Figuring out your wedding budget is one of the worst parts of wedding planning. Finances are difficult alone, but now you’re taking the first steps into merging your lives together and things may get sticky. You might have lavish dreams, but are they realistic for both your and your future hubby? According to Brides American Wedding Study, the average wedding costs $26,522! If that doesn’t make you bat an eye, then hey, have at all those details you’ve always dreamed about. But if you’re like me and are wanting to cry into a bottle of wine while analyzing that down-payment on a house/one year’s worth of student debt/brand new car then I have some advice for you.
Like nearly half of the couples getting married this year, G and I are covering the majority of expenses for our wedding. However, did you know that one in three couples actually goes over their wedding budget? This was not an option for us so we opted for setting a solid budget before doing anything else in the planning process. We began by tallying up all assets, listing our must-haves for the day-of, creating and maintaining a detailed spreadsheet, and being realistic throughout our engagement when it came to costs. It was hard work, but was so worth the time and energy to be wedding-debt free come post-nuptials. Here is exactly what we did on setting up our wedding budget:
Step 1: Add up your cash
When you are considering how much you have to spend on your wedding, there are two big sources to consider: you and your fiance’s individual savings accounts and the amount you can set aside over your engagement from your current income. Communication is key to a happy marriage and that communicating should begin now. Discuss with one another monthly expenses, monthly allowances, and what each can realistically contribute to the “wedding fund.”
G and I opted to open a joint wedding account to begin pooling our funds into for our wedding. After necessary payments for rent, student loans, and groceries, we decided on a set amount we each would directly deposit into this account for wedding expenses. We could not rely on the fact of having our wedding fund be a “catch-all” for any leftover dollars each month; instead we made a pact to contribute every month and held one another accountable. Sometimes this meant being unable to partake in a specific event or not buy a certain item, but we have met our budgeting needs and will have that peace in mind come our wedding day.
Step 2: Any contributions from loved ones?
One of the greatest pieces of advice I can give you is to never assume your parents (or any loved one) are able to help cover your wedding costs. While some couples’ families may still pick up the entire tab, The Knot’s 2017 Real Wedding Study revealed this is not the case. On average, the bride and groom now contribute at least 41% of the wedding fee and 10% of all couples cover all the costs themselves.
So what does that mean for you and your fiance? You need to ask your families if they are willing to assist you in your budgeting. I know, I know, that is not a fun subject to cover with anyone, especially your parents. (Trust me, our pride was strong on this front too.) But knowing an exact dollar amount is crucial and will help you determine your total budget. Some parents may prefer to cover specific parts of the wedding (such as the food or photography fee), and other sets may give you a set amount of dollars as a gift. No matter what your loved ones can or cannot contribute, be grateful and courteous of their gestures.
Step 3: List your priorities
Before finalizing our final budget, G and I sat down and listed our top three aspects of the wedding we felt were make-or-breaks for our Big Day. For me, I wanted a good photographer, good food, and a fun reception. For G, a church ceremony, family-oriented theme, and “as cheap as possible” were his criteria. (Yes, we had to have a long conversation on why a $100 wedding was simply not feasible in matching our dreams.)
In the same respect, we also discussed things that weren’t so important to either us. Knowing what mattered most allowed us to set priorities when it came to researching vendors and customizing a budget to fit BOTH our needs.
Step 4: Create a budget spreadsheet
Next came the creation of our budget spreadsheet. I am an Excel-ohlic and honestly loved this part of the budgeting process. My own personal budget is a colorful, detailed masterpiece and I made sure to make our wedding budget similar. To keep it simple for those who not as enamored by spreadsheets, there is an easy rule-of-thumb you’ll find across most wedding budgeting templates:
- Title three expense columns: Estimated Budget, Modified Budget, and Actual Costs
- Amounts under Estimated Budget will be driven by researching the costs associated with your total budget — here is a little diagram of typical wedding averages I created off of the Bride’s 2016 report:
- For Modified Budget amounts, the proposals you receive from vendors and/or estimated costs pertaining to costs in your area should be used. Be sure to include taxes as well!
- Actual Costs are pretty self-explanatory
For those who prefer to skip the hassle of setting up their own spreadsheet, please feel free to use this one by Uncorking Peonies: Wedding Budget Template
I’ve included Payments Made and Gifted Amount columns as well. These both came in handy for my own budgeting needs. If a down payment had to be made, I could track that amount and still know how much was owed. (I always placed the final due date in the Notes column.) Tracking our monetary gifts from family was also useful when we had to narrow down exactly how much we still needed to contribute come crunch-time.
Step 5: Start tracking
With your total budget, research on local vendors, and priorities in hand, it is pretty easy to start putting everything together for your customized wedding budget. You’ll need to tweak the budget to fit your needs throughout planning, but overall you now have a goal to work with which fulfills your needs. Stick to your set budget and aim to set aside a little extra money for last-minute expenses.
Step 6: Be realistic
My last nugget of advice is to be realistic as you move through your budget. You may have always dreamed of having steaks served at your wedding, but can you realistically afford $40+ per plate with your 200 guest list and $10,000 budget? Probably not unless you have no other priorities. Some of your “dreams” may have to be eliminated to make way for some unexpected surprises that throw a little addition sign into your budget. Small expenses can add up quickly! So if the total of a line item isn’t in your overall budget, you need to either cut it or cut somewhere else.
All in all, I’ll resort to my usual saying: your wedding is only eight hours of your entire marriage. Don’t start your marriage on a rocky foundation with wedding debt. Instead, focus on saving during your engagement (like limiting your weekly spending to save more in the wedding fund) and begin putting aside as much of your income as possible. If you don’t use your entire wedding fund, then great! You have a nice little chunk of savings to move into married life with now.
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There are a lot of sources out there which can help with ideas on how to cut costs and stretch your wedding budget. USE THEM! G and I are huge proponents for these — we ended up dropping our $12,500 estimated budget to $10,000. And I am so proud of us for looking past the wedding and wanting to be best prepared for a happily ever after.
Do you have any savings tips or budget stretching advice for my readers? Please share them below in the comments area or DM me on Instagram. I would love to hear from you!