It is not easy to figure out your wedding budget. The wedding you host will be the largest and most expensive party you have ever attended. You will need to calculate your savings and keep a detailed spreadsheet to not go over the budget during planning. Also, be prepared for unexpected costs. If you exceed your budget, make significant cuts. Although it’s not easy work, you can make your wedding day a happy one by putting in the effort now. Here are the steps to help you set a wedding budget that you can keep to.
Step 1: Count your cash
The three main sources of money that determine how much you can spend on your wedding are directly related to your payment.
- Your fiance’s individual savings This is not as easy as checking your bank account. You and your partner should have three months worth of living expenses saved up in job loss or illness. This is separate from retirement funds. Add that amount to your bank total, and you can figure out how much you could use for wedding expenses.
- Set aside 10% of your monthly income to pay off student loans and other debts. “Establish direct deposits to a separate account so that it’s not just leftovers that get saved,” Erin Lowry, personal finance expert and author of “Broke Millennial” (Get Your Financial Life Together).
- Contributions from loved ones or parents: Lowry says, “Never assume that your parents or other loved one are willing and capable of covering the cost for a wedding.” It doesn’t hurt asking.
Step 2: Keep track of your spending
A spreadsheet should have three columns for expense: Estimated Modified and Actual. Estimated amounts will be determined by researching the costs in your area and getting proposals from vendors. The final amount you pay them will go into Actual.
After getting estimates from vendors, adjust your estimates. The venue is the most important part of the wedding and will determine guest numbers. Verify that tax is included in estimates from vendors. You can do the math with local and state tax rates to adjust the proposal.
Add a column to indicate the tip estimate. If gratuity is included in the vendor’s price, write “included”. For example, caterers will automatically add 15 to 20% to the total amount you pay upfront.
To cover for things that you might forget (invitation letter, parking valets) or don’t plan (corkage and plating costs), add a line item called Additionals to your total budget. This money should not be spent upfront. You will need it during the planning process for any incidentals. Trust us.
Step 3: Be Prepared for Surprises
Before signing vendor contracts or purchasing gift bag items, be sure to read all the details. Even small expenses can quickly add up. Reduce the cost of each line item if it is not within your budget.
Do you need to hire a band or photographer from out of town? You may need to rent a van or purchase plane tickets. You should double-check your contract to confirm what is included.
Setup and breakdown fees
You may need to pay extra for cleaning depending on when your reception ends.
Cocktails made to order
Calder Clark, a Charleston-based wedding planner, states that signature drinks and spirits can cost up to $3,500 for a 200-person wedding.
For the privilege of viewing and sharing your photos online, some photographers charge up to $1,200
Some stationers can charge up to $7 per invitation. Save money by inviting your bridesmaids to come over and drink some wine while you DIY.
Full-service event designers can charge up to $25,000, or 20 per cent of the overall budget for a Kardashian-scale event. However, a day-of coordinator will cost an average of $1,000. You may need to hire an outside coordinator for your wedding or contract one at the venue. Know your budget and calculate the cost of hiring a professional before hiring them.
Step 4: Take Charge
You shouldn’t be tempted to increase your cash flow by using credit cards. Farnoosh Turabi, a financial expert and host of the Money podcast, says that it is important never to charge anything you cannot pay off within 30 days. This is unless your card has a zero per cent purchase rate. In this case, you can avoid interest payments if you pay the entire balance within a specified timeframe (usually 12-15 months).
Before you swipe the plastic, Torabi recommends creating a plan. Register for cash gifts you can use towards the wedding, and then create a savings plan that covers the remainder. Choose a credit card that offers generous cashback if you do use it.
The zero per cent APR period allows you to use any rewards earned towards your honeymoon or pay off any outstanding wedding expenses. Avoid signing up for multiple cards as it can cause credit problems.
Step 5: Look for ways to save
Over budget? These ideas will help you cut down on your spending.
Change the venue.
Although lofts and barns may seem cheap, you can spend a lot to make them beautiful. Sara Fay Egan, an associate at Jackson Durham Floral and Event Design, Dallas, cautions that you may need to bring in tables and chairs, china and glassware, silverware and kitchen equipment for the caterer. Be sure to estimate the wedding cost in that space before you commit.
Modify the guest list
When you add in the cost of the invite, transportation, cake and favour, each attendee will end up spending far more than their meal. Clark says, “Never have an A-list and be ruthless in your A-list.” A 15-person guest list reduction of $1,300 is enough to save you about $1,300 for an average 135-person reception.
Do not exceed your peak.
Winter weddings are possible. You can choose a Sunday or Friday. Instead of hosting a four-course dinner with wine-paired wines, you can celebrate with mimosas at brunch.
57% of brides indicated that they would be willing to extend their engagement to save money for the wedding they desire. Torabi says that it is more difficult to negotiate when vendors know your time constraints.
You can host the ceremony and the reception at the same location.
This could help you save up to $4,000 on your wedding party’s transportation and that of your guests.
Forgo a live band.
A DJ can cost as little as a thousand dollars, but the big-name DJs can go for upwards of $30,000
All of your paper products can be ordered by you.
This includes creating or ordering your wedding invitations, as well as inserts. You’ll also be ordering place cards, table numbers, and possibly other items in the future. Thanks to technology, it’s easy to do most of these things at home. The couple will choose the right paper (most companies offer free samples), print it on their printer, and then put them together, stuff them, and send them off. You can order printed materials from a stationer but make sure you do it yourself. It will likely cost you more to have your wedding planner help you or do it for the shop, either through her markup or because she’ll be receiving a thank-you commission.
Send your invitations.
Calligraphy can be expensive. It would help if you used calligraphy to design your invitations. Consider buying a calligraphy pen, and practice until you are proficient. It is not difficult. It’s not difficult, and only an expert would know that it was not done by a professional. There are many tutorials available online.
Upgrades are not for you.
A key strategy to budget for weddings is to say no to unnecessary upgrades. It would help if you stuck with what is included in the package or the cheapest option. Sometimes, couples add thousand of dollars to their budgets simply because they don’t like the look of white-on-white tablecloths. They don’t like the chairs used for the ceremony.
Use fewer vendors.
Consider hiring a DJ who also provides lighting services to your venue or if your cake lady offers edible wedding favors. If you get more from one vendor, you will always get a lower rate. Plus, you won’t have to pay multiple setup fees or delivery fees if you hire separate vendors for each task.