You're about to embark on one of the most exciting journeys of your life thus far — planning your dream wedding. But before you dive headfirst into the world of bridal magazines, Pinterest boards, and dress fittings, there's one essential task to tackle: creating a wedding budget. Budgeting might not sound as glamorous as choosing the perfect wedding dress or selecting a stunning venue, but it's the foundation upon which your dream wedding will be built. In this guide, we'll walk you through the process of creating a wedding budget, emphasizing the importance of communication and organization, while also shedding light on how your guest list size can significantly impact the overall cost.
The Importance of a Wedding Budget
A wedding budget is more than just numbers on a spreadsheet; it's a reflection of your financial plan and a roadmap for your wedding journey. It ensures you stay on track and avoid unnecessary stress and financial strain. So, let's dive into the steps you need to follow to create a realistic and manageable wedding budget.
The very first step in creating a wedding budget is to sit down with your partner and have an open and honest conversation about your finances. Discuss your current financial situation, savings, and how much you're willing and able to spend on your wedding. It's crucial to be transparent about your expectations and priorities. Is your partner dead-set on having a live band? Have you been daydreaming about a destination wedding in France? Remember, this is a team effort, and it's essential that both you and your partner are on the same page from the start.
One enormous bonus of these conversations is that they start your new marriage off on the right foot. For many couples, the wedding is the first big project they ever collaborate on. Trust us, establishing your teamwork style at the beginning of the wedding-planning process is a major life-hack for a happy marriage.
2. Determine Your Funding Sources
Now that you have a clear picture of your financial situation as a couple, it's time to consider where the money for your wedding will come from. Are you and your partner covering the entire cost, or will family members be contributing? Understanding your funding sources will help you establish a realistic budget.
Just keep in mind, anyone who is contributing to the finances of your wedding day — whether that be family or friends — may hint (or ask outright) to see their opinions and priorities reflected in the final product.
3. Define Your Priorities
Every couple has unique priorities for their wedding. Some might dream of an extravagant venue, while others prioritize a gourmet meal or a live band. Make a list of your top priorities and allocate a portion of your budget to each. This will help ensure that you're spending your money on the elements that matter most to you.
Open bars cost more than cash bars. Plated dinners are (usually) more expensive than buffets. If you’re not passionate about textiles, don’t let yourself get sucked into a black-hole of custom-embroidered dinner napkins. If you’d be happy as a clam getting married at your grandparents’ farm, by all means, do it, and save those venue dollars for something else.
4. Research and Get Quotes
Now comes the fun part - researching and gathering quotes from potential vendors. This includes venues, caterers, photographers, florists, and more. Don't forget to consider other expenses like wedding attire, transportation, and decor. This step can be time-consuming, but it's essential to gather as much information as possible to create an accurate budget.
This step is also where you consider asking your creative friends and family to participate in your wedding day. Is your cousin a hair stylist? Is your friend an event photographer? We bet they’d love to be a part of your big day, and they’ll probably cut you a pretty solid deal too.
Pro tip: When you do your initial vendor outreach, quotes for “wedding” services are often higher than quotes for the same services at a “party.” So, just keep that in mind.
5. Build Your Spreadsheet
With all the information you've gathered, it's time to create a detailed budget spreadsheet. Use categories such as venue, catering, attire, flowers, entertainment, and miscellaneous expenses. Allocate a portion of your budget to each category based on your priorities and the quotes you've received.
6. Multiply the Cost by the Guest List
The size of your guest list is one of the most significant factors that will impact the total cost of your wedding. More guests mean more invitations, more food, more drinks, and, most of the time, a larger venue. It's crucial to strike a balance between inviting everyone your family has ever known and staying within your means.
Here's a breakdown of how the size of your guest list can impact your budget:
Invitations: The more guests you invite, the more invitations you'll need to print and mail, which can quickly add up in cost.
Venue: Larger guest lists may require a larger and more expensive venue to accommodate everyone comfortably. Many venues also tier their pricing, linking larger parties to higher prices.
Catering: The number of guests directly influences your catering bill. More guests mean more plates to serve, which can significantly increase your food and beverage expenses.
Decor: A larger venue may require more significant decor elements to create a visually pleasing space, which can increase your decor budget.
Favors and Gifts: If you’re planning on purchasing wedding favors for all your guests, more guests necessarily means more wedding favors.
Seating and Rentals: You'll need more chairs, tables, and place settings for a larger guest list, which can add to your rental expenses.
Entertainment: If you opt for live entertainment, such as a band, the cost may increase with a larger guest list.
Transportation: Providing transportation for guests can become more complicated and costly with a larger group.
All that being said, you can always flex your creative muscles and DIY some wedding elements to save on cost. Instead of shelling out for lavender-scented, gold-embossed invitations on four layers of thick cardstock, use an evite service or design your invitations yourself and print them out at your local print shop. Hand-crafted wedding favors are a lovely touch that people will remember. Pick a venue with easy-access to ride-sharing services, parking, or public transit so that you don’t have to bus everyone you know to a remote meadow.
Tips for Managing Your Guest List
If you’ve considered all your cost-cutting options and still need to cut down on your guest list to keep your budget in the black:
Be selective: Only invite people who are truly important to you and your partner. Parents will often uncover loads of very important old friends the moment you get engaged. Keep your list tight. Don’t invite people you’ve never met. Consider plus-ones carefully, but don’t be a jerk about it. Try your best to extend plus-ones to members of your wedding party.
Use tiers: Create a tiered guest list with a "must-invite" category and a "nice-to-invite" category, and prioritize accordingly. You don’t have to send all your invitations out at the same time. If someone from the A-list can’t come, bump someone up from the B-list, and so on.
Consider alternative venues: If, after all this, you still have a super-large guest list, explore non-traditional venues that may be more cost-effective.
Creating a wedding budget may not be the most glamorous part of wedding planning, but it's undoubtedly one of the most crucial. It ensures that you can have the wedding of your dreams without starting your married life in surprise debt. Remember to communicate openly with your partner, define your priorities, be creative, and research thoroughly.
One final note: People are going to remember your wedding as a happy day because it’s a celebration of your love, not because you shelled out $2000 on a gold-flecked doughnut wall or a glamorous firework display. Sometimes, we can get bogged down in the details of expensive things because the wedding industry and social media say we need them. The very best way to keep your wedding budget in perspective is to only invest in the things that matter to you and your partner.