Why is it so hard to stick to your wedding budget? Why do so many couples overspend? When it comes to weddings, the budget is everything. It’s the big plan, the rulebook, and the largest determining factor for what your actual wedding will be like. The budget sets a specific amount that you will spend on each service or item related to your wedding based on the total amount you can afford to spend. (Notice I didn’t say the total amount you WANT to spend. It’s all about what you can actually afford!) While many people have an adversarial relationship with their wedding budget, I encourage you to embrace it. Don’t look at your wedding budget as keeping you from getting what you want. Instead, look at it helping you get the things you want for the price you can afford to pay.
So to circle back to the questions we posed at the beginning of this article, why do so many couples break the budget while planning their weddings? The answer is a combination of unrealistic expectations and poor planning. This article will tell you why so many couples overspend on their weddings, and will discuss how you can ensure that you don’t.
Scenario: Jane Sets her Wedding Budget
When Jane and her fiancé began planning their wedding, the budget was one of the first things they established. After looking at their finances, they decided on a budget of $10,000 because it was an amount they felt comfortable spending. Next Jane decided to go to a bridal show to start pricing out her wedding vendors. She had always dreamed of having her wedding at a swanky reception hall with all of her friends and family. She would wear a designer gown and have a huge bouquet of calla lilies. She hadn’t really thought about how much these things would cost, but she figured that $10,000 would be more than enough. It turned out that the venue she wanted was $4000, her dress would be about $2500, and if she wanted to invite everyone on her guest list, she would end up spending over $6,000 on catering and beverages. She was already well over her proposed budget and still had a long list of services that she needed to book.
Setting a Realistic Budget
All of the “little things” that make up a wedding tend to add up very quickly. Often the bride and groom have no idea what each item costs until they begin speaking with wedding vendors. That’s when sticker shock sets in and the couple realizes that they either need to re-consider their budget or re-consider their wedding expectations.
When setting your budget, ask yourself “Where did this number come from?” Did you do any research to see what the average wedding costs in your area? Have you priced out venues, dresses, flowers, catering, etc.? While your budget needs to be an amount that you feel comfortable with, it should also be a reflection of the wedding you want. Don’t try to plan a $25,000 wedding on a $10,000 budget. It just won’t happen, and you’ll either overspend or be thoroughly disappointed.
The best way to plan a wedding budget is to first decide what kind of wedding you want. Small or large, fancy or informal, etc. If you want a large, fancy wedding you’re obviously going to spend more than if you have a small, informal ceremony. Try to decide what things are most important to you before you start coming up with numbers. Once you know what you want, try to figure out how much it will cost. Ask other brides in your area what they paid and call vendors to see how their packages are priced. Consulting with a wedding planner is also a great way to get realistic advice on what you can get for your money. (Note: You don’t have to hire a wedding planner to organize your wedding, but many planners will offer consultation services for a small fee. This can be very beneficial, as you will get a pro’s advice without having to spend big bucks for them to plan your entire wedding.)
It’s ok to spend more on the things that are important to you, but then you’ll need to compensate by spending less in other areas.
Now that you know what you want, and have an idea of what things cost, you can plan your wedding budget. Use a wedding budget planning worksheet to calculate the amount you’ll spend on each service/vendor. This is usually an exercise in compromise. You might not be able to get the fancy reception hall and the designer gown, but you might be able to pick one of those two things. You’ll need to balance what you want and what you can afford. It’s ok to spend more on the things that are important to you, but then you’ll need to compensate by spending less in other areas. Whatever you do, don’t spend more money than you have set aside for each item. This is a sure way to break your budget.
Don’t Get Caught Up In the Details
Wedding vendors are experts in up-selling. They know you’re excited, and they will tell you about all of the various options they offer. You’ll go in with a price in mind, but when the wedding vendor starts showing you all of the bells and whistles, it is very easy to get wrapped up in the details and lose site of your budget. When the vendor gives you a price, don’t be afraid to negotiate. Tell the vendor what you want to spend and ask them to create a package that fits within that amount. Most vendors who are worth their salt will gladly accommodate your request.
You’ll always get more for your money by working with a vendor that really wants your business.
If a vendor sticks up his nose and says something along the lines of “I don’t think we can help you” then you need to find a different vendor. You’ll always get more for your money by working with a vendor that really wants your business.
Don’t Get In Over Your Head
Too many couples are deep in debt because of their wedding expenses. They spent more than they could afford, and now instead of enjoying the newlywed experience, they are mired in debt and stressed about the bills they have to pay. Remember that your wedding is one day. It is an important milestone and it’s OK to throw a big celebration, but it shouldn’t leave you in debt up to your eyeballs. Spending a few extra dollars here and there can quickly turn your sensible budget into a monster expense.
Remember, planning your wedding should be fun. It might be stressful at times, but always keep the big picture in mind. You’re doing this to celebrate your love for one another. It’s not about the things you can or can’t have. It’s about sharing your special day with the people you love.
- Determine the top priorities for your wedding. What kind of wedding is important to you?
- Once you know what you want, begin researching prices in your area to see what costs are involved.
- Calculate the total budget and the amount you plan to allot for each expense.
- Meet with vendors and negotiate the service you need for the price you can afford to pay.
If you can stick to your wedding budget, you’ll be able to focus on what really matters.