10 steps for creating a wedding budget
Whether you are spending $10,000 or $100,000, determining a budget (and sticking to it) will help control costs in a world where they can very quickly spiral out of control.
One of the first — and most important — steps in the wedding planning process is creating a wedding budget. Talking about money is never fun and this is arguably the least exciting part of planning a wedding. But it’s a very necessary step! Your wedding will likely be the biggest —and most expensive — party you’ll ever host. Whether you are spending $10,000 or $100,000, determining a budget (and sticking to it) will help control costs in a world where they can very quickly spiral out of control. These tips on how to create a wedding budget will help you say “I do” in a way you can actually afford!
1. Don’t spend a dime yet. While it may be tempting to start booking vendors and shopping for decor the minute you get engaged, our best advice is to NOT! Avoid spending any money until you have nailed down a budget as it will dictate what you can realistically spend on all facets of your wedding. A purchase may be tempting but if it doesn’t fit comfortably into your budget, you’ll begin your wedding planning journey off in the red, and that’s not a good place to start.
2.) Consider what type of wedding you want. Have you always dreamed of a chic, black tie fete in a swanky downtown hotel ballroom? Or are you more the laid-back-rustic-vibes-with-a-BBQ-feast-on-a-farm kind of couple? Are you adamant about a Saturday night wedding or are you open to a Sunday or even a weekday? Is it an evening celebration or does a brunch wedding sound like so much fun? Do you want to get married in a super popular month like June or October, or will you get hitched in January? Your wedding style, venue, time of day and even the time of year all come with their own price tag and are factors you should consider when figuring how much your dream wedding is going to cost.
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3.) Do some research. According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding in the United States is just under $34,000. Meanwhile, the typical cost of a wedding in Pennsylvania is slightly above average at nearly $36,000. Keep in mind these numbers are averages and vary widely based on state, guest count, style and a number of other factors. Regardless, does this mean you have to spend this much on your big day? Of course not…but weddings do cost money. To avoid sticker shock when inquiring with potential vendors, we suggest you do some homework first. Research the average costs of Pittsburgh photographers, florists, venues and more. Ask your friends and family members what they spent, hit up Google and join our Burgh Brides Pittsburgh Wedding Planning & Ideas Facebook Group to find out what your like-minded peers are spending. Being informed about standard prices within the wedding industry will allow you to have realistic expectations.
4.) Determine who will be contributing. Whether you and your fiancé will be financing the celebration independently or your families will graciously chip in, you have to figure out who will pay for the wedding. It’s time to have an awkward but imperative conversation, as it will impact your wedding’s bottom line. We suggest approaching your families individually and having an open, honest conversation while asking if they intend to contribute. You can negotiate a dollar amount or allow them to finance specific aspects of the wedding, such as transportation, catering, or the honeymoon. While traditionally one family was responsible for most wedding expenses, these days both families — as well as the couple themselves — help to pay for the wedding.
5.) Nail down your non-negotiables. Do some wedding day soul searching. What are the most important things to you, both individually and as a couple? Maybe you just have to have that designer wedding dress, or you’ve always dreamed of lush, luxurious florals, or you can’t imagine not dancing to a live band all night long. Whatever they are, your non-negotiables will become your priority expenses and you should allocate more money toward them. Next, determine what would be nice to have…but your day won’t necessarily be ruined if you can’t fit them into the budget. You’ll allocate some money — but not all — here. Lastly, what things don’t matter all that much to you? Think menu cards are a waste? Cool with skipping the champagne toast? You guessed it…very little money should be allocated for these expenses.
6.) Estimate your guest list. It’s just simple math — a wedding with a 200-person guest list will cost a lot more than a 50-person one. For the most part, a wedding’s price tag is determined by the guest count, and the easiest, most surefire way to cut costs on your wedding day is to cut the guest list. More people means a larger venue; more chairs, tables and linens to rent; more food, alcohol and cake to serve; more save-the-dates, invitations and thank-you cards to mail…the list goes on and on. There are lots of benefits to having a small wedding, and spending less money is just one of them.
7.) Crunch some numbers. After you’ve gone through the steps above, it’s time to put it all together. What amount of money do you feel comfortable spending? Does your dream wedding style and proposed guest list realistically align with your budget? If not, make some adjustments or concessions. Repeat this process until you reach a wedding budget and spending plan both you and your fiancé (as well as your families, if they are contributing) feel good about.
8.) Discuss how you will be paying. You have a budget…but from where exactly is all this money coming? Will you be tapping into your savings? What future income can you set aside? Can you use credit cards responsibly? A wedding — while a once-in-a-lifetime event that deserves to be celebrated — is not worth going into debt. We repeat: not worth going into debt. While it may be tempting to rack up credit card points or even take out a loan to pay for the big day, we urge you to think beyond the wedding. One of the most common reasons for divorce is money problems, and you do not want to start your marriage off drowning in debt.
9.) Get organized. Whether it’s with a budget tracking app, Google Docs, or good old-fashioned Excel, you need a system to track your spending. To begin, enter in all the anticipated wedding expenses and their estimated costs. Don’t forget to account for taxes and tipping. In another column, record the actual final total, and adjust the remaining balance of your budget if need be. Save receipts and record each and every penny you spend to know exactly where your money is going. You may also want to consider opening a checking account specifically for wedding expenses. Pay for all wedding-related invoices with funds from this account to stay organized more easily.
10.) Don’t forget about hidden costs. Corkage fees, cake cutting fees, marriage license fees (so many fees), extra postage for an overweight wedding invitation suite, those last-minute purchases the week of the wedding, etc., etc., etc. These are just a few of the many, many hidden costs that will creep up. Be sure to create some cushion in your wedding budget to cover these last minute or easily forgotten expenses. Individually these costs are relatively inexpensive. But collectively, they can very quickly add up and put you over your budget if you do not plan for them in advance. PJC
Victoria Deardorff is the owner and editor of Burgh Brides, Pittsburgh’s comprehensive wedding planning resource, where this first appeared. Visit burghbrides.com for planning tips, vendor recommendations, wedding ideas, downloadable guides and more.