The wedding season is quickly approaching, as I am reminded by my younger cousin getting married next week in Mexico. Congratulations and good luck Jesse!
Thinking about weddings gave me the idea to write this article about how to budget for a wedding, which is also about having a wedding on a budget. After all, if you are using a budget that means that you are worried about the expenses. And let me tell you first hand that wedding expenses are one of the easiest to get out of control. A friend of mine was married a few years back and his wife used absolutely no budget. She just picked what she wanted. Picked a winery in Monterey. Picked wine that was $70 per bottle. Bought at $10,000 wedding dress. You get my point. Luckily, her father covered most of the costs, but I’m guessing the whole thing cost well over $50,000, maybe even near $100,000. Anyway, the wedding was nice but wasn’t all that special. And three years later my friend is single again.
Anyway, getting back to budgeting there are few important things you have to pay attention to when making yours.
Setting Your Total Budget
To start with, sit down with your spouse-to-be and find out what his or her thoughts are about your wedding budget. Find out how much, if any, your parents plan to contribute to your fund. And then, find out how much money you could spend on your wedding without wrecking your budget for the whole year. In other words, do you have money saved? Are you good at saving money? Are you going to put the expenses on your credit cards? If you know that you will be going into debt, then it doesn’t make sense to have an expensive wedding. Instead you should focus on the fun factor. People remember weddings that are fun, not that are expensive. They don’t need to be expensive to be fun. Come up with a figure that is reasonable for your area and for you incomes. Don’t go overboard, but you’ll probably need a bigger budget than you first expect, so leave some leeway for all of the small expenses that will spring up. Once you have your total budget, it’s time to take care of the big things.
Allocating the Budget to Specific Wedding Expenses
Given your budget, you’ll need to spend the majority of it on the reception. Renting a banquet hall and providing food, drinks and entertainment will be at least half of your total budget. Start looking around at hotels, country clubs or other locations that are willing to accomodate you and get estimates of their availability and estimated costs. If your wedding reception is like ours was, drinks were by far the biggest expense. If that could be the case for you too, then it makes sense to find a banquet hall or reception area that allows you to buy your own supply of cocktails and kegs. Places that charge by the glass can cost you many multiples more. If your largest expense will be food, find a place to get married that will allow you to bring in your own caterer, instead of using the expensive hotel services or some other requirements. Simple steps like this can literally save you thousands of dollars.
During this stage you’ll need to shop around and get estimates for all of your major wedding expenses. Then, start subtracting them from your total wedding budget to see how much you have remaining. The more money smart you are with your big expenses like food, drinks and reception hall, the more you’ll have left over for the entertainment, flowers and cake.
Update: We now have produced a free wedding budget worksheet and instructional video that you can use to help allocate expenses.
While you are hiring people and buying things for your wedding, you’ll have to make a lot of tradeoffs. Don’t see these tradeoffs as big negatives, but as any other compromise. I know it’s easy to say that “you only get married once” so you shouldn’t skimp on your wedding, but I’ve never ever heard anyone say “we should have spent more on our wedding”. In fact, most people barely remember the day because of all the excitement and the non-stop barrage of people and pictures. Saving money on one or two items so that you can splurge on something else is a totally reasonable tradeoff.
Another tradeoff that my wife would recommend would be to rent your wedding dress. I know this may sound crazy but you literally wear the dress once! Some women spend $10,000 on their dress. We didn’t spend that much, but we did pay to get it professionally cleaned and sealed, which added a few hundred dollars more to the cost. Sometimes this is done with the thought that you can pass your dress on to another generation, but that rarely happens. Renting a dress can save you thousands, and have you ever heard anyone say anything negative about any bride’s dress?
Many times, to keep the wedding budget reasonable, you have to make sacrifices and tradeoffs. While they might seem like a big deal when you are making them, NO ONE will even realize the difference when your big day arrives.
What Others are Saying About Budgeting for a Wedding
Let’s see what other blogs are saying about this topic.
Here is what Tonya at Happy Living said:
Step 4Determine the number of guests for your wedding. You can also figure out the general amount you will spend on the reception based on the number of guests invited. If needed, decrease the number of wedding guests to help you meet your desired financial goals.Step 5After setting the budget, be sure to stick to it! Do not alter your budget in any way for anyone after you have set it. Breaking the budget is an early indicator of irresponsibility in the marriage. Prove that you are focused and can follow a detailed plan.Step 6Save your money and plan ahead of time. Start a savings account with you and your spouse-to-be specifically for the wedding and honeymoon. Make all payments from the account so that you can keep track of what you are spending.
You can find the rest of this at http://www.happynews.com/living/wedding-bells/set-wedding-budget.htm.
Also, I enjoyed reading this post on Project Wedding that discusses how a couple were able to throw a wonderful wedding on less than $5000. Of course, they had to do much of the planning, food and desserts themselves. Here is how they summed it up:
There were other random incidentals that came up, so I don’t know the real total, just that it clocked in under $5000, including the exorbitant cost of the private chapel ($1200 for just 2 hours of use time, but it was my sis’s dream location) and the vintage rings they found for each other at an antique dealer in our hometown.
Of course, we did all the work ourselves, so I don’t really know how to come up with a cost for that. I loved planning this wedding, but it convinced me that wedding planners more than earn their money. This took major planning, thinking ahead, researching, dozens of my nerdy organizational spreadsheets, plus a scale drawing of the backyard layout in AutoCad. We had three families and innumerable friends helping out, which was amazing, and fun, and more than a little crazy. Everything was simple and a true labor of love. No one seemed to mind not having plated service or a wedding band. We forgot to toss the bouquet. No one cared. After we saw off the happy couple (they camped out on the beach for their honeymoon), lots of people stayed to help clean up a bit and someone ran out and ordered massive amounts of In’n’Out burgers and fries and we all sprawled around and finished off more champagne.
Read the full article at http://www.projectwedding.com/wedding-ideas/budget-savvy-bride-smaid-planning-a-backyard-wedding.
There are endless types of wedding you can have. And trust me, there is a wedding for your budget. In fact, back in the hometown where I grew up, many wedding consisted of a wedding in the church, followed by a reception at the local fairgrounds! They rented the hall for a few hundred dollars (if even that) and bought a few kegs of beer. The invitation was typically an article in the local paper inviting “friends and family of”. The food was typically homemade ham sandwiches on a bun and potato salad. The weddings couldn’t have cost more than a few hundred dollars, but everyone sure had fun.
Any wedding budget ideas to share? Drop us a comment.