Love is in the air! In the United States, one million couples were expected to get engaged on Valentine’s Day and will start to plan a wedding this month. Creating a wedding budget can be overwhelming, but with careful planning, you can have the wedding that you want without starting off married life in financial distress.
What Can You Afford To Spend?
The first step of financially-smart wedding budget is determining what you can afford to spend. Some of the money may be coming from you and/or your fiancé’s savings. How much do you have in savings and how much of it do you want to spend on the wedding? (Don’t deplete the savings completely – it is a good idea to maintain an emergency fund in case medical bills, car repairs, or other unexpected expenses pop up.) You may also be expecting or hoping that your parents or other relatives will be covering some of the cost. If this is the case, it is important to get clarification now on exactly how much they are contributing. You don’t want to sign contracts or start buying things, only to find out later that your parents are not giving you the $5,000 you thought they would provide. List all of your sources of contributions in your Wedding Budget, and add them together to see what your total budget is. (You can always spend less, of course, but you should not spend more.) If your savings or the amount of assistance you are receiving from others is limited, you may have thought about putting some expenses on your credit cards. Is that really such a bad thing? If you can pay it off in a couple of months, not really, but otherwise you could be burdening yourself with debts that take years to pay off and cost you thousands of dollars in interest charges.
Where Will Your Money Go?
After you know how much you have to spend on your wedding budget, the next step is to determine where you will spend it. Unless you have deep pockets, chances are you will have to make sacrifices somewhere. Think about what is a priority and what is less important. For example, perhaps having good food that your guests will talk about for years to come is a must, but you could care less about the flower arrangements. Or visa versa. There are no wrong or right priorities – it’s all about what is important to you and your fiancé (and perhaps assertive relatives!).
Dealing With Vendors
Unless your wedding is a completely do-it-yourself affair, you will probably be hiring vendors to provide services. How can you ensure that transactions go smoothly? First, it helps to shop around – this allows you to see who provides the services/goods most in line with what you want as well as who offers the best price. Choose at least three vendors to interview for each function (caterer, photographer, band, cake baker, etc). Discuss with them what you want (remember to make a list before the interview) and what their experience is. Also ask them to provide references of past customers. After the initial consultation, each vendor should give you an estimate of the price. Obviously who offers the lowest price is important, but you will also want to consider your impression of them during the interview (Did they seem knowledgeable? Responsive to your desires?) and satisfaction of references. If the person you like the most doesn’t offer the cheapest price (or does offer the cheapest price, but it is still more than you want to spend), you can try to negotiate a lower price. It doesn’t always work, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. In order to book them, most wedding vendors require you to make a non-refundable deposit and sign a contract. Before you do, it is important to read the contract carefully and make sure you understand exactly what services and goods the vendor is providing, the cost, and the cancellation and other policies. Get everything that was agreed to in writing – verbal promises can be easily forgotten. Once you find all of your vendors, don’t forget about them! It is a good idea to periodically check in before the wedding to ensure that everything is on track.
• Send electronic invitations or postcards instead of formal invitations.
• Make your own cards. If you have a quality printer, you may be able to produce professional-looking cards at home. But if not, you can always go with a handmade, do-it-yourself look.
• Don’t limit yourself to party/stationary stores. Places such as craft stores, office supply stores, and copiers can be a good source for reasonably-priced invitations. So can the internet – there are countless websites that sell discount invitations.
• If you are having the invitations professionally done, forgo extras, such as bows, engraving, and lined envelopes.
• Skip the bridal stores, and go to the formal dress section in department stores. Wedding dresses commonly come with a bigger mark-up than other formal dresses. You may be able to get a big discount if you buy in late spring, when many stores have afterprom-season sales.
• Buy a sample or “last season’s” dress.
• Buy a used dress instead of a new one. If you don’t have a friend or family member whose dress you can buy (or borrow), check listings on-line or visit local consignment stores.
• Instead of buying a dress, rent one for the day. There are many wedding stores that offer this service.
• Look for vases and other decorations in craft and thrift stores.
• Only use flowers that are in season and readily available.
• Grow your own flowers or get them from an on-line wholesaler or from a bulk or grocery store.
• Hold the wedding in a garden or other venue that provides natural adornment.
• Consider alternatives to flowers for centerpieces and other decorations. For example, you could use branches (available for free outside!), fruit, stones, books, candles or feathers.
• Ask if you can get a discount if you hold the wedding at a less popular time, such as Friday or Sunday. (Saturday is typically the most popular day for weddings.)
• Consider other options besides traditional weddings halls. Many places of workshop and parks allow use of their facilities for a small fee. Having it in your backyard or the backyard of a friend or a family member may be another option. (However, don’t forget to factor in the rental fees for such things as tables and chairs.) Holding it in a restaurant could also save you money.
• If you are holding the reception in a hotel, see if they will give you discount if you also reserve a block of rooms for guests.