Category Archives: set a wedding budget

BIG Mistakes to Avoid When You Start Wedding Planning

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milwaukee wedding venue with dramatic uplightingThe first step of starting to plan a wedding is to stop worrying! You don’t have to be an expert wedding planner to jump into planning your big day. You, do, however, need these wedding planning tips that keep you from making some very common planning mistakes.

Avoiding the “talk” with your fiance

The first step of wedding is to sit down and talk about what you both want (and don’t want) on your big day. (Their answers may surprise you!) No matter how tempting it is, don’t do anything until you’ve both sat down and discussed the major details of your big day. Talk together to narrow down the major details, but remember that they don’t have to be exact. Ask questions like, “what city do we want to get married in? What time of the year is right for our big day?”

From there, find out what each of you expect from your big day. Decide whether you want a big celebration or smaller, more intimate affair. Think about the style of your big day and what you both envision. Sort through harder questions, like the wedding budget, and who is responsible for each expense. Ask yourselves how much wedding planning you can take on, and what do-it-yourself projects you have time for (plus these other questions that start your wedding planning). Finally, ask yourselves, “what is one thing (or things) you’ve always wanted on your wedding day?”

Not setting a wedding budget

A wedding budget is the second step of wedding planning—and not a step that should be overlooked. This wedding budget checklist can help spur the discussion. As you discuss the wedding budget, make sure that you allocate more funds for more impactful items, like the wedding venue and menu.

Skipping the wedding venue tour

After setting a budget, the “how to start wedding planning” guide starts with setting a date and booking a wedding venue. While wedding venue websites and social media can be invaluable when looking for the right wedding venue, don’t get so caught up in the photos that you don’t see the venue in person. During the tour, ask important wedding venue questions and to see every space that you, your attendants, and guests are going to be in (including the restrooms). Sometimes those photos don’t do the venue justice; other times, the photos may be hiding unpleasant surprises that you don’t want to deal with on your big day. A full tour gives you the full picture of the venue and eliminates any buyer’s regret after you’ve signed the contract.

Ignoring the guest list question

Any bride or groom can tell you that one of the most common questions they get from vendors ask is about guest list question (“how many guests are you expecting?”). While you don’t have to know exactly how many guests you want joining you on your big day, you should have a general idea. This decision may not be entirely made by the bride and groom, so the first step of setting a guest list is usually a sit-down with anyone else financially or emotionally invested in your big day (plus using these tips for setting the perfect guest list.)

Thinking you don’t need to de-stress

It’s easy to jump into wedding planning headfirst without giving even a thought to de-stressing. Remember that wedding planning is a marathon—not a sprint—-and that an occasional de-stressing day can keep you from getting overwhelmed and staying sane throughout the process. (These ideas for de-stressing days come highly recommended.)

Viewing a wedding planner as an all-or-none proposition

The biggest (and most common) wedding planner misconception is that every decision, every detail is decided by the wedding planner. To be clear, sometimes hiring a wedding planner can mean handing over the keys (especially if that’s what is wanted!). However, there are wedding planners that can be hired on a part-time basis. If you only want a wedding planner for the wedding reception, it can be incredibly helpful (and practical) to hire an event planner at the wedding venue. In addition to knowing the ins and out of the venue, these event planners can be incredibly helpful in selecting the best local vendors for your big day.

Not getting organized

The long wedding planning checklist can feel overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be that way, especially if you can break your vision down into smaller to-do lists. Start gathering all the details you envision in your big day into a digital or paper folder (or binder). This step helps you stay on track with your vision as you plan, even if it’s not with the exact ideas in the folder. Treat your folder as a central hub for your wedding planning checklist, vendor contracts (and contact information), receipts, and any other documentation. (These other ideas for organizing your wedding planning can help too.)

Wedding Budget Planning: Where to start (& how to stay on budget!)

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elegant hall with centerpieces, white table coverings, and blush chair coversGood news! You don’t have to have a type A personality to set and stick to a wedding budget. Even a loose wedding budget is better than a blank check (unless you’re one of those lucky couples that has an unlimited wedding budget!).

Discuss your finances.

Whatever your budget—loose or strict—the best way to start is with a conversation. Discuss these wedding details as well as the financial contribution each of you have for the wedding (be honest-you want to get your marriage off on the right foot!). Discuss how you want to finance your wedding, such as straight from savings, credit cards, etc.

Ask any family members that have expressed interest in contributing to your budget for an idea of how much, or what vendor, they are willing to pay.  If the answer is something like, “we are willing to pay for the wedding venue” ask for the amount they expect to cover so you don’t book a venue that is far more than they expect. Make sure you ask for this information before you start planning so you don’t overestimate the amount that others may contribute to your wedding budget.

Start on a list of wedding expenses.

Make a list of all your expected wedding costs (i.e. wedding dress, tuxes, venue, caterer, entertainer, etc.) or use this wedding budget list from Real Simple or one of these wedding planning apps. Discuss what items are on the list that are top priority and budget accordingly. One of our friend’s fiance wanted to offer mixed drinks (it was important to him) so they decided to host an open bar. Discuss any special requests that either of you want, and prioritize the appropriate funds for those special requests.

If you need to trim expenses, decide which areas can be (realistically) trimmed (ideas for saving money on your wedding here). For example, lower the quantity of wedding favors you order or make favors one of your DIY projects (if it can be done cheaper). To save money on your venue, choose a date that is considered off-season or host your big day on a Friday or Sunday. Another venue-saving measure is to look for a venue that can hold your ceremony and reception at the same site; it can cut down on transportation costs and save you funds.

Establish the cost per guest.

Once you have a lump sum set, discuss whether the number of your ideal wedding guest list (how to craft the perfect wedding guest list here) realistically fits with the sum you have settled on. To find out the cost, contact your ideal venue and caterer. Ask the venue for an estimate for the site and tables, or ask your caterer for an estimate of food, tables, and chairs (depends on which vendor offers them). Add you entertainment vendor (band or DJ) for their cost, add it together with the venue and caterer, and divide it by the number of guests. Remember that any numbers they give you are completely estimates; the actual costs depend on the kind of food, serving style, overtime charges (some venues and entertainers include this fee), and other special requests you make. Depending on your math, you may have to cut your guest list.

Decide if you want to/can afford to hire a wedding planner.

Wedding planning takes a lot of time and follow-through.  If you don’t think you can take on the overwhelming task list (or don’t want to), check your wedding budget to see if there is room for hiring a wedding planner. Ask your friends and family for wedding planner recommendations or host your wedding at a venue where event planners are on staff.

If you can’t afford a wedding planner, use these tips so you are super organized throughout the wedding planning process. Choose a wedding venue with easy-to-reach staff members that you can ask for recommendations and suggestions.  

Track expenses before and after you hire wedding vendors.

Track your expenses as you receive receipts and estimates. If you find you have gone over in one area, find a way to trim that amount from another area. Make sure you ask every vendor if the list of expenses is a final estimate; there may be overtime charges or fees that are not included in the initial estimate. For your venue—which is one of the largest expenses in your budget—ask the venue staff if they provide the final list of expenses at the last meeting, which allows you to adjust your expenses as needed. This allows you to know the final cost so you can have a happy wedding day free of stress because you went over your wedding budget.