Saturday, January 22, 2011

Wedding Budget

This is one of those times that you must remember that I am not a financial professional and any advice/opinions I may give here should be taken at your own risk. In addition, I have no affiliation what-so-ever to TheKnot.com, I just happen to love it. 

A few days ago, a friend asked me how much I thought she should set aside for her wedding. I thought about it and almost immediately came to the conclusion that that's not a question that can be answered without further information. Sure, I could throw an arbitrary number out there, but that wouldn't do any of us any good. The problem is that no two weddings are alike, and therefore, no two wedding budgets are alike. A wedding can cost as little as the price of a marriage license or as much as it costs to fly your 300 closest friends to Tahiti for a week.

First you need to figure out what exactly needs to be paid for. TheKnot is a great resource. There are things on their list that you may not be using/doing, but it's a great starting point. I had no idea when I began planning my wedding that I would be expected to pay something called a "cake cutting fee"...wtf? Apparently there is much more to a wedding budget than my dress and a cake. Who knew? My point is that you need to make a list of everything that will need to be paid for.

Next, in case you're not quite overwhelmed enough, you need to figure out who is paying for what. I know this is a rather awkward conversation to have but it must happen. And it needs to happen sooner rather than later. You need to know how much of your wedding you will be responsible for so you can save enough. If you are the bride, is your family planning on handling all the traditional "bride's family" expenses? Is your groom's family planning on doing the same? How much of the wedding will you and your betrothed be personally responsible for? These are all sticky subjects, but don't expect to get too far in your wedding planning without these details ironed out. It is only then that you can begin to figure out your actual budget.

Once you've figured out what needs to be paid for and who is paying for it, your budget needs to be tailored to you and your wedding specifically. One of the most helpful hints I've read is to pick your "splurge items" first. Pick those couple of items that you will pay a premium for (or as close as you can get) because they are the most important to you. (For us, our photographer was a splurge item. We were determined to have a top notch photographer to document our special day.) Remember, even if you designate a "splurge item" or two, be careful not to splurge so much that you are unable to afford the rest of your wedding. And remember that if you are picking splurge items, you will have to cut some corners on other things.

Now, how to allocate the rest of your funds? Websites and magazines alike have lots of tips on how to dedicate your wedding budget. (TheKnot even has a special budget calculator thing.) There are lots of suggestions on what percent of your budget to allocate to which item. Once you figure out how much you can spend on your wedding (I would strongly advise against going into debt just so you can have a Cinderella wedding) use one of these formulas to figure out about how much you should spend on each item. Even with these helpful hints, you still need to take your individual situation into account. For example, our reception venue includes venue, food, DJ, table/chairs, place settings, and table arrangements (though I could bring in extra if I wanted to). I spent more then the suggested percentage on my reception venue because of the fact that it includes all these other things which I will now not have to spend money on.

While considering all of the above, you must also remember that your budget must be realistic. How much can you and your fiance/e really contribute while still being able to meet other financial obligations (rent, food, etc)? I would suggest a hard look at your finances and developing a strict savings plan. Additionally, make sure all other parties will realistically be able to contribute what they promised. The budget is one of the most stressful parts of wedding planning (right up there with the guest list), but both of these things have to happen or there will be no wedding. And, once they're done, you can get started on the really fun stuff, like dress shopping! :)

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