Wedding Confessional Pt. II: The Budget

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Isn’t money the most awkward of conversation topics? Maybe you find it easy to discuss dollar bills (and $500 deposits), but it’s never been my forte.

Despite a fear of large numbers after dollar signs I strongly believe in creating a detailed wedding budget. Why? Because almost every lovely married lady I know has told me, “We went way over budget.” After hearing this over and over for the last 20 years I was determined to create a budget that I would stick to.

As you may have read in Part 1, I have been, um, blessed with a very large family. This can be quite daunting when you consider catered meals can cost upwards of $30 a plate. While our wedding budget took a bit of time to draw up (and let’s be honest, cost me just a few tears), it has been our go-to for every wedding day decision. I know that if I plug the number into that fancy spreadsheet it will tell me if I can afford it. If you aren’t blessed with an Excel-wiz of a fiancé like I am I highly suggest finding someone to help out. I’m never left guessing about numbers or crossing my fingers while I sign a vendor contract. Now that I am six months away and have close to all of my vendors lined up for our wedding I am confident that we will be very close to the budget we drew up earlier this year.

Looking to create a budget of your own? Here are my top three wedding budget tips:

1. Determine who is financially contributing to your wedding. Are they throwing in a specific dollar amount? Will they agree to only cover the cost of the food, but sky’s the limit? By nailing down the specifics early on you and your spouse-to-be are less likely to have unexpected (and often uncomfortable) money conversations when the bills come due.

2. Once you have an idea as to who is contributing, research and create a list of every vendor you could possibly use. I’m talking caterer, D.J., rehearsal venue, baker, invitation designers, etc. Then write down the average cost of each vendor as determined by your intended location, time frame and/or guest count (for example, look up D.J. prices in your area for the maximum amount of time you would need music – say six hours).

By creating this initial list you will be able to see the maximum that each vendor could cost you. Don’t feel too overwhelmed – unless you are working with a huge budget there is no reason you have to go to the max on every aspect of your wedding. I’m sure there will be many vendors you won’t use at all. If you are working on a tight budget, I suggest that you choose two items that are so important to you that you are willing to splurge. Andrew and I decided that we wanted to invite as many loved ones as possible and be picky about our photographer, making our guest list and photos our splurge. That meant that we would be keeping other items like flowers, liquor and cake simple and as inexpensive as possible.

3. Even after making a detailed list of vendor pricing, there are three costs many couples forget to factor in: tax, gratuity and service charge. Many vendors will require all three. Yes, even your bartender’s tip may be set in stone and on that contract you’re about to sign. Please check with your vendors and be sure that you know the percent for each so that it won’t come as a surprise. It’s the worst to find out the week before your wedding that you owe 20-30 percent more than your calculations.