Warning. This blog is not about pretty things, color schemes, or the latest design trends. It is about money...the not so fun, but necessary part of wedding planning. Keep reading for tips on how to set a wedding budget.
This meme is far too true. So many couples come to us mid planning because they just didn’t realize how much things really cost and needed help sticking to a budget, negotiating contracts with vendors, and want to know what is reasonable to spend on certain items and services. You know you have to come up with a budget, but where do you start?
1. Talk about your wedding style
If you are a Pinterest bride you know that there are so many different kinds of weddings nowadays to choose from. Sit down with your future spouse and talk about what style of wedding you are looking for. Do you want a laid back outdoor wedding with yard games, an intimate destination wedding in Hawaii, an elegant evening in a ballroom, a big dance party, etc. Don’t think too much about specific details at this point. Just talk about the overall feel you want for your day. I like to ask my couples to give me a list of 4-6 words that describe the wedding day of their dreams.
2. Figure out who is contributing
This is the part that makes most people uncomfortable, but it is very necessary. You have to have a conversation with your future spouse about how much you are willing to pay for your big day and if anyone other than the two of you will be contributing to the funds. Back in the 1950’s parents would pay for the entire wedding because most people were married right out of high school. Today things are very different. Couples are waiting to tie the knot until much later in life and have already established careers, so you have to have the conversation. Don’t be too scared. If you are engaged I am sure they saw the conversation coming and have already started thinking about it. Sometimes they will contribute a set dollar amount and other times will cover a certain expense like your dress or the open bar. Just be sure you know how they will be contributing and how much before you start booking vendors. If your family can’t contribute that is ok too, but you never know until you ask.
3. Create a guest list
You should sit down with your fiancé and start making a guest list. Maybe you already know you want a more intimate wedding with only 100 people; if that is the case just create a small combined list of your closest friends and family. If you are unsure, start with close friends and family and then see where that gets you and add others to the invite list as you hit your number range. An “A List” and “B List” is a great way to start. Your "A List" should be those family and close friends that you must invite. Your "B List" is everyone you would like to attend that didn't make the "A List". Once you figure out your overall budget you can return to the initial guest list and decrease your list as necessary before sending save the dates. Remember the guest count makes a big difference in your wedding budget. The cost of food, beverages, favors, chair rentals, wedding day stationery, etc. all depends on your guest count.
4. Figure out your priorities
I like to have my couples come up with a list of their top 3-4 priorities for the wedding on their own and then compare lists and come to a joint priority conclusion. Every couple has different priorities and this effects how and where you spend money. If guest experience is really important to you then you will probably have a bigger portion of your budget dedicated to food, drink, and DJ/entertainment. If you care more about the aesthetic and décor you will spend more on floral, rentals, and your venue. Neither is better than the other. It just depends on your priorities. Getting this straight with your fiancé will make booking vendors much easier since you will know where you are more willing to splurge and where you are not.
5. Come back to reality
Your Pinterest board dream wedding is of you, your fiancé, your closest 300 friends and family, towers of flowers, lace tablecloths, and dripping in jewels…while your budget is more backyard BBQ. That’s ok, but you do have to be realistic or else you will end up frustrated and paying for things you can’t really afford. At the end of the day you still get married, your guests have a blast, and the day is filled with unforgettable moments. It's not the fun part, but trust me you will be glad you set realistic expectations from the beginning instead of going into it with unrealistic expectations and being frustrated and disappointed during the planning process.
6. Track your budget
Start a trusty excel spreadsheet of each category (bridal attire, groom’s attire, rings, flower, décor, venue, photographer, etc.). One column should have your estimated costs at the beginning of your planning process. This is the number you want to stick close to and holds you accountable. Another column should have your actual expenses once you book or buy. If you go over on your venue by $500 then you need to find somewhere that was a lower priority for you to reduce by $500. Yes, it is your special day that happens once in a lifetime, but don’t put yourself in a position where you are charging things to credit cards or taking out a small loan. That is no way to begin your forever. Be sure to put a cushion of about $1,000 for those small unexpected expenses like wedding party gifts and the marriage license…the stuff you don’t normally dream about.
And here is my plug…but in all honestly a wedding planner takes so much of this off of your plate. They already know what the running rates are for the industry DJs, catering, venues, floral, etc. Some vendors even provide discounts for clients if the planner has an agreement with them. We can negotiate contracts for you and only show you things that are within your price range. We can make sure that you stay grounded in reality and yet create a beautiful and memorable wedding. We also have great budget tracking software that keeps everything organized and balanced. We know about those unexpected costs that most couples never hear about until they get the bill, like a cake cutting fee, wedding insurance, and more.
So many women meet with me and say I just never thought I could afford a wedding planner, but really how could I afford not to! Once you have your budget in mind start looking at wedding planners, have a free consultation, get to know more about what they can offer you and how they can help walk you through the process, so you can enjoy the fun part of planning...like pinning inspiration photos to your Pinterest board :)
Happy Planning! - XOXO, Tamara
Cover Image by Emily Barrera Photography