If you’re considering having a wedding at some point, start saving — now

Ask any expert for money-saving advice, and they’re likely to tell you to plan ahead: Start putting away cash for your retirement, your dream vacation, or potential emergencies. For some reason, though, some may find it less reasonable to proactively save up for your future, hypothetical wedding — especially if you’re single. Of course, not everyone wants to get married or host a wedding ceremony or reception; if you’re certain that’s the case, it probably doesn’t make sense for you to plan for the possibility. But if you think you might want to go the wedding route, it’s not a bad idea to get the savings ball rolling now — regardless of your relationship status. Here’s why.

Weddings are expensive

According to WeddingWire’s 2018 Newlywed Report, the average cost of a wedding (including an engagement ring, a ceremony and reception, and a honeymoon) is $36,000. The average cost of a ceremony and reception alone makes up the bulk of that, at $27,000. Typically, the couple themselves contributes 28 percent of that, or $8,000 (in addition to contributions from parents and other sources). Needless to say it’s a hefty sum, and, as Kimberly Palmer, personal finance expert at NerdWallet pointed out, “more than many people’s annual take-home pay.” She added, “Since most people don’t have anywhere close to that much in savings, they rely on multiple sources to fund weddings, including parent contributions and even credit cards, which can lead to expensive debt.”

Coming up with that kind of cash without saving for it in advance can be immensely stressful. And even if you’re prepared to do your nuptials on a budget and have no intention of spending as much as the reported average, there’s a solid chance it will cost more than you expect. “Weddings are getting more and more expensive every year, and as our data shows, couples are typically underestimating their wedding budget by a substantial amount,” said Jeffra Trumpower, creative director of WeddingWire, pointing out that the Newlywed Report found couples underestimate their wedding spending by about 40 percent.

It takes time to save

Ideally, an engagement will be as stress-free and enjoyable as possible — and getting your finances in order before it happens can help ensure that will be the case. “The average length of an engagement is just over a year, which doesn’t give couples much time to save upwards of $8,000 to cover wedding costs,” Trumpower said. “If much of this saving is done prior to an engagement, it makes the process less daunting.” The sooner you start putting away money for a potential wedding, the more flexibility and freedom you’ll have once you’re actually engaged.

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You can integrate wedding savings into your regular budget

Once you know you want to start saving for a wedding, it’s a matter of planning and making space for it within your annual and monthly budgets, just like you would for any other financial goals. Palmer recommended automating your savings in a special fund every month. “If you deduct $100 from your checking account each month and send it to your high-yield savings account, you will accrue money over time and also earn interest on it,” she said. “That will be a great source to fund your future goals, like a wedding.”

If you want some frame of reference beyond the average total wedding cost, you can consult WeddingWire’s Wedding Cost Guide to get an idea of how much various components cost in your area or the area you think you may get married in. Even if you’re not certain of those facts, this can help you figure out roughly how much you want to save.

That said, “while saving for your wedding is important, we don’t necessarily think it should account for 100 percent of a couple’s savings plan,” Trumpower said. “We encourage couples to take a look at what they can realistically save in a month, and putting a portion of that aside for wedding-related costs.”

The money won’t go to waste

So, what if you do all of this and then decide later you don’t want to get married or you don’t need the money for the wedding you ultimately have? That doesn’t mean it was all pointless. After all, there’s no rule that says the money you put away has to be used for a wedding — and it’s always good to have savings. “You can use those savings for anything,” Palmer said. “If you end up not having a wedding, then you can go on a dream vacation or use it toward a house down payment. Having savings gives you choices.”