. Through the preparation process, she realized the easiest way to cut costs was by having a smaller wedding.

“My fiancé and I have huge families, so that wasn’t an option for us, but that is definitely the easiest way to avoid going over budget,” said Provost.

Provost will be getting married at Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas, and their reception will be held at Union Station. The average cost of a wedding in this zip code is $26,000, according to Cost of Wedding.

Provost cares most about the food and entertainment. She wants her guests to have a good time, so she budgeted most of her money here. She said other brides might care more about the dress or flowers and budget more for those items.

“You really have to decide what you care most about,” said Provost.

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Kayce Pederson, a senior studying accounting and Spanish, is also engaged. But she’s taking an alternate route to the altar.

After an 8-month engagement, she will elope on June 4 with her fiancé, Cameron Buller, an SMU senior studying mechanical engineering and math.

“Eloping was our solution to having the ceremony we wanted and not having to worry about pleasing everyone on that day,” said Pederson.

There are elements Pederson wants to be just between her and her fiancé, including handwritten vows and worshipping. The couple had all their vendors booked and then decided to elope, so they “had to essentially un-plan.”

Pederson and Buller are eloping north of Dallas, in McKinney, where the average cost of a wedding is $23,000, according to the website.

To save costs on their original ceremony, they had their friends assisting with different elements. One was the photographer, another the musician, and lastly her makeup artist. That was a realistic way for the couple to save money.

The couple is spending around half of what their original wedding was supposed to cost, Pederson said.

“Just because your great aunt thinks something is tacky or because it’s not typical or traditional doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it,” she said. “Plan the wedding you want.”

If you make the trip to the Dallas County courthouse, eloping can be as inexpensive as $81. Or it can be as expensive as your plane tickets to Hawaii and the cost of a minister to marry you on the beach.

Rhodes offers a wedding planning course called Hitched Academy for brides and grooms on a budget that want to be educated about planning their weddings.

“While a full-service wedding planner will take a lot of the guesswork out of planning, those on a budget may not be able to afford the services of a professional, full-service wedding planner,” said Rhodes.

The site is for couples who want to learn the most efficient way to plan their weddings from a professional without having to pay the price of hiring a wedding planner.