Congratulations! You’re engaged, ready to get married, and about to plan your dream wedding. When it comes time to choose your venue, decorations, entertainment, and guest list, you want to make sure everything is perfect. But, there’s one part of a wedding that may not be so dreamy: the wedding budget.
“Budget” is not a word that suggests thoughts of celebration and fun. You’re probably thinking of an accountant’s visor and spreadsheets instead of gorgeous dresses and wedding dances. Nonetheless, budget is a necessary word when it comes to planning an event that could, potentially, end up costing thousands (or eeek, tens of thousands!) of dollars when all is bought and paid for. It may seem like a no-brainer, but starting your wedding planning with a budget will save you a lot of headaches and regrets. You want to start your marriage in love, not in debt. So, when wedding planning gets underway, make sure you ask yourself these questions:
1) Why is starting with my budget important?
Having a budget for this momentous event is going to save you time and, literally, money. By setting up strict financial parameters from the get-go, you can determine exactly where you want to scrimp on money, and on what areas you want to splurge. Not every part of the wedding or reception needs to break the bank. Besides the budget, what is most important to you and your significant other: Pretty location? Inviting everyone you can? Great food and music? Decide together what top three to five items you’re willing to go “all out” for (you can decide for yourselves what “all out” really means to your wallet). Then work down your list of wedding necessities in descending order of importance. You might even find that some items you think necessary just aren’t— so you’ll have more money in your budget to reallocate, or save for the honeymoon!
When you’ve decided where you’ll be splurging and scrimping, your budget will also be able to direct you to the vendors that fit in your financial range. Search for local vendors that can accommodate your budgetary needs, and eliminate anyone who can’t right away. If you’re determined to stick to the budget, don’t be tempted to blow it by pining over a vendor you can’t afford. A larger vendor like Event Source may look attractive, but if they’re above your budget, are they really worth the financial (and emotional) strain it’ll take to secure them? You may be able to find a competitor of your idealized vendor at a cheaper rate than the big box name, and with better service. You followed your heart to your fiancé— now follow your budget to your wedding vendors.
Finally, if you have a general idea of the costs involved, you can also plan how long you (or your parents) would need to save to cover the tab. Don’t just guess; know what you want, lay out a realistic timeline, and get budgeting. Then adjust accordingly until your budget, your top wants, and your timeline join in perfect unity.
2) What should I include in my budget?
If you’ve prioritized your top three to five wedding splurges, you should already have a pretty good idea of what you’ll be including in your budget. But generally, the “big” things traditionally included in a wedding budget are: venue (for wedding and reception, if not in the same place), dress, music/DJ, catering, decor, photographer, cake, and flowers. According to a 2015 survey by WeddingWire.com, the average cost of a wedding is now (brace yourself) $30,000! That’s a total yearly income for a lot of Americans. Even more startling is another figure included in the survey which states that 74% of couples end up going over budget anyway.
To avoid being one of these couples, first know that wedding costs can vary wildly depending on a number of factors, including where you’ll be getting married, how many guests you’ll be inviting, and even what season it’ll be when you have your wedding. It pays (no pun intended) to review the big-ticket items you want in your budget and see if you can’t find a few ways to lower cost right away. For example, if your heart is set on a specific local venue, or you want a destination wedding, you may find expenses are less if you get married during the venue’s “off-season” when the demand isn’t as great. Invest time in researching the bigger cost items in the area where you want to have your wedding; it’ll give you a realistic picture of what your budget should look like in order to accommodate both your desires and your location.
Second, keep in mind that there are other expenses that will accrue, but if you go for the big ones first, you’ll splurge where you planned to, and not end up overspending on smaller-cost wedding needs— they add up too if you’re not careful! Some things to consider are: limo rental, invitations plus postage, wedding favors, tux rentals, dress alterations, the marriage license, beauty treatments…the list goes on! When you realize just how many wedding items there are to take stock of, the need to make a budget — and stick to it!— becomes a lot more credible.
3) How can I cut corners?
In today’s DIY Pinterest world, there are plenty of ways to cut corners— again, it just comes down to what is most important to your wedding wants. Depending on your tastes, here are a few ideas to consider if you’re looking to cut out some costs:
- Choose intimate over inclusive: There are certain people you may feel obligated to invite to your wedding, but don’t fall into that trap or you’ll end up with an expensive wedding full of people you barely know or barely like. If you parse down the guest list, your day can be enjoyable because you 1) get to enjoy it with those you love most, and 2) won’t overspend for the sake of accommodation. Plus, you can simply tell anyone who doesn’t receive an invitation that you’re just having a close-family-and-friends event.
- Have a ceremony at home or outdoors: Renting a building for your wedding and reception can be very expensive depending on where you live. If your home or outdoor space can contain your ceremony, you can still have a tasteful wedding without needing to offer your firstborn as payment to book The Plaza. Local vendors like us at NEO Amusements can provide tents, tables, chairs, and audio equipment at much lower costs than renting out an entire facility— and you won’t need to plan your wedding date around another facility’s availability.
- Use less flowers: Flowers are traditionally part of weddings, but you don’t need to turn your venue into a greenhouse to be beautiful. Minimal is still magical. Use single-stem bouquets, or small arrangements on reception tables for little pops of color. And if you get married outside, you may already have flowers available free-of-charge!
- Contact a local college for music and photography options: A local college or university may just have a very talented group of students available at a very agreeable discount. Contact the music and photography departments for suggestions, and schedule a preview. You may feel leery of hiring students for your special day, but keep in mind, these students are pursuing careers in music and/or photography, and will be eager to show off their very best abilities.
- Go paperless: This is probably the least traditional suggestion for cutting corners, but in a digital world, it’s not outrageous to consider sending e-vite invitations. The benefit is threefold: 1) You won’t have envelopes to stuff, lick, and mail; 2) you could potentially save several hundred dollars by ditching the traditional printed invitations and RSVPs, and 3) e-vites are more environmentally friendly. As long as you have email addresses for everyone you want to invite, there are many stylish e-vite sites available for little to no cost.
It isn’t exactly romantic to have to consider financial responsibility with every wedding decision you make. “With this budget I thee wed” does not make for the most loving of wedding vows. But setting your budget early and following through on your plan is going to remove a number of stresses along the way that would otherwise steal the ‘happy’ from this happy occasion. By considering these three questions— Why is starting with my wedding budget important? What should I include in my budget? and How can I cut corners on my wedding?— you can make decisions for your wedding that will be both Informed and satisfying. No matter what budget you settle on or what style of wedding you choose, your special day is just that— yours. Make it as elegant, nontraditional, or epic as you want it to be. Just decide early on what it takes to make your dream day a reality. As long as you and your significant other are happy, then it’ll be a dream come true!