HOW TO SET AND STICK TO YOUR WEDDING BUDGET
Ah… everyone’s favorite part about planning a wedding. Budgeting is an extremely important part of the planning process. When done correctly, it can save you a lot of time, stress, and make you ENJOY the process so much more! I’m here to share some helpful tips, and talk about how Danny and I determined the budget for our wedding.
determine what you can contribute
As a wedding planner, I’m here to tell you that you should not break the bank for your big day. Yes, I’d love for all of my clients to have healthy budgets - it makes my job a lot easier! But I simply cannot advise that you contribute outside of your means. To know what you and your partner can comfortably contribute, I would ask yourself 2 key questions: 1) What other short and long-term savings goals am I working towards? and 2) Will this contribution disrupt my progress towards those, or my everyday living? Most often, a wedding comes at the same time as a few other major life events: a house and kids. As easy as it is to think in the present day, these are major investments that you should not ignore. Overdoing your wedding financially will not only make your other goals more difficult to achieve, but it will also take away from your enjoyment of the wedding planning process - and the day itself! I know of couples - not any Plus One clients ;) - who ended up spending way more than they knew they should. On the day of their wedding, they were agitated, negative, and clearly did not enjoy what should have been the most special day of their lives! As a planner, I absolutely do not want that for anyone.
A few years ago I worked with my financial advisor to set up a wedding fund. At the time, I already had a house fund that I contributed to with every paycheck. Without taking away from my progress there, or disrupting the way I was living, I set up this new savings goal and slowly started adding to it. Fast-forward to August 2021, the week we got engaged, we also bought a property to build on…and all I can think of was wow, life is sure moving quickly. As any first-time home buyer and engaged couple would be, we felt financially overwhelmed. However, I was so thankful I began to save for both milestones a few years back. At this time, we realized that the house needed to come first going forward - in terms of our savings goals. I stopped contributing to the wedding fund, and this ultimately determined my own personal budget!
understand who is contributing
The next step in creating your wedding budget is to determine who is willing to contribute, and how much. For many, this can be an uncomfortable step. Oftentimes, couples are hesitant to have this talk with family, for the fear of coming off as greedy or presumptuous. For Danny and I, neither of us were the first in our family to get married. This made things easy, because our parents had already set expectations of how much they were willing to contribute when our siblings got engaged.
For others who don’t have a set standard, I recommend approaching these conversations by explaining your process. Inform them that you are starting to plan your wedding, and want to set a budget to stick to. Your parents will see this as a rational, mature first step (and hopefully be proud of you!). Tell them that in order to paint a picture of what your wedding looks like, you would like to understand how they want to be involved. Rather than jumping into their financial contribution, I would first address what specifically they value, or are interested in assisting with. This will not only show that you care about what they think, but it will also make them excited to play a role and contribute to your day! Then, I would share a little bit about your vision. At this time, you probably do not have a fully developed idea about what you want your wedding to look like, but you can share your thoughts on where you are interested in holding your wedding, around how many people, and what elements are most important to you.
When it’s time to talk about money, I would begin by stating how much you plan to contribute. This shows that you do not expect them to foot the entire bill, and you are willing to invest in the things you want for your big day. Now it’s possible they may ask what others plan to invest in your wedding. I personally think it is OK to share what others are committing to - if you think it will do more good than harm. Those asking could see this information valuable if they are interested in contributing an equitable amount…and the only way they can know what that is - is to ask you!
Now, it is quite common the two families are unable to contribute the same amount. Rarely do both sides come from the same financial background! If there is a clear difference, it is important to make sure their experience is the same and both sides feel valued - during the planning process, or on the day of your wedding. The amount of money your family is contributing says nothing about how much they care about and support you and your fiancé.
understand the cost of a wedding
Now THIS is a crucial part of budgeting. Without understanding the cost of a wedding, it is very difficult to stick to the budget you made! There are two ways you can develop this understanding: 1) Gather quotes from multiple vendors in every category or 2) enlist a planner to give you a price range for each. One is obviously a lot less time-intensive than the other ;) From gathering a minimum and maximum spend amount in each category, you will develop a budget range. Next to the total budget you have developed…how does it compare? Most often, the high end is far above the maximum you are willing to spend. So, how do you stick to your spending limit? It’s all about finding a balance between splurging and saving. Begin by determining the 2 or 3 components that you value the most. Let’s say, for example, this is your venue, photographer, and the food. Within the cost ranges you have determined, or your planner has given you, you are more likely to spend on the medium-high end for these items. To make sure your budget can handle that, I would contact a few vendors you are interested in to get an actual idea of what you may spend in these important categories. After this, go through the rest of your vendors and set spend goals for each that add up to the total amount you are willing to spend. As you start to book your vendors, you will adjust these values with the actual quotes and amount spent, and redistribute dollars if needed.
Experienced vendors often provide a very quality service. However, just because you spend on the low-medium end for others, does not mean that you should expect your vendors to be sub-par! Your planner can help you find new vendors that are great, but still establishing their brand. These are true goldmines, and help couples stick to their budget without sacrificing quality.
Overall, it is important to have honest upfront conversations about money, and set a budget before starting to book vendors. In order to successfully apply your budget, you should attack the planning process as a series of small spend goals, rather than just one overarching goal. Do your homework, or hire a planner to do it for you, and educate yourself before you begin to dish out deposit money!