Category Archives: wedding budgeting

How to Avoid the Worst Wedding Budget Mistakes

wedding day at a reception hall with bride and groom dancing after wedding planning

Setting a wedding budget isn’t as much about the total number, but about divvying up the funds you have. It is possible—especially if you avoid these common wedding planning pitfalls that almost every couple makes.

Not asking the hard questions

A solid wedding budget starts with a conversation between you and your fiancé. Discuss the total fund amount, how much you each have to contribute, and where the funds are going to come from (plus these other important wedding planning questions).

Skipping this question—or all of these questions—is a far too common occurrence among couples. The conversation may be awkward, however the discussion is an important first step in discussing finances—and avoiding later conversations about wedding day debts.

Being unclear with friends and family willing to chip in

There are two parts to this common wedding planning mistake: 1) assuming that people want to contribute to your big day, and 2) not confirming the amount of the gift. Couples can avoid any misconceptions (and drama) by asking if the relative or friend wants to contribute (even if they have previously expressed interest in helping you out). Never assume—not even about your parents!

If your friend or family still wants to contribute, make sure expectations are set about the amount they want to contribute. You don’t want to book your dream venue for $2,000, only to find out that your friend or family was expecting a bill for half the amount.

Not using a wedding budget spreadsheet

A wedding binder (either paper or digital) is more than just an awesome place for all your wedding day ideas. It’s also a central spot for all the documents that keep you organized, including the wedding budget spreadsheet.

Wedding budget spreadsheets are an excellent way to allocate funds to areas that make the most impact on guests: the venue, food, and entertainment. If you prefer digital tracking, there are several wedding budget apps that can do the same and track your expenses. The goal of both methods (paper and app) are the same: to keep your wedding costs within budget so you don’t have any post-wedding buyer’s remorse.

Throwing receipts away

Setting a wedding budget is the first step in the process; to many couples, that’s as far as wedding budgeting goes—and the chief reasons many couples go over budget. Don’t neglect the vital next step: tracking all the expenses and recording the expenses. It may seem like a lot of work, especially when all those wedding planning deadlines add up, but it’s well worth the effort when you have a healthy amount left over for the honeymoon.

Spending too much on the littlest details

Beautiful dresses and cute favors are an incredibly tempting splurge, but all those overages add up—often without impacting the overall experience. Instead, allocate the majority of funds for the “big ticket” items that guests love (and remember). At the top of that list is the wedding venue because it is a huge part of guests’ first impression and the stage for all those other details. (This wedding venue checklist helps narrow the options). After the venue, plan on investing the majority of your funds in items that play a big part in the overall experience, including the catering and entertainment. This budget checklist suggests that up to 50% of the overall budget go toward the reception.

Ignoring the fine print

“Who has time to read through all these contracts?” This mantra has been uttered by many couples, but it can also lead to hidden charges and additional fees. To avoid those unpleasant surprises, read through contracts from start to end. Avoid asking open-ended questions (“how much is the cost of your service?”) that don’t give you a full view of the cost. Instead, add questions like “how much time is included in the venue cost?” and “what other costs should we expect?” to your venue interview list (and vendor questions).

Another way to avoid unexpected charges is to book a venue that gives couples a full list of charges at the final planning meeting. This simple step allows couples to make adjustments to the final wedding reception plans that bring the overall cost into budget.

How can I keep my wedding within budget?

couple cutting cake on wedding date

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.

10 Tips for Finding the Perfect Wedding Venue on a Budget

bride and groom on steps of elegant historic wedding venueIt is possible to plan a wedding on a budget.  (Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!)  Before you dismiss the idea of a beautiful wedding on a less-than-stellar budget, use these tips to plan the perfect wedding in a wedding venue you can be proud of.

Choose a venue that doesn’t need a lot of décor.

If you want to keep your wedding décor costs down, look for a wedding venue that makes a statement even when empty.  This keeps your wedding décor costs low, allowing you to prioritize your funds for other areas you care about, such as your dress, food, etc.

Look for a venue that lets you choose your own vendors (and costs).

If you want to be able to compare numbers from your wedding vendors, ask potential wedding venues if they have a policy that allows any vendors to come in. This policy puts you in the driver’s seat, allowing you to control who you work with (as long as they meet insurance requirements) and the costs to make sure you stay within budget.

Ask a lot of questions to make sure you don’t go over budget.

wedding venue with outdoor touchesSome venues charge by the hour or add on additional fees that can make your budget number seem like a distant memory.  When choosing your venue, use this list of wedding venue questions to make sure you have a complete list of all costs before you receive the bill.  Another way to make sure you stick to your budget is to ask your venue if they hold a final wedding planning meeting that allows you to make last-minute adjustments so you know the final cost—and that it is within budget.

Pick a wedding date that’s off-season.

There are certain times of the year that are considered off-season for weddings, such as January, March, and November.  To the contrary, June and October are considered busy times.  If you’re flexible on wedding dates or haven’t chosen a date at all, let your budget lead you to the perfect day to get married (this tips can help you choose the perfect wedding date as well).  You’ll get the perfect venue on the perfect day without busting the bank.

Hold your wedding on a Thursday, Friday, or Sunday.

If you have your heart set on a particular wedding venue but want to keep the site cost down, contact your wedding venue and ask if they offer a lower rate for non-Saturday weddings. Many wedding venues offer a lower cost for these non-peak days; if your venue doesn’t, choose a wedding venue that does so you can stay within your budget.

Don’t assume that a venue is too expensive.

It’s natural to see the pictures of a beautiful wedding venue and assume that there is no way that could fit in your wedding budget.  Don’t assume anything until you’ve contacted the wedding venue.  You never know if that wedding venue fits your budget—or if the cost of an off-season, non-Saturday wedding could be the right number for your wedding budget.

Eliminate your transportation costs.

Instead of booking two wedding venues, book one venue for your ceremony and your reception.  Holding your wedding day at one place eliminates transportation costs and allows you to use your wedding décor for both your ceremony and reception.  To make sure you still get beautiful wedding photos, shop around for venues where you can take beautiful wedding pictures without going off-site.

Limit your guest list.

It’s a logical connection: more guests, more cost.  Use these tips to get to the perfect guest list, but keep your budget in mind.  Estimate what the cost per guest is (approximately), and pare down your list to the right number that fits with your calculations.  Some vendors may have a minimum cost or number of guests required, so be sure to ask before you count on a vendor that doesn’t fall within your budget.

Be smart about your bar policy.

To shave dollars off your wedding costs, consider minimizing your bar costs.  In lieu of an open bar, cover the cost of your guests’ beer but ask they pay for hard drinks.  For other ideas, ask your wedding venue staff for ideas on a suitable policy that’s suitable for your guests and your budget.

Look for venues that include staffing.

It’s a common misconception: if you hold your wedding venue at a bare bones wedding venue with a cheap venue fee, your overall wedding costs are going to be kept down.  Instead, the opposite is often true: by the time you hire a bartender, fill the hall with décor to make it beautiful, and hire or buy anything else that’s not included, you’ve spent far more than you would spend at a wedding venue with a hall coordinator, bar staff,and all the other “must haves” of a beautiful wedding.