Is your upcoming wedding draining your bank account and threatening to suck up all your available credit? Have you reached the point of selling advertising space? ("This union was brought to you by Elmer's Glue. Now let's head to the Farmer's Insurance Wedding Reception.")
It’s easy for wedding costs to spiral as couples can get a spare-no-expense mentality about their special day. How can you control overspending tendencies and stay within a budget? The first order of business is to make one.
Rather than start with the things you want and total up the costs afterward, start with how much money you can afford to spend and work backwards based on what is most important to you. Who is paying, and how much can all those who are paying afford to contribute? If Mom and Dad are footing most of the bill, they should have significant say in the total amount.
Once you have a spending total, drop that by around 5-10% to allow for contingencies. Just as building projects include extra spending cushion for the unexpected, you should do the same with your wedding plans. Things always happen at the last minute that require extra funds, and you don’t want to have to spend time immediately before the ceremony shuffling costs around and looking for last-minute ways to save.
Next, prioritize what's most important to you within the following factors, and shift money from the less important items to the more important ones. For all cases, look over the itemized details for expensive frills that can be removed.
- Ceremony/Reception – Most of your money will be spent here, in per-head costs for food and drink, rental of the venue if needed, DJ/band costs... and don’t forget to pay the offiiciant. Typically, these combined costs are about 50% of the overall budget.
The easiest way to save: invite fewer people. $100 per head is a decent rule of thumb for cost estimates. You can also save money by choosing a non-traditional venue such as a park, or by choosing less popular dates. Keep the catering menu simple, and don’t go overboard on a wedding cake. Go with less expensive local flowers, and use fewer of them.
Remember to include tips for everyone involved in your wedding and reception. This can add up to hundreds of dollars depending on the size of your wedding.
- Gown/Tux – Attire tends to run at about 10% of the overall wedding costs, mostly for the bridal gown. Grooms can save on tux rentals by renting as a group along with the groomsmen. Brides are often particular about their wedding gowns, so our advice is to begin shopping as early as you can to find the best deal.
- Photo/Video Costs – You can save by hiring less experienced photographers/videographers, but for many couples, proper preservation of their memories is one of the most important aspects. Discuss your needs with candidates, and shop around for the best blend of price and capability. Book as early as possible, especially during peak season.
- Paper Costs – Keep your invitations, thank-you notes, and ceremony programs simple and elegant. Excess customization and multiple-color printing will cost more. Don't forget to include your postage costs.
- Rings – Go shopping together for rings so you can make the best decision on budget, and have a dollar value in mind before you go shopping so you are not tempted by options that are too expensive. Look for a design where the stone can be upgraded later when your finances are established.
- Honeymoon – The honeymoon is one area where you can control 100% of the costs. Consider a simple laid-back honeymoon to relax and enjoy each other's time, and save the more extravagant "honeymoon" for a future anniversary when you can afford more of what you want. Consider it a milestone celebration for your successful marriage.
Multiple online sites offer wedding budget checklists. Use one of these checklists to make sure you have covered all the potential costs, then adjust within categories and eliminate costs as you see fit. Again, go by your budget and not by any list of recommended costs.
These may be difficult budget decisions, but if you make them up front, you will be able to relax more on your special day. You have planned everything out as well as possible, focusing on what is important to you while avoiding taking on Geico and Budweiser as corporate sponsors. Congratulations, and here's to a long and happy marriage.