A budget is probably the least romantic thing for a couple to do together, but ultimately, the most crucial aspect of any wedding.
There’s a tough saying in the wedding industry, “you can have the wedding of your dreams or you can have the wedding of your means” and there’s a lot to be said about that.
When planning a wedding, it’s easy to fantasize about hundreds of guests and thousands of flowers, but somewhere in that dream, there needs to be a wake-up call.
Nobody likes to talk about money but the number one question you should ask yourself is; “WHO is going to pay for my wedding?”
Times are changing and the traditional father of the bride is no longer the single financial source for a wedding. I would easily say at least 60% of all of my couples pay for their weddings. And that’s just the reality of the world we live in as now children often make more money than their parents. Think of this as a blessing in disguise because if you pay for the wedding then YOU get to make the decisions…usually.
Discussing finances is always an uncomfortable conversation, but it’s essential and you must participate in it. There’s nothing wrong with asking who, in either family, is willing and able to help with the wedding. Often there is an uncle/aunt, older sibling, or grandparent who is more than happy to lend a hand, especially if they don’t have children of their own. You never know unless you ask. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, we all know weddings are expensive, but it’s also a happy occasion that brings families together. So, on this 4th of July BBQ, I’d suggest asking around and you will immediately know who’s willing to help and whos not.
It’s easy to get lost in the planning of your wedding so you must come together and find out what you can realistically afford to put towards your special day. I’ve seen weddings with very small budgets that were beautiful, romantic, and enjoyable for guests. I’ve also seen higher-end weddings, $60,000 or $70,000, that were not as memorable, so it all depends on what’s important to you and how creative you can want to be.
Creating and sticking to a realistic budget is essential!
Whether it be having to put up a friend at a hotel, tipping your vendors, or having to buy your groomsman a new suit the morning of the wedding—true story, you should put aside a chunk of change for the unexpected.
Make a list of what you consider to be the “highlight” of your wedding! Remember, it has to be about YOU AND YOUR PARTNER and the things that make you both HAPPY!
For the bride, it could be her dress (duh, of course, it’s the dress) and for the groom, it could be his favorite band performing during the reception. Whatever it is, you both need to openly discuss it to formulate the budget.
Research on the cost of the different components of the event, everything from cakes to invitations, then arrange them in the order of importance and spend accordingly.
There are lots of websites and apps that can help you create budgets, so it is much easier than you think. You can often just download the template and “presto” you’ve begun.
The more challenging part is agreeing to spend what amounts on what item; cakes can be anywhere from $350 to $1500, flowers can range anywhere from $800 to $3000 / $4000, a known photographer can easily run $4000, a DJ can usually be found for around $1400, but a popular band can easily BUST your budget!
After the venue, the most costly aspects of your wedding will be catering, alcohol, and entertainment. A photographer is usually higher on the list and flowers can go from one extreme to the other, so together you need to figure out what you can and cannot live without.
The rest is simple math. It’s wildly exciting to have a HUGE wedding with hundreds of guests and thousands of flowers but when you break it down you must realize each person represents a chicken breast and a bottle of Cab, so kids, one of the easiest ways to save money is to decrease your guest list. ( I know, I know … mom will be upset)
The average invite list these days is about 150, but honestly, having 100 guests is the perfect number. It’s a healthy party and much more manageable. My rule is that if you have not received a birthday or Christmas card from a guest in the last two years then, unfortunately, you’ll have to be brutal and “cut them!”
A wedding is a time for your family and close friends to get together and celebrate. It’s not meant to be “Bridal-Palooza”. But it’s your party, GO BIG if you want. Just remember the caterer charges by the head.
Another way to be economically sound is to have frank discussions with vendors. Don’t be afraid to ask about ways that you can save money.
Vendors are accustomed to negotiating almost everything and nothing should be set in stone. For instance, if you’re hiring an expensive DJ, ask if will they throw in the photo booth, OR when working with the florist, ask if they can substitute exotic imported white orchids with a similar local white flower and save you hundreds of dollars. Can your caterer perhaps suggest a more affordable cut of beef and perhaps throw in extra veggies. TRUST ME, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
As I stated in my last article, bridal shows are a fantastic way to start planning your wedding and there is also an opportunity to save money! Almost every vendor will have a “show special” and if you are confident enough to book on the spot that day, you most certainly will receive some sort of special discount. And if you don’t … ASK for one!
It’s also a smart idea to open up a “wedding savings account” and then start putting a percentage of your pay as a direct transfer from your checking account. You can also start adding in any birthday money you receive, raises or bonuses from work, tips, tax refunds, eBay sales, you name it! Every dollar counts and it’s realistic to start 12 to 18 months ahead of the big day.
Not all etiquette experts may agree, but it’s certainly acceptable to ask for monetary gifts to be used for the honeymoon, or even a down payment for a house. You’d be surprised how many guests would appreciate knowing that their money is going to something worthwhile other than a Roomba! (Even though they are awesome…)
Another way to save money, (which is going to make me VERY unpopular) is to skip the table “favors” and parting gifts.
“WHAT?… not the favors!”
It’s very cute to have your initials on M&M’s or to pass out mini succulents at the end of the night but, trust me, being in the business, I see 60% of those cute little accouterments left on the table at the end of the night. Take that couple of hundred dollars and rent yourself a beautiful hotel room for the night or take your wedding party out for brunch the next day.
I’m sorry, I hate to say it, but no one needs a bottle opener in the shape of two hearts, as lovely as that may be. A warm cookie as I exit, well that’s entirely different.
As always, I will leave you with the same piece of advice as last time, please start planning NOW. Create your budget today! You’ll save yourself a whole lot of stress.
Take care & be safe!
Director of Events / The Bryan Museum