Then came the dress: a designer model from a Miracle Mile boutique. And a professional make-up artist worked alongside the photographer.
Other things also ramped up the bill: flowers and decoration, the church and the limousine (you gotta make an entrance!)
To balance these luxuries, we printed out our own invitations and menus, using engraved designs from craft stores like Michael's. We calculate the savings at $400.
We also made our own wedding favors with little tin cans filled with fine dark chocolate. The savings: about $350.
Another big cut: no honeymoon tan. Less than a week after the wedding, we were both reporting to work.
It was all worth it. The night was perfect and we got to spend time with our relatives -- many of whom flew in from Venezuela and Colombia and from other parts of the United States.
Today we are making some sacrifices. Of the $5,000 we got in cash gifts from family and friends, $2,000 has gone toward debt payment. We threw in $6,000 of our own savings and a $3,500 tax return from 2006. And we've made three $4,000 payments toward the wedding so far.
Total debt still left: About $14,000.
We don't shop for clothes, electronics, or unnecessary items, and we've put a freeze on books, iTunes and restaurant outings. We cook daily meals -- brown-bag lunches and homemade dinners. And we are lucky enough to have full-time jobs with decent pay.
With our financial plan, we were able to have a memorable religious ceremony, a lavish bash and a family reunion. Now we're on the right track to paying it all off -- and kissing our debt good-bye.
COSTS FOR LOPEZ WEDDING
Total spending $37,480 Reception $23,000 Photography/Videography $5,000 Flowers and decoration $4,500 Dress, hair and makeup $2,300 Church/String quartet $1,600 DJ, sax player $600 Limousine $350 Tuxedo rental $130
HOW THEY SAVED:
* Chose simple engagement ring in white gold.
* Made our own favors with materials bought at crafts stores.
* Printed invitation cards, envelopes and menus at home.
* Skipped the honeymoon.
ONLINE WEDDING PLANNERS
These websites offer tips on how to plan your wedding:
http://www.loc.gov/rr/business/wedding/. Compiled by the Business Reference Service unit of the Library of Congress, it offers tips on how to hire caterers, photographers, caterers, etc. It also has statistics with average prices.
TheKnot.com -- One of the most popular wedding websites. It has online tools available for budgeting and even planning your honeymoon, plus tons of tips in the Q&A forum. They also publish a magazine. Subscription to the website is required to access certain articles.
WEDDING BUDGET 101
Who's Paying? Discuss with the families who will pay for what. Some brides' families still pick up the entire tab, but more and more groom's families are participating. Ask your folks to commit to a specific dollar amount, then add up all contributions to create your budget. If you both are paying, start saving.
How Much Do You Need? Figure out how much you need to spend to get what you want, and set your expectations accordingly. The average cost for a 150-person wedding is about $25,000 (higher in urban areas). Sit down with your partner and categorize the top five items or services that are musts for your wedding day.
Here is a basic breakdown of what you can expect to pay:
Reception 48%-50% Ceremony 2%-3% Attire 8%-10% Flowers 8%-10% Entertainment/Music 8%-10% Photography/Videography 10%-12% Stationery 2%-3% Wedding Rings 2%-3% Parking/Transportation 2%-3% Gifts 2%-3% Miscellaneous 8%
To avoid stress, allot about 5 percent of your budget for a "just-in-case" fund.
* How Much Can You Save? As soon as you're engaged, start putting aside as much of your income as you can for the wedding. Saving 20 percent of your monthly income is a good -- though painful -- goal. The longer your engagement, the more you'll be able to sock away.
SOURCE: TheKnot.com, Onewed.com.