February 10, 2020
It’s important to know that every couple should create a wedding budget. Wedding budgets are essential. You need one no matter if you are spending $20,000 or $200,000. Without a wedding budget, you will be stressed out, financially strapped, and often times miserable. This is no way to begin a marriage. Your engagement presents a unique opportunity to set the stage, and the rules, for yourselves as a couples to plan financially for the first time and to make thoughtful decisions with your money. Let’s clarify a few things. A wedding budget is not just a figure. A wedding budget is a system in place for tracking expenses and a thoughtfully produced list of wedding expenditures with a budget range attached to each one. Ok. So…huh?
What I mean is: If you are asked (maybe by your wedding planner) what your wedding budget is, you can respond with a number. But you will need to break that down into different categories to identify how that large number will get broken up. And here’s where I am going to blow your mind. Do not pick a number as your limit! You want to choose a range to stay within. A financial range will allow you the comfort of planning to hit the lower end of your range while also knowing how you will pay for items when, or if, you go over that number. It also means that you have to have an excel spreadsheet, google sheet, or ledger where you have the ability to look at each item in your budget and plan for an estimate of the expense, a place to record the actual expense, and a third space to track what has been spent and what is due when.
Everyone has different ideas about what is important to them on their wedding day. For me, a priority was having a dress that made me feel like a rockstar goddess. For others, it might be having their favorite party band. What does this mean: it’s actually kind of simple. Once you are able to figure out your wedding priorities, as a couple, you will be able to allocate funds in your budget according to your most important budget items. Download and print out our wedding planning checklist and priorities activity to help you figure out your’s. It will ask you to edit our list of wedding expenses, so that you and your future spouse have the same list. Then, separately, number the items from most important to least. Look at the lists together, and see where they match up. That’s how you will begin to identify your priorities as a couple.
So, your first step is to see how much money you have, and figure out how much money you can save each month to put towards a wedding. You can increase your budget at this point, by increasing the length of your engagement. You still have this luxury, before choosing and booking a venue.
Many couples will be given money by others (parents, etc.) with no strings attached. This is always amazing and generous. Other times, those contributing towards a wedding budget will offer to pay for certain items. A dress from grandma has all kinds of special and emotional attachment, right!? Your favorite aunt wants to pay for the flowers. This is wonderful, but what if they have a serious difference in design? If the money is attached to having “a say” and can complicate things further. But that is not always the cases. My mom wanted to pay for my wedding dress. She had paid for my sister’s dress. But our budgets were dramatically different. In the end, my mom contributed to the overall budget for my dress. And we were both happy.
One of the reasons wedding budgets present such a challenge to couples is because they are placing a financial number on a very emotional investment in a really important day, not just for the couple getting married, but for their families as well. It can also be really confusing when the internet and Pinterest is full of amazing gorgeous wedding photography and stunning details, beautiful table setting designs and dramatic wedding venues. Guess what!!??! So many of them are not real! In the wedding industry there are photoshoots done all the time. We call them styled shoots. They are done to create content meant to inspire couples with ideas for their weddings. They are also for portfolios, websites, Instagram, and to explore creative ideas and stretch creatively. But here’s the thing, they are not real weddings and so many of the ideas, materials, and details are ones that would be cost prohibitive to recreate in their entirety. It is the hope that couples will find a few ideas that they love and incorporate them into their big day. But so many times, these styled photoshoots lead people to believe that this is what “everybody” is doing. And, trust me, it’s not.
This is a really difficult way to begin a marriage. Weddings are expensive. And despite what you might think, you will not receive in gifts the amount spent on your wedding. Paying for a wedding with a loan or by making purchases with a credit card, can be a disaster. You might find a low-interest loan or credit card that is interest free. Just be very thoughtful with how you go about using them. It’s great to earn points. But not if you have to pay for them, later on, in interest.
When you look online for wedding budget worksheets it can be frustrating when they don’t match up with the quotes you begin getting. How come the Pinterest wedding calculator says florals should be 8% of my budget and the quote I got from my local florist came in at 12%. The thing is this: percentages are random and they will never make sense, because it all depends on your guest count. The percentage spent on a photographer, for example, will change dramatically for a 30 person wedding versus a 250 guest wedding.
Sometimes people have no idea what a wedding, today, costs. That includes BOTH couples and their parents! When a parent got married in 1980 for $20,000 and had 250 guests, it can be hard for them to understand how dramatically weddings, wedding expectations for couples and the industry has changed in the past 40 years. For couples who have never planned a wedding, it’s hard to know. And thus, the phrase “sticker shock” comes into play. Many have decided that the explanation for this is something called a “wedding tax.” I’m going to burst the myth of the wedding tax right now. It doesn’t exist. Weddings are expensive. And they are high stakes. If I’m planning a corporate event for 200 guests and we have to choose a chair style, I show my client 2 chairs. If I’m planning a wedding, and we have to choose a chair style, it’s likely to become 5-10 emails and a phone call. They are simply more work than other types of events. They take an additional level of expertise on the part of your vendors and a lot more time.
I hope all of this helps you to get started planning a wedding budget and creating a positive financial plan for your first major investment as a couple. If you are looking for more help with a wedding budget, feel free to give me a call. BWE already has a system in place for our couples to plan and track their budget, as well as payments made and when future payments are due. If you’re interested in downloading the workbook and video that will help to walk you through all the things, join the BWE JumpStart on Facebook here.
Thank you to the photographers who allow us to use their images on our site:
Ashley Mac Photographs, Heather Palecek Photography, Idalia Photography, Jessica Erb Photography, Susan Elizabeth Photography, Delaney Dobson Photography, Ann Coen Photography, Lovesick Inc., K Hulett Photography & Melanie Cassie Photography
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