6 Steps To The Wedding (And Budget) Of Your Dreams

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!

Until next time, 


4 Wise Tips on Preparing for Marriage After the Wedding

I know I’ve said it before, but here I am saying it again: the wedding is only the beginning of what should be the rest of your blissful married life. As husband and wife, you’ll be embarking on years of new adventures after the one day of festivities. Your wedding day is only a grain of sand in the grand beach of your entire life. It is best to prepare for life following the Big Day and not only the day itself.

I am a big believer that if you adequately prepare for something — that is, to prepare mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, all of the above — then your chances of success increase substantially. Though I know there will never be enough wisdom and information I can gain to fully prepare for marriage, I do feel I’ve gained a few gems of advice in which to set a firm foundation as a newlywed.

These four gems include advice on communication, clarification, adjustment, and agreement between both the husband and wife in order to have a happy marriage. They touch on possible challenges once you’re married and encourage you to invest in your partner following your vows. They are all examples of how G and I plan to enter our marriage, and I would love to share them with you!

1. Learn how to resolve conflicts with a team mentality.

When it comes to mentors granting marriage advice, resolution of conflicts and investing in your partner are the two tips advised from every role model. For conflict resolution, the healthiest way to do so is with a “team mentality.” By this I mean that each individual approaches the conflict with an “other-first” way of thinking. You want to understand the other person’s perspective, relinquish the need to be right, and extend both grace and understanding while you communicate the issue.

Marriage is hard work. I’ve witnessed the hard work put in from my parents, grandparents, and other role models. I cannot predict specific problems in my future, but I do know hard times will roll through. Sometimes it may be your partner’s fault, but it’ll be yours just as often. Look inward before pointing the finger and always try to look at things from both sides. Compromise is key, and never be afraid to apologize.

“You can have peace or be right, but seldom both.”

This is a quote one of our dearest friends and mentors has said to us several times while giving advice on marriage and happiness. G and I have actually taken to quoting it to one another when we are having a disagreement. It reminds us to stop, think, and consider what the other is thinking before jumping to conclusions or fighting for our point. Perhaps creating a similar “pauser” with your partner may help cool heated situations in your future as well.

2. Make your relationship the priority.

This little tip was exceptionally difficult for me at the beginning of my relationship with G. Since college I have kept my schedule busy, penciling in this-or-that every evening in order to never have a second’s rest. I spent more time in group meetings, going out with friends, leading discussions, playing sports, and sitting in appointments than I did actually sleeping. If I wasn’t moving, I wasn’t happy.

Then I started dating G and I realized why I kept myself so busy: to stop from feeling so lonely and unsettled. I was continuously searching for more in my life, but once I met G I realized he was the more I needed.

As our dating became more serious, my to-do list became less scheduled. And in my free time I found not only more time for worthy relationships in my life but also more time for myself. Even if evenings were only binge watching Netflix, making dinner, or sitting around reading a book. I no longer felt like I needed to be so active in order to be happy. Instead, I found contentment in my downtime which always seemed to involve G.

Nowadays, I’m almost a homebody. If I have more than two evenings occupied by responsibilities, I will be sure to leave all others empty in order to enjoy time with my fiance. We agreed early in our engagement to make boundaries in our schedules and actively build our friendship and love every day in order for our dreams to come true.

Looking back, I could not be happier with this decision. Opting to invest in our relationship rather than continue on my own path allowed me to truly get to know the man I’m going to marry. G and I do not only go on dates — actually going out to movies and dinner are rare for us — but we do LIFE together. We grocery shop together, cook dinner together, do book and Bible studies together, exercise together, do errands together, etc. We spend more unplanned time together than “penciled in” time. This has allowed us to get to know what each of us does when nothing in particular is planned, which (we’ve been told) will be what married life is like.

3. Talk about your finances.

I know it’s usually taboo, but when you’re blending your life with someone else, finances must be discussed. Especially since finances are the top reason for couples to fight in marriage and the number one culprit for divorce. Be open on all financial topics with your partner and start venturing into the idea of merging your lives in this capacity as well.

It might be a smart idea to create a budget together and a savings schedule before you’re married. G and I were given this advice and though it was new to both of us to include another person in our financial affairs, we are so thankful to have this started! Not only can we visualize what a blended financial life will be, we also can set goals as a couple in which to work towards following the wedding. (Because, you know, we’d like to buy a house someday…)

There are also the topics of taxes, insurance, and debt settlement. You’ll now be checking the “married” box when it comes to tax season, but you need to decide whether you’re going to file together or continue to file separately. Your various insurances may also change with a marital status update. Will you be sharing health benefits through work? Will you be including your partner as a beneficiary for life insurance? All of these things should be discussed before marriage.

If you’re just as confused as me by the possibility of so many changes, there are endless tools for you to use to scout out the best offers. One such tool is Reviews.com which allows you to search for the best car insurance options now that you’re married and moving out from Mom and Dad’s house. This is something I am facing since I am getting married within the same fiscal year of turning 26-years-old and Reviews.com provided me a listing of all options in my area for the best auto insurance rates — something which I am so grateful! Or perhaps advisory tips like this one when it comes to health insurance and wondering what options are best. Do you join your partner’s business’s benefits or find another choice? Blogs and advisory articles across the Internet may assist you with your decisions.

Another not-so-fun topic is debt. Yes, this means you need to discuss that $80,000 school loan you plan to pay off when you’re 90-something. Or that credit card you say you use only during emergencies, but emergencies usually involve Starbucks and Charming Charlie. Debt does not have to be a “way of life” nowadays, and discussing a plan with your partner to create a debt settlement schedule is crucial for a happy beginning in marriage.

Also, watch your partner’s money habits. Is he careful with money or does he not care about debt? Does he work hard for his money and is motivated to provide? If he spends money he doesn’t seem to have and doesn’t like to budget, this will definitely continue into your marriage. Discuss both your financial situations now before you marry and start making movements to blend your finances gracefully.

4. Know you have a lot more room for personal growth and that you will both evolve over the years.

There’s something that gets under my skin while watching movies and it’s when an unhappy husband or wife say, “He/She changed.”

Well… yeah!

Every single person in this world changes over the course of their lives. Life experiences, hardships, and evolving opinions and beliefs mold a person on a yearly basis. Think of the person you were in high school/college/a year ago; have any of your habits or thought processes shifted? Mine definitely have even within the past year! I am proud to not be the woman I was a year ago and I am excited to meet the woman I’ll be a year from today. 

However, it is not enough to recognize change in yourself and to be happy with those results (or unhappy and choose to shift for a better future.) You need to realize this is occurring in your partner as well. So keep the conversation going and share the experience together over the years in order to not grow apart. Instead of being ignorant to this fact, embrace it and embrace your changed partner on a daily basis. That is one of the best things about marriage — you can continually fall in love with the same person! It is all about constant investment and wanting to lean on one another through those changes which truly captures what Love means.

To summarize all these points: learn to communicate and understand your fiance(e) prior to the wedding day so you’ll begin marriage with a steady foundation built on two lives becoming one.

Doing so is a great way to open your mind to the changes, adjustments, and challenges that are bound to occur in marriage.

Heck, I’ve never been married. I don’t honestly know what I’m talking about when it comes to preparing for marriage. I’m as lost as the next bride-to-be who’s scratching her head at why she loves this farting, burping, heavy-metal head-bashing, leaves-the-toilet-bowl-seat-up-EVERY-TIME man so fricken much.

It is all a process.

And I am so blessed to have been granted some awesome role models when it comes to married couples and been given great advice on marriage. I am soaking in all this wisdom like a sponge, hoping to keep a few key snippets in my mind once the wedding is complete and I’m a new wife.

In the end, that’s all I can do and I’m happy enough to think I might be able to stumble through marriage just as gracefully as I am with wedding planning…

Best of luck to us all,