The "B" Word When It Comes To Weddings :: or, How To Figure Out Your Wedding Budget
Yes, setting your wedding budget can be a B. We know you'd rather skip this step and go straight to the cake tasting, but creating (and sticking to) your budget is arguably the most important part of planning a wedding.
And whether you're working with $100 or $100,000, there are some general guidelines that can help you decide what you can spend, and what you'll want to save or splurge on.
To get you started, we’ve broken the wedding budget planning process into 6 easy steps:
Step 1: Figure Out Who's Contributing
Perhaps it's just you and your fiancé. Or maybe your parents or other family members want to chip in. Whatever the case may be, finding out who's eager to contribute to your wedding is a good first step in calculating your overall budget.
Try to ascertain how much each party is willing to spend, or what particular aspect of the wedding they'd like to take care of. (For example, maybe Grandma has her heart set on buying you a wedding dress.)
Yes, we realize that money conversations can be super awkward, but knowing who your contributors are is essential to figuring out your bottom line. Just be sure to approach these conversations in a respectful way, and be okay with hearing "Sorry, I'd love to help but I can't."
Step 2: Crunch The Numbers
Once you have an idea of how much financial assistance you'll receive, focus on your own contribution.
- How much can you and your fiancé realistically—and comfortably— afford to spend given all the real-life expenses you have to cover?
- Based on your monthly income, how much can you both reasonably save between now and the wedding?
- How much, if any, can you responsibly pull from an existing savings account?
Estimate your personal wedding budget based on your answers to the questions above. Then add any other financial contributions that you're confident are coming your way in Step 1.
And there you have it. A ballpark wedding budget. Give yourself a pat on the back...then move on to Step 3.
Step 3: Estimate Your Guest Count
Now that you've got a ballpark budget, you'll want a ballpark guest count.
The cost of a wedding is pretty much based on guest count. (Read that sentence again and let it soak in.) The number of guests in attendance will determine not only the size of your venue, but also how much food and alcohol you'll have to provide (which, by the way, just happen to be two of the biggest wedding expenses).
Looking at your wedding as a "per-person" expenditure will help put the costs into perspective. Your guest count will generate the number of items you'll need to pay for—including invitations, table and chair rentals, cake slices, and wedding favors.
Being strategic about who you invite is the best way to cut down on wedding costs from the get-go. For help with tackling your wedding guest list, read this article.
Step 4: Choose Your Non-Negotiables
You and your fiancé will probably have differing opinions as to which wedding items are worth splurging on. Maybe your fiancé wants an open bar, but you'd prefer to avoid getting your guests drunk in favor of spending the money on a 5-course gourmet meal.
In any case, you'll each need to answer this question: What one wedding item is at the very top of your priority list?
Figure it out, yo—and then budget for those two items immediately. (Of course, if you have deeper pockets, you can each pick more than one.)
Once you decide your top priorities, you can allot a bigger percentage of your budget to them—which will also solidify how much you'll have left for the other wedding items that aren't so super important to you.
Step 5: Do Your Research
There are a lot of costs, both obvious and hidden, that you'll have to consider before nailing down where your wedding budget will ultimately land. For example, you often can't just buy the wedding cake; you're required to pay a cutting fee. And you don't pay just the venue rental fee; there may also be setup and breakdown charges. And, there's a whole slew of vendors you'll be expected to tip. Do you see where we're going with this?
It's no wonder that wedding budgets often get blown out of the water! So, educate yourselves about "hidden" costs—you'll have fewer surprises and be able to stick closer to your bottom line.
You'll also need to know the price of things in your chosen geographical area and season. Obviously a wedding in New York City hotel is going to cost more than one in a public park in Tucson, Arizona. Same goes for hosting your wedding on a Saturday in June versus a Wednesday in March. Do your research on the type of wedding you want, be honest as to whether or not it fits into your budget, and adjust your plan accordingly.
Step 6: Do The Math
After completing all 5 steps above, it's time to do a final reality check: Does your budget breakdown match the actual cost of your ideal wedding?
Once your estimated budget and your ideal wedding come pretty close to each other, create a spreadsheet and allot a certain dollar amount to each aspect of the event. We recommend using Google Sheets so that you can easily share your spreadsheet with your fiancé, parents, and anyone else who is contributing or helping you stay on budget.
PSA: Please Don't Go Into Debt To Say "I Do"
Here Comes The Guide offers this Public Service Announcement: If you want a harmonious marriage (and who doesn't?), don't start out drowning in debt. Think beyond the "big day" to your "big life" and smarten up. We all know what the #1 cause of divorce is, right? Right....
If you can't afford it, chances are you don't need it. And trust us when we say, you can totally have a champagne wedding on a beer budget (or hay-bale budget!). You just need to get a bit creative and focus on the feeling of the event rather than the price tag.
- Sensible Spending Tip 1: Start putting aside some savings as soon as you get engaged.
- Sensible Spending Tip 2: Use your credit cards responsibly. It's tempting to rack up credit card points during wedding planning, but try to pay off the balance immediately so that you don't accrue interest!
- Sensible Spending Tip 3: Open up a separate wedding checking account so it's easy to see exactly where the money is going.
And, again, remember that it's not about how much money you spend, it's how much joy you feel: At the end of the day, even if you get married for $50 at City Hall in a simple white dress (or suit!), we bet our bottom dollar it will be an incredibly beautiful and meaningful wedding.
Plus, you'll be able to afford that cab ride home. Win-win!