Weddings are the ultimate expression of love—from the romance that brought the couple together, to the creativity it takes to plan a wedding, to the inspiration it gifts to the guests who attend the special day.
But behind the love of the nuptials and the hope that the newly married couple will indeed live happily ever after, there’s the very practical question of how much will it cost and is it even financial feasible to pull it off as envisioned?
Very few couples are handed a blank check and told to “go crazy” before their wedding planning begins in earnest. Instead, much attention has to be made to the all of the financial considerations that come along with planning a wedding complete with a wedding venue, ceremony, reception, guests, a wedding dress, and all the other trappings that come along with the traditional wedding. It’s all about planning the wedding of your dreams within the confines of a dutifully set up and managed wedding budget that takes into consideration everything you can possibly think of—and anything you didn’t think of.
Setting up a wedding budget is important, but it shouldn’t take as much brain power as the actual wedding planning. Here’s what you need to get started and get saving.
First Of All, Who’s Paying For What?
Wedding traditions of yesteryear dictate that the bride’s parents pay for the entire wedding. Well, there’s a reason it’s called yesteryear, as very few of today’s couples actually practice that outdated custom. But this doesn’t mean you or your partner’s families can't help out in some financial way. According to Wedding Wire’s 2019 Newlywed Report, the average couple pays for close to 45 percent of their wedding, with family and friends footing the remaining bill. The same report shows that 42 percent of couples dip into their savings, while 30 percent of couples find extra work to defray some of the coast and 20 percent incur credit card debt while planning their wedding.
If you need help from your parents to pay for the nuptials, that’s a conversation you could have—just be prepared to answer specific questions about what you want and how much you expect it to cost. The conversation usually goes one of a few ways: Either the parents say they will pay for a specific dollar amount, forcing the couple to build a budget to those specifications; the parents decide to pay for specific items like the wedding dress or the catering venue, and the couple is responsible for everything else; or the couple and the families decide to split the cost evenly.
Consider A Money Tracker
The most crucial part of any money-managing operation is keeping track of how much cash is coming in and how much cash is going out. This factors into wedding planning, whether you plan to spend $10,000 or $100,000.
Of course, spreadsheets can be terrifying to anyone who isn’t a financial planner—injecting a dose of stress into an already pressurized situation.
Finding an easy to use money tracker is as simple as opening Google and typing “money tracker.” One of the most popular wedding-themed money trackers comes from Wedding Wire. The handy tool, which is available on their site and also as an app for your phone, does all the math, keeps you on track with your payments, and organizes every single imaginable aspect of the financial side of your wedding planning. You can also add your own new categories as you go along the wedding planning process—it’s completely customizable.
What’s great about a money tracker like this is you can access it from home, at work, while browsing wedding dresses, while with the baker, in the middle of visiting a venue—anyway the need hits for you to take a quick look at how your wedding finances are shaping up. And seeing all of your expenses laid out in this fashion can illustrate exactly how much the extra-decadent dessert menu will cut into your wedding dress budget.
This is all in the name of guarding against running out of cash before you’ve paid for all of the crucial aspects of your wedding.
Get Down To The Basics Of A Wedding
Once you have your estimated budget laid out, with certain amounts allocated for specific wedding elements, it’s time to start finding vendors who will actually deliver the product and services for your wedding. This is a very important step on its own—if the money tracker is Step 1, conducting research on the basics of your wedding is Step 1A.
This step covers the vast amount of information you’ll need to build the wedding of your dreams. Think about the “when” and the “where” of your wedding. What time of year do you want to get married? What is your wedding venue of choice? While your ceremony be on-site at the catering venue or will it be at a chapel? How many guests do you want to have at your wedding? Is food a top priority for you? If so, are you willing to spend a big portion of your budget on top-tier cuisine? What about booze? Are you fine with only serving beer and wine, or do you also want your guests to have access to spirits?
Also decide on your wedding style of choice—are you looking for full formal elegance or more of a charmingly casual event?
Back to that guest list, it’s probably one of the biggest determinants of overall costs. Can single friends bring a plus one? Will you be inviting children? Should long-term partners you’ve never met make the cut? Some hard decisions will have to be made at this time, but you shouldn’t feel badly about it. Remember that financial responsibility is the key to keeping your wedding budget from getting out of hand.
Creating a richly curated wedding timeline can help you organize all of the basics so that you can begin allocating money properly.
Create A Wedding Priorities List
Remember that blank check from earlier? You still don’t have one, so you’ll need to make a list of wedding priorities starting with the items and services you absolutely must have, and ending with whatever you could mostly go without.
Are you the type of person that absolutely must have a wedding planner? What about a magnificent four-tier wedding cake? Will you only settle for live band over a DJ? There are a few obvious additions to the high-priority list, like a photographer—which is how you’ll ensure having lifelong memories of your wedding day. Is hair and makeup a top priority for you? If so, you’ll want to prioritize that and set aside ample funds.
This is perhaps the most personalized section of starting the budgetary process. Maybe certain wedding elements that are high priorities for some people are barely even a thought to you. This is the time to rank those priorities and cross out the costs associated with anything that winds up at the bottom of the list.
Finalize Your Wedding Budget Preparation
Hopefully by now you know how much you have at your disposal to spend on your wedding, what products and services you absolutely must have to make your nuptials memorable, and who, if anyone is helping you with all of the final bills associated with this monumental event. Now, you can begin talking to the preferred vendors who will make this dream into a reality.
A few last minute notes to remember: Set aside emergency funds to cover any matter of possibilities, including tips for vendors; set aside cash for items like invitations, thank-you cards, and a gift for your mother-in-law; and understand exactly what you’re going to get with your money, which can only be done by having extensive conversations with all your vendors.
Stay Calm And Plan On
Planning your wedding budget can seem like a daunting task—and it can be, even when you utilize all the tools at your disposal. Just remember that the goal at the end of the journey is an absolutely memorable wedding of your own design, complete with personal touches, romantic moments, and lots of love from all angles. Take it one task at a time and you’ll be fine!