Tess Wicks sits on the couch with a "Guest Voices" banner overhead

Weddings are expensive, but they don’t have to be. Whether you’re in the midst of planning, or just dreaming about it someday, it’s never too early to start coming up with a saving strategy.

I want to share a step-by-step guide to saving for your wedding with money in the bank, how to find hidden cost savings, and share some insight into how my fiancé and I have been saving up and saving on costs for our upcoming wedding.


Step 1: Talk About Money

We all know the stats: Between 40 and 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce.

In browsing through hundreds of articles sharing the top reasons for divorce, one indicator jumps off the page every single time: Financial Issues.

It’s not a novel concept that talking about money needs to be a prerequisite to marriage (dare I say, engagement?). Yet, so many young couples still stay mum about their individual personal finances, then think they’re going to seamlessly plan a 5-figure event and live happily ever after without discussing it.

Before the ring, there needs to be an understanding of each other’s financial situation and money personality. You can baby step your way into the “money talk” or do as I did on my first date with my now fiancé by coming right out of the gate asking about their motorcycles and whether or not they’ve financed them.

Step 2: Set Up an Online Savings Account

It can be really helpful to set up an online savings account that you’ll both use to save for the big day and all the costs that come with it. Whether it’s under your name, your fiancé’s, or you set up one joint savings account, a “wedding savings account” will help you start saving A.S.A.P. and can also help you budget rather easily.

Try to find a savings account that will help you save. I use Ally Bank’s Online Savings Account and their new tools that make saving easier for me – like buckets, which help me section my money in each online savings account. You can also activate boosters, like recurring transfers and Surprise Savings, so you’re always optimizing every dollar you make.

I should also mention that you don’t have to wait to be engaged, or even in a relationship, to start saving for a future wedding. Knowing how expensive weddings can be, especially if you don’t plan to hold back from hosting the wedding of your dreams, you’ll do your future self a solid by setting aside even the smallest amount of money for a couple years, pre-engagement.

I’ve been saving for my wedding since 2014 using a separate Online Savings Account with Ally Bank. I didn’t meet my fiancé until 2017. What if it worked out differently and I never ended up getting married? I’d simply change the nickname on that account to “New Car” fund or make a big lump sum investment in my “Maybe I’ll Retire Early” account.

Step 3: Establish Your Budget

Before you pick the date, the location, or the venue, you have to know what you’re working with.

A budget for an event is made up of two major components:

  1. The savings: How much is saved and/or how much will be contributed.
  2. The expenses: All the wedding-related costs that will drain down that savings.

It’s important to note that the amount of money entering the “savings” can be coming from different sources.

First, you have you and your future spouse’s current savings that you can contribute to the “Wedding Account.”

Next, have a conversation with your parents and have your partner have a conversation with their parents. Most have strayed away from the tradition of one set of parents paying for a wedding, but some parents still like to provide a contribution in some form.

I know this isn’t always the most comfortable conversation to have, and sometimes you’ll already know it’s a “hard no,” but if not, it’s much more helpful in planning to know what the contribution might look like ahead of time.

Finally, between you and your fiancé, determine how much of your income you can each continue to set aside towards wedding savings on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. With Ally Bank’s new Online Savings tools, like boosters, it’s easy to set up automatic recurring transfers, and pump up your wedding fund even more with their Surprise Savings option.

Step 4: Map Out the Major Details

Now that you have a good idea of where you’re starting from in terms of the wedding budget, it’s time to determine the big details.

Setting the date is important, not only to find the best time of year to get married, but also to help you determine your timeline for wedding savings and planning.

Picking the ceremony location and reception venue is likely going to make up the majority of your wedding cost and determine how many people you’ll be able to invite.

Most venues or caterers will charge by the head, so knowing a rough estimate of how many people will be invited will also make a big impact on the overall cost.

Getting clear on these larger details will help you better align your wedding plans with your wedding budget.

The overall goal is to keep from overspending in each area, and to still have 40 to 50 percent of your budget leftover after allotting for these larger costs.

Step 5: Get Clear on Your Priorities

Of course, other wedding costs can add up in a big way too. Between the wedding dress, the photographer, the flowers, and a whole host of other items I didn’t even realize could be included as part of a wedding, it’s important to get really clear on your priorities and what will be truly important to you and your partner on that special day.

Something my fiancé and I did for our wedding planning was to run each potential wedding cost through a set of filters.

Life Hack: If you’re an event planning newbie like me and have no idea what all of the possible “categories” and “costs” are that could make up a wedding, download a wedding budgeting template off the internet and take each item through the filters, below.

These filters are a set of questions that help us determine our priorities:

  1. Can we eliminate this item? (a.k.a. Is this really that important to us?)

We eliminated a large bridal party, church decorations and flowers for our non-existent bridal party, a videographer, engagement photos, bridal showers, and bachelor/bachelorette parties.

  1. Can we find an affordable and creative alternative to this item? (a.k.a. Do we really need to splurge on this?)

We swapped a “wedding gown” for a “white dress,” paper save-the-dates for email save-the-dates, hand-crafted invites for D.I.Y. invitations, and a rehearsal dinner for a welcome happy hour.

  1. Can we negotiate the price of this item? (a.k.a. If we are going to splurge, can we at least reduce the cost?)

We negotiated the costs of a photo booth for the reception, a live band, a post-ceremony cocktail at our favorite spot, and our photographer.

This isn’t to say you should eliminate what we did or swap the things we swapped, but it is important to review your priorities and know there are always things to be eliminated, swapped, and always, always negotiated.

Step 6: Use Your Bank Account to Keep Tabs

Since my fiancé and I got engaged, we’ve pulled together all our resources and started tracking every cost involved in the wedding planning process.

Using a separate bank account has been so helpful to store contributions from family members and to track our own savings.

With the new buckets tool from Ally Bank, we’ve been able to divvy up the core wedding savings into smaller buckets that represent the various expense categories.

Using this tool helps us know that we’ve saved enough for our photographer, wedding band, stationary, and apparel categories. It also helps us see how much more we need to save for our reception and welcome happy hour.

With each contribution made to this Online Savings Account, we can apply an allocation percentage to it and make sure each bucket is growing.

Once the budgeted amount for an expense category has been reached, we can reallocate that percentage of the contribution to a bucket that needs a boost.

Saving for a wedding can feel like a daunting task, but it’s so much better when you know that what you’re saving for (and spending a large amount of money on) is truly important to you and your partner. It makes it even better when you have amazing tools, like Ally Bank’s savings buckets, that can support you in the process.

To check out Ally Bank’s new Online Savings Account tools, visit Ally.com. Want to learn more about money optimization, personal development, and building an online business? Check out my website wanderwealthy.com.

Tess Wicks is the founder of and voice behind Wander Wealthy, a podcast and YouTube channel for millennial women who want to make smart and savvy financial decisions. She is a wealth and mindset coach, who provides tools and education for online coaches and service-based entrepreneurs.