Thinking of popping the question over the holidays, or have a gut feeling your partner is about to ask you soon? You aren’t alone.
According to Wedding Wire, a staggering 40% of engagements happen between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day—the #1 choice is actually Christmas Day! With all of the festivities and family around, it’s easy to imagine why this time of year inspires couples to take the next step.
But the last thing you want to think about as you splurge on gifts and travel for the holidays?
That’s right, getting engaged when you’re already tight for cash from holiday spending can be very stressful. The financial aspect of planning a wedding can even be scary, and it’ll cross your mind pretty fast after saying, “yes”.
How do I know? Because I went through it last year. I’ll never forget the night I became engaged to my partner of five years. We were in Paris, France on New Year’s Eve right in front of the Arc de Triomphe. The clock was ticking down… when it hit zero, I turned around for a New Year’s kiss, and found myself staring at a beautiful ring instead.
Clearly, I said yes!
As that magic moment wonderfully became our new norm, I started to realize that planning our wedding on a tight budget was going to be a financial headache—regardless of how small we kept it. A year later, I’ve finally finished planning the wedding, and I have four key financial tips to share.
Because financial fright does not pair well with eggnog, take a deep breath and keep these tips handy if you get engaged over the holidays:
1. Determine Your Budget, Must-Haves and Guest List First
It sounds obvious, but your guest list and must-haves will directly affect your budget. Especially if you have less than $10,000 for the wedding, I suggest you pare that list down as far as you can and identify things you absolutely can’t give up.
For example, my partner had to have live music and I was set on allocating a good portion of our budget to the photographer, so we had to work our money around those must-haves.
If you’re set on a lavish affair on a tight budget, then you have to whittle away at the guest list: $10,000 will be a very different experience for 12 guests than for 120.
Don’t really care about fine wines and foie gras, but absolutely need to have your second cousin twice removed there with her whole family? You’re looking at a humbler occasion.
The point is that, when planning a wedding on a budget, you simply can’t have it all. So, have a lot of conversations with your betrothed on what means the most to you both. Then go from there.
2. The Venue: Ask About Minimums and Insurance
When you’re shopping for a venue, the very first thing you should do is ask about the minimum amount you are required to spend. Find out if that minimum includes tax and gratuity because most do not.
We found out that our venue charged a 30% mandatory tax-tip on top of the required minimum, but we had to ask to learn that! Depending on your minimum price and the tax-tip percentage, you could be looking at thousands more than you planned on.
Secondly, ask the venue if the vendors you hire will need insurance. If they do, you’ll need to ensure your vendors are properly insured. And, if they’re not already, that could tack hundreds onto your budget, as some vendors will charge you to become insured for your event.
3. The Vendors: Get Creative and Talk Numbers ASAP
Your vendors will make or break your experience planning your wedding, so treat them well and ask a ton of questions.
One great thing we did was look for unconventional places to find our vendors. Get creative with sites like GigSalad and Thumbtack, which help connect you to professionals—often at a fraction of traditional costs. Just be sure the site is reputable, and never send any money until you’ve signed a contract with the vendor.
You should ask vendors about their required deposit amount because this can vary greatly. It can range anywhere from a small lump sum to a full 50% of the vendor’s quote.
And payment type matters. For example, if a photographer quotes you $2000 for their services and needs a 50% deposit upfront, whether or not they take a credit card could determine if you can afford to hire them.
4. Look at Using a Credit Card for Your Wedding Expenses
We didn’t open a new card after we became engaged, but I kind of wish we had looking back. >Why? Because if you take advantage of the more competitive promotional intros, you could rack up some serious rewards when putting those deposits I mentioned earlier on a new card. (See also: Find out which credit cards are right for you)
Another factor to consider is your debt limit. If you plan on using your credit cards to pay for a majority of the wedding, it’s important to calculate just how much of your credit limit you are going to use. The last thing you want is to max out your cards with wedding costs and face the stress of scraping by in the months leading up to your nuptials.
It’s also important to understand how the credit utilization on your cards might impact your credit scores, especially if you’re looking to buy a house or make another large purchase in the near future. This is why getting another card could offer you some breathing room—and some great rewards to help offset the spending you’ll be doing!
The Bottom Line
Like the holiday season, getting engaged is magical. And when you combine the two, it can be even more special. It certainly was for me.
However, the combination can also result in financial stress, so don’t start planning (or worrying about planning) until well after you’ve recouped from the holidays.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication.