Good 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.