Devising a budget for everyday finances is a chore for most people, especially if you’re like me and terrible with numbers. However, planning an entirely new budget around one of the biggest days of your life could send anyone over the edge.
Never fear! We’ve pulled together our most asked questions and tips for your budget dilemmas!
Where do I start?
Starting to plan your wedding is fun and exciting until you realize that you have no idea how much you can spend on your food, or your music, or even your dress! It’s high time you tackle the looming task ….make that budget! It may feel overwhelming, but all you have to do is take it step by step!
First, get together with your hubby-to-be or future bride, and research average wedding costs in your area. Look into local vendors, and find out what they charge. You just might be surprised at how much a wedding actually costs!
After you have a good idea on realistic wedding prices, have an open discussion on your finances. How much is he willing to spend, and what were you thinking? If the two numbers aren’t close, work together to come to a mutual agreement. Be open to listening to your partner, and understand why they have that budget price tag in mind. This initial estimate can be a ballpark number! You don’t have to add every detail just yet. This helps come to an agreement, and a mindset for the rest of your wedding planning.
Now, you have to decide what are the must-haves for your wedding and how much of your budget those will take up. My recommendation is for you and your significant other to sit down separately, create a list of two or three aspects that are in your dream wedding, and then compare the lists. If some things can be combined, like you want a great time for guests and he wants a dance party, that works perfectly! If they aren’t alike at all, choose one from each list and mutually decide on a third that is important to both of you.
Here’s an example of a list could look like:
Fresh floral bouquets
Designer wedding gown
Great time for guests
Classy getaway car
So you’ve ballparked some numbers, chosen your absolute must-haves, and gotten a pretty good idea of their price range. Add those together! Next, add in other standard prices for things like your venue, caterer, photographer, attire, and invitations. This will give you a general idea for your actual budget. You can then start adding in other aspects, like decor, for a more concrete total.
My biggest piece of advice when it comes to your budget is stick to it! Make sure the number you come up with in the beginning is realistic. You don’t want to be in month eight of planning, and realize that your budget was way too large, and you can’t actually afford what you’ve already signed contracts for. That will only lead to major stress leading up to and especially the day of your wedding. It should be a fun, stress-free memory, not a meltdown!
If you’re starting to freak out about keeping track of all these numbers that quickly add up, use our Budget Sheet to help you line up all your expenses. It can also keep check of how realistic your estimates were to the actual cost, and show where you under budgeted. Go you!
Who pays for what?
This is a bit tricky to answer because it really depends on the couple. The traditional answer is the bride’s family pays for the majority of the wedding. That includes obviously the wedding gown, accessories, and shoes for the bride, but also the wedding coordinator, invitations, any stationery, flowers, reception costs, photography, videography, music or entertainment, rentals, accommodations, and transportation. Whew, right? The groom’s family traditionally pays for the engagement ring, groom’s attire, gifts for the groomsmen, boutonnieres, officiant’s fee, and the rehearsal dinner.
That’s not always the case though. Sometimes, the groom’s family may take on as much responsibility as the bride’s, or even more. These days, however, couples are leaning towards paying for the wedding themselves. Their families may chip in here or there, but it’s certainly not an expectation anymore. Today’s couples are on average older when they decide to tie the knot than previous generations, and are more financially independent. They also know what they want when it comes to their wedding. It helps to be footing the bill when you have strong opinions about what your big day should look like.
How do I ask my parents to pay if they haven’t offered?
If your parents aren’t vocalizing how they would like to help or that they are even planning to, I would suggest sitting down with them alone to see where they’re at on the topic. Make sure you don’t make them feel obligated to write a check right then and there though. You definitely don’t want to start out this joyous occasion with a stressor among family. Tell them you want to ask before you begin planning if there are any aspects they want to be readily involved in or would like to contribute to.
…what about my future in-laws?
Let your significant other handle this one. Money can be a very sensitive subject, and the in-laws may feel more comfortable speaking alone with their son or daughter.
Now to the main question, how do I save some money?
It may seem like an impossible task to save money during a time where you are putting down large deposits at first, but there are ways to have a dream wedding without spending loads of cash. Trust me!
- Off Season Months: Having your wedding during the “off season” can save you hundreds of dollars in your venue price. December through March is usually what is known as the “off season” for weddings, and most venues offer a lower rate for a date booked during that time. Although, this certainly depends on the region. Having a holiday wedding is another way to lower your venue cost. However, keep in mind that some holidays, like New Year’s Eve, you are competing with parties and celebrations that the venue could also host.
- Or Even a Different Day of the Week: Friday or Sunday weddings can save you too! Your guests can usually manage to attend those days, or can easily take some time off work on a Friday or Monday to travel.
- One Venue for Both Ceremony & Reception: Choosing just one venue for both your ceremony and reception can save you thousands of dollars in your overall venue cost. With one venue, you have one fee. When you book two venues, you have two different prices that may or may not include the same things. It not only saves you money, it saves a lot of stress too!
- Non-Traditional Venue: Speaking of venues, choosing a venue that may not traditionally host weddings will usually offer a lower price. Think a family friend’s gorgeous backyard, an art gallery, college campus, or zoo! However, do make sure they can accommodate all the details that will come with a wedding. Catering, guest count, and any rules they have for the space will be essential to know upfront.
- Time of Day: Lunch style receptions instead of dinner courses can save you a little money. Even the style of food can range in less expensive options.
- Sample Sales for Gowns: Stay on the lookout for sample sales, especially bridal salons that have your taste in gowns. You can get your dream wedding dress for three quarters of the price, or find a similar gown that you fall in love with.
- Save on Alcohol: Serve only signature cocktails at your wedding instead of having a full bar. If that’s not really your thing, consider just beer and wine. You could even forego alcohol altogether, if it isn’t important to you as a couple.
- Shrink Your Guest List: If you plan to have a 300 wedding guest count and want to save some cash, consider cutting back on some people. Each wedding guest costs you in chairs, linens, food, drinks, and favors. Eliminate guests that you haven’t talked to in a few years.
- DIY: If there are things that you can DIY without adding more stress to your life, then do it! Creating your own invitations has never been easier with ready made templates. Favors are great to DIY too, especially for a smaller wedding. However, don’t take on a task too large just to save money.
- Smaller Cake: Who says you have to have a five tiered wedding cake to have an elegant affair! A smaller cake can be just as exquisite, and will cost you less. Have the baker make a flat sheet cake in the same flavor to serve to all of your guests.
- Book a Shorter Package with Your Vendors: If your photographer offers a smaller package with less hours, consider taking that one. You can have your bridesmaids or family members take candids of you getting ready, and have your photographer come in for the ceremony and reception. If you aren’t planning a big exit, they could always leave after the important parts like first dance and toasts.
- Combine Different Elements of the Wedding to Save on Overall Cost: There are a few ways to kill two birds with one stone in your wedding decor and planning. For instance, have your guests names printed on the menu cards so they double as both the menu and place card. Or have the bridesmaids’ bouquets double as the flower arrangements for some of the tables. They can be large and lush, and no one would know the difference except your wallet!
- Hire a Wedding Planner: You’re probably thinking to yourself, “But I am trying to save money not spend more!” Yes, I know, but this is more like spending to save. Wedding planners are experts in being organized, and being aware of every detail. They can help you stay on track with your budget, and offer suggestions of where to save. They also know their wedding community pretty well, and can help you find similar vendors with varying prices.
Ask yourself these questions,
- “Will I remember this aspect 10 years from now?”
- “Will anyone notice this detail?”
- “Is this something I will care about on the day of?”
If you stumble to find an answer to any one of these questions or find yourself leaning towards a “no,” then think about skipping it. The main question boils down to how important is this one thing compared to other aspects of your wedding.
And don’t forget!
Sometimes when we get caught up in wedding planning and sticking to our proposed budget, we forget some details that can sneak up on us later.
Don’t forget to include yourself in the guest count when it comes to your caterer and rentals! They work from a total number, and you want to make sure you have a chair and meal at your own reception.
Buying gifts for your wedding party is also pretty standard, and they don’t have to be expensive. However, it’s something that gets thrown in last minute, and not calculated in your budget. Have an idea of what you would like to gift your guys or gals, and include that in your original budget discussions.
Do you have a backup plan if it rains? Does that cost you anything?
Do any of your vendors have overtime costs, and what are they? It never hurts to ask just in case your ceremony or reception runs late.
Last, but not least: tipping! It is certainly not required, but it is an excellent ‘thank you for a great job on the biggest day of my life’ sort of thing. A 15-20% tip to most of your wedding pros is sufficient. Although, there are a few exceptions like parking attendants and set-up crew with a $10-20 per person range. If your officiant is not able to accept a tip, you can consider donating to their church or organization instead. Keep in mind to ask if gratuities are already included in your contract price though!
Budgets are tough, so take a deep breath, and remember it is all about you spending forever with the love of your life. That’s what’s important about the day anyway!
If you still have unanswered budget questions, feel free to ask us in the comments below!
All photos by Dixie Pixel Photography