A wedding budget is a precious thing. Whether you have a few thousand dollars or thousands of dollars, one of the biggest wedding planning challenges is spending those dollars without going over budget. We’ve assisted many couples with staying on financial track as they plan their special day; here are tips to help plan your dream wedding without busting the budget.
Set a budget.
It’s every couple’s worst nightmare: running out of money for big ticket items because they didn’t plan. To avoid this worst-case scenario, talk to your wedding fiancé before you start planning (ask and discuss these other questions before you plan as well). Ask other friends and family who have expressed interest in contributing to your wedding expenses if they still wish to do so (and the amount of that gift).
Don’t just agree to a lump sum; break your budget down into categories so you can ensure that you allocate dollars where they are needed the most (use this wedding budget worksheet from Real Simple). Usually, the largest expenses are the parts of the wedding day that make the largest impact: wedding venue, catering, and bar expenses.
Track your expenses.
Don’t set a budget and walk away from it. Ask for estimates from key vendors (i.e. caterers, venue, photographers, videographers). Make sure the estimates fall within the budget numbers you set. Once you start getting estimates in, determine whether your guest list count jives with your allocations in your wedding budget.
Look for red flags as you plan.
Overtime fees, hidden supply fees, staffing charges. Interview every vendor you contact to determine the quality of their product or service and if the costs they quote you are the final estimate (no unpleasant surprises later!).
Be smart about all those little charges.
There are a lot of line items on a wedding budget worksheet. Small overages can add up in a big way by the time you’re done planning every detail; prioritize each expense to avoid busting your budget. As tempting as it might be to spend another hundred here and another hundred there, decide what smaller charges you really, really want (and not just really want!).
Remember, too, that the lowest price does not always equal the best option. A cheap (or free) wedding venue might seem like the low-cost leader; however if your venue is vanilla, the additional costs of decorations and supplies can push the total cost over an inclusive wedding venue.
Double check your numbers at your final planning meeting.
An unexpectedly high bill can be a real downer on what’s supposed to be the most important day of your life. That being said, avoid pre-paying vendors in full until the product or service is delivered. The middle road is to choose a venue that offers a final planning meeting with a full list of charges that can be adjusted to fit your final budget. If the invoice is lower than expected, you can add in extras they wanted but were concerned about the cost. If the invoice is higher than the budget, there is still time to scale back the final wedding details to an amount that falls within your wedding budget.