So you said, “yes!” Now, it’s time to plan the wedding of your dreams. Before you start browsing Pinterest for ideas, make sure to consider the cost of your wedding plans so they don’t derail your finances. Here are 10 tips to help you get started.
The old adage, “the early bird gets the worm,” is especially true in wedding planning. Start by having a conversation with your soon-to-be spouse about the time of year you would like to get married and how you envision your ideal wedding. Draft a list of two to four wedding components (i.e., photography, entertainment, venue) that are most important to each of you and prioritize these when setting your budget (we’ll get to that later). The earlier you have this conversation, the earlier you can start researching venues and vendors. Surprisingly, many vendors start to schedule events a year in advance, so try to kick-start the planning process soon after your engagement to benefit from a wide range of vendors and costs to fit your budget.
Draft a rough guest list
Sit down with your soon-to-be-spouse and brainstorm a list of the people who are important to include on your guest list. Once you’ve included your family members, think of the individuals you interact with on a regular basis — friends, family friends, coworkers, etc. — and add them to your list, as well. Come up with a rough guest list and use this to estimate the amount of people that are likely to attend. You will need a preliminary estimate of the number of guests when visiting wedding venues and allocating costs.
Determine who is contributing to the cost of your wedding
Setting expectations early is key to a stress-free conversation about the cost of the affair. Talk with your soon-to-be spouse about how much he or she is comfortable spending on your wedding, and the amount each of you can realistically save in the months leading up to the big day, taking into account your existing expenses. This number can vary, as every couple’s financial situation is different. Like many engaged couples, you and your future spouse may need to cover rent for an apartment, or may be starting to save for a house around the same time as you’re planning the wedding. It’s important to factor in the expenses that are essential to your day-to-day life while allocating costs for the event.
Traditionally, a bride’s parents paid for the full cost of a wedding — however, many engaged couples have started to drift away from this custom, instead opting to fund their weddings themselves. Couples who take this route often receive some help from both sets of parents. However, before making assumptions, it’s important for you and your future spouse to speak with your parents early to determine whether they would like to contribute, and if so, how much they are willing and able to contribute. Keep in mind that whomever is covering most of the cost typically has the most control over the event’s budget and the guest list. It’s helpful to set expectations upfront so conflict does not arise later on, when it’s time to make decisions and multiple parties are providing input.
Set a budget that you can afford
Start by making a list of all the wedding components you’ll be purchasing, including the ceremony site, venue, photography, videography, transportation, décor, stationary and more. Next, review the list and determine how much you can afford to allocate to each component. You may find it helpful to talk to other couples about vendors they used, as well as what they spent on each vendor. TheKnot.com has a budgeting tool that you can use to help evaluate how much you should be spending on each component.
Allocate a higher percentage of your budget to the priorities you and your future spouse came up with in Step 1. If you need help making decisions, it is often ideal to focus your spending on the factors that will ensure both you and your guests enjoy the wedding: food, beverages and entertainment, plus photography and videography, which will allow you to reflect on your whirlwind of a wedding day.
Another helpful tip is to think about weddings you’ve attended in the past: what did you like (or didn’t you like) about these events? What made an impression on you? Use those ideas to prioritize spending on your own affair. Also, remember to include gratuities (often between 15 to 20 percent of the price) in your budget. When contacting vendors, ask if gratuities are included in their price and plan accordingly.
Most importantly, try not to get caught up in the weddings you see in magazines and on Pinterest, which may be outside of your price range. Focus your time and energy on the most important thing — planning a day to celebrate this major life milestone with your closest family and friends.
Monitor your budget
Ensure that your budget matches up with the amount you and your families can contribute to the wedding. If your budgeted cost exceeds the amount you and your families can provide, figure out whether to cut back on certain expenses, or delay the wedding to give you more time to save.
If cutting expenses is your objective, the food- and beverage-per-plate cost is typically the largest wedding expense, so cutting back on the guest list can result in the largest amount of savings. If additional savings are your objective, consider extending your engagement and pushing your wedding back by six months or even a year to ensure you have enough time to accumulate the funds you need. As you begin spending on vendors, make sure to track your expenses against your budget so you can identify areas of concern early on, before costs spiral out of control.