One of the most challenging aspects of planning a wedding is setting the budget. Money is a touchy subject and no one wants to think about the limitations that money can place on their decisions. The good thing is that you aren’t alone; almost every bride and groom start out not knowing a thing about how much a bouquet costs or whether they can afford a three tiered cake. Luckily, the wedding industry is notoriously good at helping you understand the cost of different options and customizing their services to fit your budgetary needs. In this post, we’ll give you some ideas on how to set and manage your wedding budget.
Show Me the Money
Start by determining how much money you have to work with. Traditionally, the bride’s parents paid for the wedding while the groom’s family paid for the rehearsal dinner. But, now-a-days there really isn’t a norm so you’ll want to to have a conversation with all those involved in paying for your wedding. The numbers and dates need to be crystal clear so everyone can adhere to their commitment. Be understanding and realistic with your expectations. It should also be noted that just because you have money for your wedding, doesn’t mean you have to spend it all.
Set the Tone Early
Big fancy events cost a big fancy lot so be realistic about what style and tone you want from the start. Think about formal versus casual, traditional versus modern and elaborate versus simple. Make decisions based on your style and your budget, but recognize that all your decisions need to come together to create a cohesive look and feel. For example, if you splurge on a big hotel ballroom for your reception you’ll have to fill that ballroom with lots of people, large centerpieces and expensive in-house catering. One splurge can lead to another in order to fit the look of your large fancy venue. So don’t forget to consider the bigger picture of your event when making decisions that set the tone and style for your event.
Choose Vendors Within Your Price Range
Different vendors operate at different price points. Vendors listed on The Knot and Wedding Wire are given a $-$$$ designation based on their cost. Using this tool will help you narrow down what vendors to contact for quotes. Be sure to get quotes from several vendors for each service so you can recognize the one providing the best value and customer service for the price. Ask about any additional fees not included in the quote such as delivery, installation and service fees. Before you sign any contract have a clear understanding of how much money will be due when.
It can be tempting to enlist of the help of family and friends to save money on wedding services, but it really is best to hire experienced, professional vendors in order to prevent unexpected expenses. It’s so nice that Aunt Suzie can do your flowers, but Aunt Suzie doesn’t have experience figuring out how many of each flower you will need or how much it will cost for example. In the larger scheme of things, wilting flowers, a last minute trip to the florist or a table without a centerpiece isn’t a big deal, but it creates unnecessary stress on an already stressful day. Professionals usually get it right and are on time and on budget without all the stress.
Spend Money Where It Counts
No matter what your budget is, you can make the most of it by spending money on the things you care most about and that will have the greatest impact on your guests. Think about what is most import to you about your wedding day and prioritize spending on those things. Your vendors should be able to help you make decisions about what is essential and what your options are for budget conscious upgrades. My advice to every couple: Sit down and decide what your top three priorities are and then budget accordingly. Not all wedding vendors agree with me on this approach, but I truly believe that if you budget based on what’s important to you, in the end, you’ll be happy you did.
Control the Guest Count
Your guest count is one of the major factors determining the overall cost of your wedding. Remember that the cost for every guest includes food was well as drinks, cake, chair and table rentals, centerpieces, invitations, favors and other miscellaneous expenses. Your guest count may also limit your venue options as larger venues cost more money. So choose your guests wisely. The hubs and I didn’t want to offend anyone on our wedding day, but we also wanted a small wedding, so we decided that unless we both knew the person really well, they weren’t invited. But, that approach may or may not work for you and your mamaw may end up inviting everyone from her church anyway. Just sayin’.
Budget for the Little Stuff
Big ticket items, like catering, often overshadow the numerous small purchases made for a wedding, but the small costs shouldn’t be forgotten in the budgeting process. Favors, postage, bridal accessories, gifts, thank you notes and vendor gratuities are just of few of the small costs that should be budgeted for from the start. Basically, you really need to reign in the trips to Hobby Lobby and late night online shopping. I know, it’s hard!
Plan for the Unexpected
Weather happens, accidents happen, changes need to be made and sometimes we forget things. All of these situations can cost you more money than you were anticipating. Allocate 5-10% of your budget to an emergency fund. Touch this money only if you have to deal with something unexpected.
Track Your Spending
It’s so easy to loose track of what you’ve paid for, who’s paid for what and so on. There is so much going on and so many people involved it can get overwhelming if you let it. So put a system in place in the very beginning to prevent this. I suggest creating a calendar (in GoogleDocs or ICal) and spreadsheet (in Excel or GoogleDocs) to track all payments and payment due dates. If you use an expense tracking app, like Mint, try creating a custom category for all wedding expenses so they can be easily found. Some couples even open a separate bank account to keep their wedding funds separate from their everyday transactions. It may also be helpful to use one method of payment for all wedding related transactions. A credit card will allow you to rack up some reward points for use on your honeymoon! *DISCLAIMER: Plan to pay your complete credit card balance off every single month! You do not want to start your marriage off in crazy debt, just trust me on this one.
Additional Budget Resources
- The Knot has a really helpful, free Wedding Budget Calculator that provides a “personalized budget breakdown based on average wedding costs for every aspect of your wedding.”
- A Practical Wedding shares the budget breakdown for 11 real weddings ranging in budget from $2K to $30K.
- For additional tips on making the most of your budget, check out our blog post, “Money Saving Event Tips” or read “50 Ways to Save $500” and “Wedding Budgeting 101“.