Photo credit: Paul Van Hoy of Fotoimpressions Wedding Photography
Planning the budget for your wedding is unquestionably the least pleasant part of planning for a wedding. Most people love to dream about their wedding day, but hate to think of and plan out how much your dream wedding will cost. Your wedding may go down as one of your fondest memories, but it may also be the most expensive.
Back in the olden days, usually the bride’s parents paid for the wedding. But these are modern times. While you or your partner’s parents may chip in some to help pay for the wedding, it is wise not to get your hopes up on how much they will contribute.
About half of wedding couples cover the entirety of wedding expenses themselves, while another quarter of engaged couples pay for part or most of it. And at least a third of couples goes over their wedding budget, which is very easy to do unless well planned for. According to The Knot 2017 Real Weddings Study, the bride’s parents contributes an average of 45% of the wedding, while the groom’s parents only cover an average of 13% of the wedding. The bride and groom typically cover around 41% of the expenses.
To start on your budget, you’ll need to take a look at your savings account(s), a spreadsheet or expense program, a list of the people you can depend on to help (and follow through with) wedding expense contributions, and some determination.
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Figure Out Who Is Paying For What
Whether it’s just you and your partner, or you have help from family or friends, you need to figure out who is chipping in to your wedding budget, and how much you can expect from each party. It may be an awkward or impolite question, but if you have friends or family helping you with the expenses, ask them exactly (or at least an estimate) of how much they will be contributing. Yes, talking about money is an awkward and sometimes taboo subject, but a wedding is a big expense. You want to plan for as much of it as you can, or you may become that 1 in 3 couples we mentioned before who went over budget.
Approaching your family for wedding contributions is a whole other strategy and etiquette, but we recommend that each partner talk to their family separately about wedding expense contributions. If talking about exact contributions is too much of a faux pax, consider asking your family to chip in for a specific wedding expense, like the catering or the wedding ceremony.
Do The Math
After you have an idea of what financial assistance you’ll be receiving, decide how much – realistically – you can afford to spend yourself. This amount plus your expected contributions from friends and family will equate to a maximum wedding budget.
Ask yourself and your fiancé these questions – how much can the two of you both realistically and comfortably afford to set aside for your wedding? If you’re struggling with coming up with a number, some wedding planners suggest 10% of your combined mutual income, while others recommend doubling that to 20%. If you’re struggling coming up with the money, or want an especially expensive wedding, ask yourself if you can afford to set aside some of your savings from the wedding. The last thing you want after the two of you are married is to start out on the rocks financially, so make sure you have a comfortable amount of money stashed away for emergencies or if one of you loses your job.
Don’t forget to plan for all parts of the wedding (and the extra price bloat that comes with anything done for a wedding):
- Wedding Planner (optional)
- Marriage license
- Wedding stationary
- Dress (Bride’s dress, groom’s tuxedo, bridesmaid dresses and groomsmen tuxedoes)
- Entertainment, music
- Wedding photography
- Wedding rings
- Miscellaneous expenses
If you are coming up short on wedding savings, be smart about what you save on. “Ten years from now, you probably won’t wish you spent more on flowers, wedding props, or even alcohol,” says Paul Van Hoy of Fotoimpressions Wedding Photography. “But you might regret skimping on the ceremony, reception or wedding photography.” Hiring a friend who has a religious certificate from the internet to do the ceremony, or a cousin who dabbles in photography to document the most important day of your life might be a mistake. A good wedding photographer doubles as a wedding director when things go wrong, so go with someone you know has a history of happy clients.
Plan The Invitations And Guest Expenses
Equally important in the wedding expenses is how many people you want to invite to your wedding. If you want to splurge on the venue, reception, or honeymoon, or have a destination wedding, you’ll need to trim the guest count, and vice versa.
Figuring out who to invite to your wedding is enough of a to-do to warrant a whole separate article, but here are some quick tips. Before you start asking all your friends and coworkers to come, sit down with your parents and ask which family members’ invitations are important to them. (This is especially important if they are chipping in for your wedding!) This list may be bigger than you think. There’s no family grudge material like not being invited to your wedding. At the same time, don’t be pressured into inviting people you can’t afford to.
Move on to your closest friends and your must-have attendees, figure in their plus-ones, and then take another look at how much it will cost to cover them. If you still have room for your other friends, drinking buddies, coworkers, and teammates, great! If not, they will understand, and if you really feel you want to invite more friends, cut down on the other expenses a bit.
Be Realistic About Your Wedding Budget
As soon as you’ve popped the question or said “Yes!”, then comes the hard part: saving for the big day. The longer your engagement, the more time before your wedding, and the more time you have to save and plan. We said it before, but it’s worth saying twice: Don’t go into debt over your wedding. If times are especially hard financially, have a small and intimate wedding. The last thing you want is to get married to debt. It sounds harsh, but it’s true. According to the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts (we tried not to say the ‘D’ word, but we’re trying to be responsible here), 22% of marriages end because of money problems. The best wedding gift you can give to yourself and your partner, besides loving and cherishing, is starting out financially stable and comfortable, and the fact that you’re reading this article means you probably share that goal.