Getting engaged puts girls on cloud nine, and to say that we tend to get carried away with our ideas can be a bit of an understatement. As much as I’d love for you to rent that giant grand ballroom or ride in on horse and carriage, that just may not be possible. Here’s the deal, ladies: I totally get that a budget is the most strenuous part of the planning process. However, unless you’re financially at A-list celeb status, having a set amount will not only keep your sanity in tact as you make numerous financial decisions, but is crucial to the well being of your soon-to-be abused bank account. So rather than just throwing out a random number and hoping you stick to it, sit down with your fiancé, pull out your wedding planning binder, and be ready to talk money!
Tips For Your Wedding On A Budget
Parents often offer to pitch in for their children’s weddings, so if they plan to do so, know exactly how much and/or what for. Some parents just give a general dollar amount to be used, whereas others may want their money to go toward specific things, such as the bridal gown or reception venue. Work this money into your budget accordingly.
There is no established rule on who pays for what (do whatever makes sense for you, your fiance, and your families), however, here are how the costs are 'traditionally' split:
Bride and family:
- Church and/or venue space
- Marriage license
- Officiant's fee
- Bride's dress, veil, and accessories
- The groom's ring
- Invitations, announcements and wedding programs
- All professional services, including food and decorations for reception
- Arrangements for the ceremony and reception
- Bouquets and corsages for bridesmaids and flower girls
- Photos and video
- Groom's outfit
- Bride's bouquet
- Bride’s ring
- Boutonnieres for men and corsages for mothers and grandmothers
- The reception’s DJ or band and liquor
- The rehearsal and/or groom's dinner
- Plans and hosts the engagement party
- Maid of honor and bridesmaids
- Host the bridal shower and bachelorette/hen party
- Best man and groomsmen
- Host the bachelor party
- All attendants
- Pay for their own clothing and shoes
Start saving as soon as you’re engaged. If you want to start saving before that, even better! Keep in mind that the average cost for a 150-person wedding is about $27,000, and obviously this can vary significantly. Put aside a percentage of each paycheck that you’re comfortable with—15% is ideal. As long as you are consistently saving, you’ll know exactly how much will be in your account come the wedding day.
How to Be Savvy, Not Cheap -- In All Aspects of the Wedding
Below are all of the major money-sucking aspects of your wedding.
Know your priorities. Before seriously hashing out numbers, talk with your fiancé and decide on your top 5 priorities from the below list. This will help determine whether you want to put more money into the catering rather than the DJ, or into the photography rather than the flowers.
Make a list of everyone you'd potentially want to come and narrow it down. Keep in mind that each guest is costing you about $100 for food, drinks, desserts, and favors. Don’t be afraid to not invite your 2nd cousin across the country or your mom’s group of friends who would “love to go.” In the end, you’re the one paying for them, so sit down with your fiancé and decide on who really needs to be there.
If you select an off-peak season (November-April), and host a wedding that is not held on a Saturday, you’ll be saving a considerable amount of money. If you also decide to hold your ceremony and reception in one spot, you’ll be able to save in decor and a lot of other details. Also, the vendors that get paid by the hour would charge less since they won’t have to travel from one place to another.
You might want to use more greenery than flowers, and maybe swap out flowers (garden roses instead of peonies, for example). Using a limited number of flowers that are in season is another good approach. Ask your florist to create arrangements that work both in the ceremony as in the reception--you can ask a dependable friend to move the arrangements to their second “shift”. Also, don't be afraid of silk florals -- they can look just as real as the real thing!
There are seriously endless options out there for bridal gowns -- and tons of affordable ones at that. Follow your heart and go after the perfect style for you. If something is not perfect, ask for some tailoring and make it the best dress ever!
Stationary and Favors
No one said you have to create a details card, an rsvp card, plus the invitation card. If you're looking to cut costs, just create the invitation piece and put the rest of the information on a wedding website. There are a lot of designs that combine the invitations, reception and response card in one unique design, and they look great! You’ll be saving postage and making sure all pieces are received at once.
If you choose to use digital invitations, have a graphic artist make the greatest invitation ever and email it to all your loved ones. You can also ask your guests to RSVP on your wedding website or app. No paper, no hassle!
One favor per couple is more than enough. Also, if you limit the number of favors, you can invest more in making them great. Make sure that they’re easy to share! Like a delicious treat.
Photography and Video
There are tons of amazing photographers out there, but they don't always carry an amazing price-tag. However, there are so many wonderful photographers out there who don't charge an arm & a leg, so just do your research and ask your family and friends for references!
If you go for live music, you can opt for a string trio – music is still beautiful, and the quantity of musicians is less than an entire band. If you actually prefer a DJ, hire them for both the ceremony and the reception.
There are a few ways to avoid over-spending on food. Consider a gourmet pasta bar or even passed hors d'oeuvres versus an entire meal. Whatever your selection is, you might want to include meat and vegetarian options, apart from food selections that you’re certain your guests will enjoy.
Also, you can opt for children’s meals that are friendly and way more affordable, like hamburgers, fries, or chicken fingers.
Paying a flat rate for alcohol and finding out that your guests are not big drinkers is not a nice surprise. You might want to consider paying alcohol à la carte and offer beer, a signature cocktail, and wine instead of a full bar.
One of the most important elements! And because of that, it’s important to remember that overdoing decorations won’t look baroque, only overwhelming. Keep the add-ons simple and use fresh flowers that go with the place’s decorations. If you prefer, use only one small cake –the one that will appear on all the pictures-- then serve your guests a larger sheet cake.
Another option is to offer a variety of smaller, affordable deserts, like pie or donuts.
Organization, Organization, Organization
Use a budget worksheet. Mathematically breaking down your budget will really give you a clear idea of how much to spend in certain categories. Pull out your wedding planning binder and consider the worksheet at the end of this post. Between you and your fiancé, come up with a general idea for a budget and then give the worksheet a whirl. Obviously you can adjust each category percentages based on your own priorities, but seeing the numbers broken down will help put it all into perspective.
Plan Your Schedule
Gaps between events are a definite no. As mentioned above, having the ceremony and the reception in the same place (or at least, having both events in near places) will save you money, save traveling time for your guests, and keep the romantic mood!
Ask for Discounts
Ask your vendors (nicely) if they’re willing to offer a discount in exchange for an honest testimonial or just plainly ask for seasonal discounts. It doesn’t hurt to ask!
Stick to Your Budget!
Your budget is slightly dynamic, it’s not written in stone. Some elements might be cheaper than you thought, or more expensive. However, in the end, a budget is a budget and you should do your absolute best to stick to it. Keep in mind that there are a lot of large financially stepping stones ahead, so going over budget could prevent future milestones from happening as soon as you might have liked them to.
Overall don’t be afraid! With a clear mind and a defined plan of action, you’ll make your wedding a total success.
What aspects are the most important to you & your fiance for the big day? Was there some disagreement or were you both on the same page? Leave a comment below & let us know how you handled that decision!