Once again, we’re at the height of wedding season. We’re also at the height of engagement season. This week, I’m focusing on saving money on your wedding. Weddings are expensive, and many brides are looking for ways to cut costs, so I’ll look at the big things where you can save the most, as well as the simple things that add up. Today, we start with the budget. Before you do anything else, you need to set up a wedding budget. Then you need to stick to it. I know, that’s the tricky part.
How to Create a Wedding Budget
It’s definitely not romantic, but it’s practical. When I got married several years ago, I started with a wedding budget tool I found on the Knot.com. It gave me a jumping off point. Then I created this wedding budget worksheet in Excel. It’s yours to download free.
The More Detailed the Better
The Knot budget had some detailed line items, but also several general portions. I broke it out into even greater detail. I didn’t list “clothes.” I listed shoes, undergarments, jewelry, and dress separately. I didn’t list “flowers.” I listed the individual flower categories, like my bouquet, mom’s bouquet, bridesmaids, aisle flowers, etc.
Get Estimates in Advance
The first step is to pre-research. Ask recent brides what they spent to get an idea of what flowers, cakes, etc. cost in your region. This is where wedding message boards are your friend. The other brides will happily share their budgets. You can also review the websites of potential venues for an idea of the cost breakdown.
Determine a Total Wedding Budget First
If you start by entering what you want to spend in each category, you’ll go over budget right away. Instead, start with your total budget, then divide it between your categories. If you run out of money, you’ll have to start cutting. Also allow for about 10% overage, because things will come up and prices may rise between the time you start planning and the time you book.
Four Quick Tips to Reduce the Wedding Budget
There are some areas where you can reduce your wedding budget right out of the gate. Not all of them are simple, but they’re big savers.
First, cut all the crap you’re supposed to buy with your name on it, like cocktail napkins, favor tags, matchbooks, etc. Our venue supplied cocktail napkins. Guests can bring lighters if they smoke. We printed favor tags on our computer. Trust me, not one of your guests cares about these things. Save that money for the things that really matter.
Second, reduce your guest list. This is hard, but it’s key if you want to save money. This is the time to tell your mom that no, you’re not inviting your neighbor’s third cousin who you met once when you were five. Tell your crazy aunt she can’t bring her young escort. You also don’t need to invite every couple whose wedding you attended. Smaller, more intimate weddings definitely save money.
Third, consider alternate dates and times. If your peak wedding season is June through August, consider May or September. You could also consider Friday nights and Sundays. Most venues offer reduced rates for non-Saturdays (except on holiday weekends.) If most of your guests aren’t traveling from out of town, a Friday night wedding is a fun way to kick off the weekend. Follow it up with a Saturday barbecue at your parents’ house to keep out-of-town guests entertained.
Fourth, DIY what you can. I’ll talk about this more as the week progresses, but we did our own flowers, invitations, programs, favors, and wedding album and it saved us a lot of money.
Some brides don’t start with a budget and realize about halfway through the planning that they’ve spent $50,000 and aren’t done yet. If you want to start your marriage on the right foot, create a budget and then prepare to get creative. Consider it practice for your life ahead.