There’s just about nothing more exciting than planning a wedding. You’ve been thinking and dreaming about it maybe since childhood, and recently you’ve been cataloging ideas and inspiration photos until you’re dizzy with all the possibilities.
The last thing you want to think about is money. That awful real-world intrusion on your fabulous fantasies. A budget is just not a fun thing to consider. But consider it you must. Even if you have the world’s most generous bank account to draw from, you don’t want to be silly about it and waste money, do you?
There are certainly things to splurge on, but also things to save on… and many of these can be accomplished without sacrificing quality or style. You’d be amazed to find how many discounts and coupons are available for everything including flowers and gifts.
Here are the three basics for starting your wedding planning process:
1. Know Who’s Paying for What
This is no time to be shy. Traditionally, the bride’s parents paid for the wedding and reception, and the groom’s parents hosted the rehearsal dinner. These days, though, expenses are covered every which way, and sometimes the engaged couple pays for everything.
Before you spend a penny, it’s important to have honest conversations with everyone who may be contributing and to know how much each party is willing and able to commit. You can have a glorious wedding no matter how much is spent on it, so start out with a clear idea of what that amount will be and who will be paying the bills.
2. Be Smart About Choosing the Date
The average wedding in the United States, not including the honeymoon, comes in at about $26,000. Since most couples spend $10,000 or less, that means some weddings cost $40,000 or much more.
A big variable, besides personal taste and ability to spend, includes the factor of where the wedding is going to be held. It’s not hard to understand why everything costs more in big cities and popular tourist areas.
But it might surprise you to know that month of the year plays a considerable part, too, with venues and services generally costing more in the peak bridal months of June, August, and September. (Over eighty percent of weddings take place between May and October.) Saturday and Sunday weddings cost more than other days of the week, and evening weddings cost more than ones held in the morning or afternoon.
Unless you’re planning a destination wedding, you’re stuck with the prices where you live. But take the season, day, and time into consideration. If being snowed in isn’t a risk where you live, think about choosing January, February, or March, when locations and vendors are anxious for your business and much more willing to offer deals.
A gorgeous noontime wedding on a bright Sunday in late winter or early spring is going to save buckets over the same wedding on a Saturday night in June. You might even consider the one-holiday weeknight of the year: the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving.
3. Allocate Your Budget
No matter how much you have to spend, you can’t draw up a reasonable wedding budget without knowing how much of it to allow in each category. While percentages vary a bit across the country, the venue, food, and beverage costs of the typical reception take 55 to 60 percent of the total. Flowers, music, and photography/videography typically take about 8 to 10 percent each.
That’s most of the actual wedding budget right there. You’ve still got to account for invitations, transportation, wedding attire, salon services, gifts, gratuities, and other small but significant details.
If you’re employing a wedding planner, include that fee as well. A planner might be a good investment for you, though, because his or her fee could be offset by discounts the planner can get that would otherwise be unavailable to you.
Before you go into panic mode, it’s a good idea to make a priority list for yourself and decide what’s most important to you. Then start juggling. If you select a less expensive location, you can spend more on photography. If you winnow down the guest list, you can spend more on the band. And so on.
Whatever you do, though, leave yourself a 5 to 10 percent contingency. Set it aside at the very beginning of the process and don’t give it another thought until you need that extra bump. No matter how well you plan, there’s always something unexpected that comes up, and you’ll be very happy to know you’ve got the cushion to cover it.
A wedding can be done on an extensive scale or a shoestring and still be absolutely beautiful. To give you some ideas, check out the wedding budgets that abound online. Here’s one that starts at $2000!