Category Archives: wedding budget steps

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.

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

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.