Congratulations, you're getting married! Now hand over the credit card. Seriously. The average couple spent nearly $30,000 on their wedding in 2013, according to a survey by The Knot, surpassing even the high mark of $28,082 in 2008, before the recession. But there's no reason to take on massive amounts of debt as you begin your life together. The wedding budget can be kept to a minimum with some help from wedding websites and apps, many of which work in tandem.
"I think all brides should use an online wedding tool to help them budget," says Catey Hill, author of Shoo, Jimmy Choo! The Modern Girl's Guide to Spending Less and Saving More. "It's simply so much easier to have a computer program do the math than to try to write it all out yourself."
Couples need not waste precious dollars on budgeting and planning tools, either. The following online resources cost nothing and assist in nearly every aspect of the big day. No matter which ones you use, "the most important thing to remember is that you have to make a budget and stick to it," Hill says.
Perhaps the biggest name in online wedding planning, The Knot offers members a range of free services, including a budget tool, a comprehensive, customizable checklist, a guest list manager, free wedding websites, save-the-date emails, and inspiration boards for collecting ideas. Users can also chat with other members, check wedding vendor reviews, and pick up information from posted articles.
This free app complements the website and serves as a carry-with-you alternative to a high-priced, in-person wedding planner. Available for iPhone and iPad, the new app provides mobile access to The Knot's wedding planning resources, from checklist to guest list manager. Everything members do through the app is automatically synced with their account on the website. At the iTunes Store, reviewers give the app very high marks for keeping up with wedding planning on the go. One user comments that the budgeting tool prevents her from getting carried away, while another couple used the app to find an affordable caterer and photographer.
The wedding dress purveyor provides a set of planning tools including a to-do list with the ability to assign tasks to family and friends, as well as a customizable budgeting tool. Users input the total amount they can spend on the wedding, and the tool estimates what they "should" spend on each component. The user-friendly interface lets couples change the numbers if they want to allocate more to one area. Categories can also be added to the budget. The tool tracks what users spend and shows the impact on the overall plan.
The Wedding Wire app is one of several that correspond with the popular website. Available for both iPhone and Android, the app gets a nod of approval from Mashable, which deems it handy for planning every aspect of the big day. The Wedding Wire family of apps includes WedTeam for finding and managing vendors, WedStyle for gathering inspiration, and WedSocial for keeping guests updated on all the events and compiling the pictures they take on the big day.
This iPhone/iPad app is one of the easiest to set up. Wedding Happy integrates with Facebook and Twitter and is available even without a network connection. It has an export function for emailing schedules, vendor information, and other relevant details to those who need to know. User reviews on iTunes rave about the simplicity of the app and its ability to keep them on track. One reviewer says it's her favorite wedding planning app, because it doesn't have a bunch of frills. It connects with her calendar and lets her customize her to-do list.
Although it's not a wedding planning app per se, this free app for iPhone and Android deserves a mention. Wedding Party is the modern version of putting disposable cameras on every table. After creating a wedding page via the website, users ask their guests to download the app and share images snapped on the big day. Wedding Party collects all the candid wedding pictures on one timeline. Later the couple can download the photos to a computer. More than 900 user reviews on iTunes give the app an average rating of 4.5 stars, saying it works flawlessly and is a fun way to communicate with guests leading up to the wedding, as well. Couples might feel comfortable lowering their photography budget knowing their guests have all the angles covered.