With the minimony craze many couples are considering whether they should plan a second larger wedding when the world reopens. Since many of these minimonies cost a good amount—and are just as Instagrammable as the full-blown shindig—he thought hosting two weddings might seem financially impossible... And, it’s completely understandable. We are still in a pandemic, after all. However, Certified Financial Planner and COVID bride Lauren Anastasio of personal finance company, SoFi, shared with Brides that folks should get out of that mindset. Using some tricks of the trade, she was able to plan two weddings that stayed within a tighter budget.
Meet the Expert
Lauren and her husband got married this March in a minimony that cost $2,500, and plan to host a bigger celebration post-pandemic. Although the second wedding has a budget of $25,000, Lauren is confident that the final number will be $5000 less thanks to her spending savviness. To put things in perspective, the average U.S. wedding will wind up costing an estimated $30,000.
For Lauren, hosting two weddings felt essential. “When we started talking about getting married last year and then got engaged, I knew I wasn't going to wait longer,” she explains. “It was very important to me that my dad would be alive. And so, for a variety of reasons, we took this approach.”
While everyone’s reasoning for hosting a minimony and a larger dream wedding is different, budget shouldn’t have to hold you too far back—even during a pandemic. “We managed to have a beautiful wedding [right now] for basically the equivalent of the two stimulus checks from 2020,”notes Lauren.
Ahead, the financial pro offers up her advice on how to budget, create saving strategies, and she tracks progress for two weddings.
Bridal Budgeting 101
Your first rule of thumb? Keep your budget proportional to the number of guests. Lauren and her husband’s minimony was a 14-person affair with themselves and immediate family only. For her larger celebration, she plans to send out between 150 to 160 invitations, with the expectation that about 140 people will attend. This is 10 times the amount of guests from her minimony. Since the budget for the larger ceremony is $25,000, she decided to keep spending down to $2,500 for the smaller event. Her advice? Decide upon a cost per guest and stick to it for both events.
Lauren also stresses that we need to stop thinking of budgets as the enemy. She says they are not the “fun police.” In fact, they’re quite the opposite. In the end, they ensure you get what you really want—a very important factor when talking about your wedding day.
When initially discussing the budget with her husband-to-be, Lauren shares they had to discuss what was essential to their wedding. “It came down to first identifying what was most important to us, and then prioritizing that,” she says. “What do we need to allocate to make sure that we're both getting the experience that we want?”
“For example, when we were trying to figure out how to do this in a budget-friendly way, I was thinking, ‘Well, maybe we don't need to have a traditional wedding venue and a ballroom. We can just rent out a restaurant or something,’” she explains. “My husband immediately said to me, ‘If there is one thing that we're going to do at our wedding, it’s going to be dancing. There is going to be a dance floor and I will be dancing all night. This is happening.’ He put his foot down, so that really helped with our direction.”
Budgeting and prioritizing go hand in hand. So, it’s important to have those open conversations with your spouse-to-be not only about your wedding budgets, but also the other wants and needs you’re budgeting for as a couple. “At the end of last year, we talked about what we want to try and accomplish the following year financially,” she says. In true practice-what-you-preach form, Lauren swears by SoFi’s Money Vaults, which place a member’s savings into different “buckets” and set up a progress tracker for those savings.
Getting the floors in their home redone was at the top of Lauren and her husband’s goals for the year. “We divvied up what I'm saving for different goals. We have a wedding vault, an emergency fund vault, and one for the new floors,” she explains. SoFi’s Money Vaults will alert you when you hit milestones in your savings like reaching 20 percent of a goal. You can save a set amount. Or, you can automatically round up your purchases to the nearest dollar and deposit the difference in your Vaults for effortless savings.
You also should keep a close watch on how you're spending. Lauren keeps a Google Sheet of what she’s already contributed towards the wedding expenses, along with all of her and her husband’s financial goals. From deposits for the photographer and venue to the cost of the dress—all spending gets transferred to the Google Sheet in real time so that she can see how much of the budget is left.
Creative Ways To Cut Costs
When it came to planning a both minimony and a wedding, Lauren says it was of the utmost importance to “find a venue that we could use twice. Our expectation was it was going to be easier to negotiate.” And, it was! For obvious reasons, The Mendenhall Inn in Pennsylvania had a ton of wiggle room this season. Since the venue booked with the couple for May 2022, they were able to negotiate using the space for the minimony—for free. When it comes to planning any type of wedding, the venue usually accounts for a bulk of the cost. This was a major win for Lauren, who had spoken to friends spending between $500 and $1,000 to say their downsized “I do’s”. Plus, it adds a lovely connective touch between the two events. “I love the idea that we will have a party [next year], and we'll have pictures of us being married at the same location,” she shares.
Another way to cut down on expenses? Ask for gifts for the minimony, but not in the monetary or registry sense. “My fiance's brother was our officiant and his girlfriend was the stylist. She did my hair and makeup,” explains Lauren. “My mom brought the flowers and my sister gifted us our cake. It was a little bit of everyone sort of contributing in their own way to make it as traditional of a wedding as possible, but in a very special way.” She notes guest participation makes your already-intimate day even more special.
Lauren has decided to forgo two ceremonies as another cost-efficient hack. By skipping a second ceremony for the big wedding, she and her fiancé could allocate those funds toward something higher priority on their list. “We would rather use that time to enjoy everybody's company, so we paid to extend our cocktail hour just to have more time to socialize with guests,” she tells us.
Prioritize, prioritize, and then prioritize some more.
“Prioritize, prioritize, and then prioritize some more” is a constant theme for Lauren when reducing her budget. In fact, she’s cutting the cake from her second wedding in favor of an open bar. After all, the couple already got photos of them cutting a free traditional wedding cake at the minimony. With all the food and other desserts for wedding number two, it just wasn’t a main concern for them.
As for a white wedding dress, Lauren decided to only wear one to her minimony. “I wanted to make sure that it felt like a wedding and so this one was a little on the more traditional side,” she explains. While Lauren she chose a more traditional gown, she shopped actually bought it off the rack for just $300. For her second reception, she plans to don a blush party dress instead. Her favorite color has always been pink, and her logic is that pink dresses can be found at department stores for a much better price. It’s the difference between shopping for a “wedding dress” versus a “party dress.”
Lauren actually suggests reframing your language when talking about both weddings to avoid being upselled. When speaking to possible vendors for certain items she strongly advises to not use the word “wedding” because that automatically opens you up to extra fees. Case in point: She didn’t find it necessary to disclose the “special occasion” to the restaurant that hosted the dinner party following her minimony. In doing so, she didn’t open herself up for an upsell and was charged their usual rate for a private dining room. “Don’t make yourself a target,” she adds.
Reassess and Reprioritize
In a lot of ways Lauren is, as she puts it, “bucking tradition” for a new kind of American wedding. “The feedback we were getting from other married couples was that it was just so overwhelming to have everything on the same day that they didn't get to enjoy as much of it as possible,” she shares. “Even if COVID-19 wasn’t something to consider, I'd still be tempted to split it up into these two different events.” Lauren is over the moon at how gorgeous her minimony photos and floral arrangements came out, and she’s overjoyed that she can now spend time greeting her guests at next year’s event and have photos with each of them, too.
The Certified Financial Planner in her can’t help but advise her fellow COVID brides to reassess and reprioritize during the planning process as needed, especially after the minimony. Lauren suggests looking at the first event as somewhat of a dress rehearsal. If you feel as though something was missing during the minmony or something is no longer necessary for your second wedding, you can adjust your future plans. She swears that using her tips will help save you money and get you everything you want. “From a financial standpoint, I find it difficult to argue that you should do it the other way around,” she says. Spoken like a true 2021 and 2022 bride.