Working at agencies, I’ve managed multimillion-dollar budgets for clients, so the thought of tackling our wedding budget didn’t make me flinch. I’ve become the Excel spreadsheet queen armed with tips and formulas to get through any financial puzzle.
When MPR & I first got engaged, I read through the budgeting sections on wedding blogs and magazines, but ultimately, I turned to my tried and true professional process, which translated flawlessly to the wedding world. Are you feeling overwhelmed by your wedding budget, or lack thereof? Here’s where to start.
1. Figure out how much money you and your fiancé are able to spend
Take a hard look at your personal finances to figure out how much money you and your fiancé can realistically save each month to put towards your wedding, multiplied by the number of months you have to save. Remember: just because you can spend a certain amount doesn’t mean you should. Also discuss how much you’re willing to spend on your wedding day.
2. Find out if anyone else will be contributing to the wedding fund
Sit down with relatives who have offered to contribute to the wedding to find out how much you should budget for. They may offer you a flat amount, or they may offer to pay for specific items, ex. your dress and the band. If they offer the latter, try to pin down an amount they feel comfortable spending on that item to avoid awkward conversations when the bill arrives.
3. Immediately cut 10%
Now that you have a total budget set for the wedding, immediately take 10% off the top and put it aside for unexpected expenses and/or life after the wedding. Next, download and fill out the Perfection to Detail Wedding Budget Planning Worksheet. Through my research, I’ve come across many wedding budget worksheets, but they mostly tell you how to divvy up your budget, and I wanted one that would also help me manage my budget as I worked through my two-year engagement and booked vendors. So, I decided to create my own.
This worksheet serves five purposes:
- It helps you spread out your budget evenly so you don’t blow it on your first few vendors
- It lets you immediately rule out vendors who are drastically out of your budget
- It has a detailed list of the little things you may have otherwise forgotten to plan or budget for
- It allows you to keep track of budgeted versus actual spend
- It helps you stay on top of due dates
This is all highly customizable. The percentages are suggestions based on industry standards and personal experience, but ultimately how you divvy up your budget will be based on personal preference, which brings us to number four.
Have a wedding vision discussion with your fiancé and prioritize the various components. Together, pick the 2-3 things that are most important to you. For example, it was really important for MPR & I to have a great DJ because: a) we wanted the DJ to have a good flow and keep energy up throughout the reception, and b) we’re music snobs, so we didn’t want to have a band because we’d be listening to covers of our favorite songs all night. It was also really important to me to have an amazing photographer because photos are all that’s left after the big day. However, for you, it may be really important to have elaborate floral arrangements or unique, high-quality letterpress stationery. Whatever your preference, research these vendors first and allow yourselves to go slightly over budget, if necessary, in sacrifice of line items that are less important to you.
5. Spend less than you have budgeted
As you move through the planning process, strive to come in under budget on every single line item, if possible, and try not to dip into your 10% reserve. Maintain the budget sheet by keeping track of actual spend, deposits paid, and when the balances are due so you don’t miss any payments.
Remember: you’re never really done budgeting. It will never be final (other than when you hop on the plane to your honeymoon), but the key is to be flexible and keep track of all spending and contracts. Some line items will be over budget, some lines will come in under, and some you may opt out of all together. Just keep track of the big picture to make sure you don’t go over your total budget. It’s not worth it to start your marriage in debt.