This September, the news hit: the most expensive wedding cake ever had been created, to the affordable tune of $106 million -- most of the cost was due to the 4,000 diamonds encrusting it. Luckily, you can get a cake that’s a lot more affordable -- and a lot less likely to break your molars.
It’s no secret that weddings can be expensive, though, and the first step in planning your wedding is planning your budget. This will help you determine the difference between expenses that are a modest indulgence (an upscale manicure, for example) and expenditures that you just can’t justify (the $5,000 designer gown).
Here are 5 tips for creating a workable wedding budget.
1. Determine Your Guest List
How close are you really to your mother’s great aunt? The guest list can be a source of consternation, but it’s one of the first things you really need to get out of the way. Otherwise, you’ll go to all your vendors claiming to have 50 guests -- only to realize after adding up all the cousins that you will need room for 75. According to CNN, 137 is the average number of guests attending a wedding, though you might be above or below that number depending. Trying to get a number based on your budget? Weddings.about.com recommends “budgeting about $100 per guest” to start with.
2. Make a List of the Top 3 Things You Need in Your Wedding
We can throw around average wedding costs all day, but the truth is that what people spend on individual services varies wildly depending on what matters to them. When you think about the “ideal” wedding, do you dream about the cake and the luxurious venue, or are you more focused on the open bar and the perfect dress? Figure out what matters the most so that you can comfortably allocate a little more to these services, while not worrying so much about the parts you can compromise on.
3. Choose Your Venue and Work Around It
If you’re new to the wedding scene, you might not realize that a lot of the “tips” for saving money you’ve read are often flat out impossible depending on your choice of venue. Your venue may or may not allow you to: not use a caterer, opt out of bar services completely, choose a local DJ instead of their in-house live band, allow indoor sparklers, etc.
For this reason, it makes sense to choose your wedding venue to know what you can and can’t include in your budget. According to Weddingwire, you can expect the reception to account for about 45% of the overall cost.
4. Don’t Forget About All the Nitty Gritty
Here’s a few things you may not have considered as part of your budget yet, even though you likely want some or all of these things: the transportation to and from the venues, the rehearsal dinner, table linens, invitations, wedding chair rentals, the marriage licenses, wedding programs, the officiant fee, beauty treatments for your bridesmaids, menu cards -- and that’s just the obvious ones. Sometimes working with a wedding planner can be helpful for eliminating the “hidden” costs and budgeting wisely.
5. Don’t be Afraid to Talk to Mom and Dad
Not everyone’s parents are willing to contribute to weddings, especially when many parents are now contributing to the overwhelming costs of college often around the same time. If you have reason to expect that your parents or your future spouse’s parents plan on contributing to the budget, though, now is the time to be upfront. Ask them what services they are willing to cover, or how much they are willing to contribute overall.
Ultimately, the key to crafting your wedding budget is to plan ahead and learn to prioritize. If you feel really lost, many websites offer free wedding budgeting spreadsheet tools that can help you visualize what your expenses are going to be.