Hold the phone – getting married’s expensive??
OK, everybody knows that it can cost a fortune to tie the knot. While nobody expects it to be cheap, the average wedding now comes in at a whopping $35,329!
If you don’t have that sort of money or want that kind of debt, or simply feel it’s unconscionable to spend that much on a one-day event, then it’s important to give your wedding budget serious thought.
Here’s our handy guide to how to make a reasonable wedding budget (and still have an amazing day).
Step 1 – Have a Series of Honest Conversations
There are few things in life on which you’ll find more people with an opinion that how a wedding should be run.
From who to invite, where to hold the ceremony, who should officiate – the soon to be in-laws, friends and workmates will all have some pearls of wisdom to offer.
Ultimately, the decisions on all matters – including the crucial budget and how it’s used – lie with the two people who will walk back up the aisle.
However, one critical point that needs to be locked down early is who is paying for what. You may decide to split the costs between yourselves, or family members on one or both sides may be involved.
Whatever arrangement you come to, make sure everyone knows exactly what they are agreeing to and can afford what they have committed to paying for.
Step 2 – Write Your Wedding Budget Down
This might sound obvious, but its a step many couples forget, and it starts them off on a slippery slope to marital tension and debt.
Before you go buying dresses, booking venues or sampling cakes, you should already have your budget planned out and locked down. There are lots of tools online, such as pre-made spreadsheets, to help you get started.
The great things about these tools are they itemize almost everything you could ever need to hold a wedding. As most people are novices when it comes to planning weddings, it’s helpful to
This will help you to avoid a lot of heartache along the way, from agonies in bridal shops to awkward and costly venue u-turns.
The following are headline items that need to be included in your wedding budget:
Budget Item 1 – The Guest List
The first key to budgeting – know how many people you’re budgeting for.
Does fewer guest mean a cheaper end cost? Not necessarily. Think about your venue. It may hold 100 just as easily as 50 – no extra cost there. The extra costs lie in variables like food and drink – these are in your control.
However, the more guests you have, you need to bear in mind that you will need to multiply every little nicety by that number. Our tip for a reasonable wedding budget – keep the guest list to people you couldn’t bear to be without.
Budget Item 2 – The Venue
With the venue often accounting for around half of the budget, it’s important to get this right. Make contact with venues well ahead of time, as popular venues can be booked over a year in advance.
Get some ballpark figures from venues that you are interested in and use these when putting together your budget.
Although early on it is good to set a fixed budget for the venue, over which you will not go, the proportion of it that you are willing to spend on the venue is up to you.
If you’re happy to move money from other parts of the budget to cover a classier venue, then that’s fine. Just don’t try to have it all, as the wedding budget will go out the window.
Also, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting with the venue. Are tables and chairs included, or extra? The bar area? The sound system? Stage lighting? All of these are potential budget drains that need to be sorted ahead of time.
There are other options to consider to dramatically reduce this major cost. If you’re having a summer wedding, do you know a friend or relative with a big backyard that could accommodate a marquee, or just be a beautiful setting in its own right?
Are there local municipal buildings that with a bit of decoration and careful lighting could be transformed into something special?
All of these options should be explored, as you could make a huge saving on your budget – possibly allowing you to splash out on other things.
Budget Item 3 – Food and Drinks
Another item to be carefully costed prior to setting the wedding budget, food and drinks can make or break the day.
No-one wants to remember your wedding as the one where such and such got wasted, and you don’t want to shell out thousands of dollars for limp salad and bland filet.
Make sure you’re happy that you are getting good value for money. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. The advent of the food truck has given many weddings a contemporary feel, a great talking point, and a major budget saving!
Careful estimating prior to setting the wedding budget is key.
Make sure all suppliers and caterers provide you with an upfront cost for everything. Double check what is included – never assume something is and then get stung with a costly bill later.
Budget Items 4 to Infinity – Everything Else!
Dress, wedding suit, rings, photographer, videographer, invitations, favors, flatware, table settings, flowers, bridesmaids dresses – the list of potential expenses for a wedding could go on and on.
It’s easy to become bogged down by all of these, but there are often fantastic budget-friendly options that are fun and creative, and cost a fraction of the cost of going the traditional route.
As one example, take the cost of hiring a professional photographer. Of course, everyone wants professional shots to capture high-quality memories of their day.
A great workaround could be hiring a photographer for just 2 or 3 hours, rather than the whole day. What about enlisting a friend with a great camera and an interest whose work you’ve seen and liked?
You can also add to the memories by asking friends to upload their personal shots to a wedding website.
You’ll get lots of candid and fun memories, as well as your professional shots, and you’ve just slashed the photography budget by a third!
With the best planning in the world, there will always be unexpected expenses.
This is where every wedding budget must have a contingency budget built in. A great tip to help you to prepare for the unexpected is to do a mental walkthrough of the whole experience as though you were a guest.
This will help you to identify additional things you need that you may not have considered.
It can be very tempting to ‘guestimate’ or hope for the best, but things will only lead to problems down the line. Look to budget at least 5% but probably more realistically 10% for all of those things that catch you unawares.
Step 3 – Constantly Update the Budget
As decisions are made, keep the budget up to date by inputting the latest figures.
Keep an eye on how things are squaring up against your estimates and how the contingency is looking. Keep an eye on the bottom line. If things appear to be getting out of control, take a step back.
Communicate with each other and the other family members affected, and look at ways that you can regain control of the wedding budget.
Whatever you do, never neglect the budget. It needs to be constantly used, kept up to date and monitored. If not, your wedding budget will go south and fast.
Step 4 – Set up a Payment Schedule
In the excitement of the run-up to the wedding, it may be tempting to want to keep mundane matters such as payments for various expenses out of mind.
However, with some careful planning, you can set up a payment timeline that clearly outlines when everything needs to be paid, how much needs to be paid, and who is paying for it.
Getting this in place well in advance will save you a lot of headaches around the wedding period. No worries that services will not show up because of unpaid advances, or that people will renege on their commitments.
How to Set a Reasonable Wedding Budget – The Takeaways
Open, honest and early communication is vital. This is true on everything – from the small decisions and personal preferences, to who picks up the bill for the big-ticket items.
Also, never guess an expense. Do your homework, the more diligently the better, and having done that, be realistic about what you can and can’t afford. Keep maintaining the budget so that you keep the bottom line happy.
Most people will have to make compromises somewhere. With good budgeting, you can work these out early on, so that you can have an amazing wedding that you will remember fondly for years to come.
To get your marriage off to a great start financially, check out our blog on Marriage and Money – 10 Things Couples Need to Know.