If you are like most couples today, your wedding budget is (at least) a bit tight. Overall, the cost of a wedding is going down because people are cutting back. They are inviting fewer people, plus more of the wedding costs are falling upon the couples’ shoulders.
Even on a low budget, however, you can still stay on budget and have the wedding of your dreams. Know what you can spend in each area, then keeping track of how much money you have committed and how much you have left. Think of your wedding as any other large purchase: you want to keep the cost at or below a certain number. The obvious first step is knowing that number.
Set Your Budget
Before you begin planning, have discussions with everyone who may be contributing to your wedding costs. Most likely this will be your parents, future in-laws, and you and your fiancée. Each of you may be covering a set dollar amount, or paying for a particular part of the wedding or rehearsal dinner. The general expense categories to keep in mind during these discussions and as you come up with your total budget are:
- Wedding planning tools such as a checklist and budget planner or wedding website.
- Wedding stationery, which include invitations and related inserts, programs, and save the date cards.
- Both the bride’s and groom’s rings.
- Bride and groom’s ensembles and appearances (in other words, what you will each wear, including jewelry and accessories)–wedding gowns, veils, other headpieces, her shoes, his shoes.
- Reception and ceremony expenses, including related rentals–favors.
- Photographs and video, including both the professionals’ time and cost to buy the finished products.
- Music or entertainment (DJ, live band, etc.)
- Wedding party gifts for bridesmaids, groomsmen, parents, and others who participate in the wedding.
- Transportation such as a limousine or rides from and to the airport.
The rehearsal dinner and honeymoon are generally budgeted separately from the other expenses. The rings are often looked at as separate expenses as well.
When you have the total amount decided you are ready to break out your budget by category.
Decide Category Spending
Your best approach is to use an interactive budgeting sheet to split your dollars into categories. (I have a free one for you here).
- Wedding planning tools. 1-2%
- Wedding stationary. 3-5%
- Rings. 2-3%
- Bride and groom’s ensembles and appearances. 10-15%
- Reception and ceremony expenses. 50-60%.
- Photographs and video. 8-10%.
- Music or entertainment. 6-8%
- Gifts. 2-3%
- Transportation. 2-3%
- Other. 3-5%
Now that you know how much you can spend on each category, the next key is limiting spending to those amounts.
Sticking to the Budget
You will notice there are two columns in the budget sheet I referenced above. This is because knowing what you have already spent (or committed to spend) is critical to staying within your budget. As you order, buy, or commit to contracts, keep a running list of both those expenses and what this leaves you with.
What if it looks as if you cannot stay within your budget? This is where your creativity comes in. There are several steps you can take to help you stay on budget. Here are a few:
- Keep your guest count low.
- Have the wedding on a lower-demand weeknight or Sunday for lower rental rates.
- Prioritize what’s important to you; scrimp on what is not.
- Do-it-yourself (DIY) as much as possible.
- Shop online for lower prices.
Whatever your approach to staying within budget, remember sharing your big day with family and friends is what really counts. So don’t sweat the small stuff!