The Budget

The Budget Conversations

The wedding budget is not a sexy topic. It requires awkward conversations and can cause turmoil in families. Everyone has a different situation and you will need to be cognizant of your audience and what works best with your family. The best advice I can give is to set up open and honest communication with the involved parties as early as possible.

Understand that when you are having these discussions it may not result in one party “paying for the wedding,” it can be fluid and assistance can come in many forms.

Grandma may want to host an engagement party or your husband’s family may want to cover something specific like paying for the videographer or flowers. When someone suggests that they would like to assist with the wedding make sure you clarify the following three points:

1. How would they like to help?
Clarify that they mean financially. They may want to help by hosting a party or assisting in the planning. These are all great; just make sure you are on the same page to avoid awkward conversations down the road.

2. What are they comfortable with? 
Would they like to contribute a certain amount or cover a specific vendor or cost?

3. In what form will you receive assistance?
Are they more comfortable writing a check to be used at the bride & groom’s discretion or would they like to pay vendors directly?  

It is especially helpful to do a little research into venues and vendors in your area or ask other newlywed couples you know to get a general idea of how much you can expect to need. This can help drive budget conversations away from the abstract and focus on the real anticipated costs of the wedding.

Guest List – The Driving Factor

Another hot topic that goes hand in hand with the budget discussion is the guest list. The number of people you are feeding and entertaining can drive many aspects of your budget including the catering, cake, and venue size. You and your husband should put together a rough list and discuss how big of a wedding you envision.

You and your families may have a very different idea of how big your wedding should be. It is your wedding, but it is also your family’s time to shine and having a discussion and working this out is critical to keep feelings from getting hurt. It can get tricky, for example if your husband has a large family and feels it is important extended family is invited, but your family is paying for a majority of the wedding and has a small family it can feel unfair.

Find ways you can work through this by offering suggestions on how to cut the guest list or paying for additional heads, set a number of tables for family or friends and offer options. In the end it will all work out, you won’t be able to make everyone happy, but do what you can to keep people from feeling neglected or insulted.

Once you have a rough guest count and budget you can start making decisions on the vendors, details and how you want to break down the budget.

Start by listing out what you need in your own priority order. Create the list by thinking does this need to be spectacular? For example, do you want large luxurious centerpieces? Is there a venue your heart is set on? Get an idea for what are must haves and where you can save.

The Budget Equation

There is a simple equation you can follow when planning your wedding around a budget:

If you are set on X then save by Y or else Z.

If you are set on a designer gown then save by purchasing inexpensive shoes and minimal accessories or else hit the sample sales or give bridal stores a strict budget to stay under when bringing you gowns to try.

If you are set on an open bar then save by setting a dollar limit or offering a limited menu or else consider purchasing wine for the tables and having a cash bar.

If you are set on a big wedding then save by choosing a venue where you can hire your own caterer or else cut down your guest list to instantly save money per person.

The crux of it is if you are set on something that is expensive, there is probably still a way to save money with a little compromise and creativity or else there is definitely a way to avoid that expense or significantly reduce it if you are willing.

When you are working on a budget you always have two options:  choose inexpensive options across the board or avoid certain expenses all together. You will find your wedding is probably a mix of these two. You might want a venue that is not necessarily low budget, but maybe you can make that work by avoiding expenses such as centerpieces or a traditional cake.

Budget Saving Tips

Throughout my website I have included specific tips to saving money during your wedding planning process. Here are some of my favorite tips.

Guest list: The easiest way to cut spending is to slim down the guest list. Each person you remove will save you on catering and venue fees. If you can cut out a full table you will save on centerpieces as well. Plus ones are the easiest to remove; a good rule is to cut plus ones across the board and only invite spouses or serious lifelong partners. Also, create a rule across the board regarding children. Maybe only invite children of the immediate family to save space, money and headache. Seriously, your friends will appreciate an excuse to get a babysitter.

Cake: A traditional wedding cake can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars. A great way to cut costs is by picking a less traditional desert option or choosing a small cake with a sheet cake served from the kitchen to subsidize. Round tiered cakes do not feed many people and a sheet cake won’t look any different on your guest’s plate when it is served, but can save you hundreds.

Flowers: Minimize your floral expense by discussing options for center pieces. You can create DIY centerpieces that are not floral. You can use hydrangea as these are large and inexpensive flowers that can add body to your centerpieces at minimal cost. Work with a florist that allows you to return the vases for a deposit rather than paying for dozens of vases in addition to the flowers. Reuse your bridesmaid’s bouquets by having empty vases waiting in the reception hall where you can add their flowers for no additional cost. Purchase loose rose pedals from a wholesaler or online retailer like Costco rather than from a florist.

Bridal Attire: Shop sample sales. Make your accessories your something borrowed. Shop for shoes early or during department store sales. Remember to account for alterations when giving a dress budget to your bridal shop. Shop online for your veil, Etsy is a great resource and can be very affordable.

Alcohol: Choose a BYOB venue and shop for alcohol at a wholesaler. Limit your bar by amount, time,  or set a limited menu. If you are hosting an open bar do not also pay for wine to be at the tables, you end up double paying for half full bottles of wine.

Stationary: Save postage by using an online RSVP site such as The Knot or RSVPify. You can also use Evites for events such as the rehearsal dinner or welcome party, that way these auxiliary invitations won’t take away from your wedding invitation and can save you money.

Negotiations: You can negotiate, especially with the venue. Work with your venue to reduce the required minimum or waive certain expenses. If you are holding the wedding reception at a hotel, negotiate for a discount on rooms for yourself and guests.

Recruiting friends: Not only can you save money but you can make your wedding that much more special to have friends involved in certain aspects. Asking a close friend to officiate or play an instrument at your ceremony could be so special. Also ask a friend who loves to dance if they could help by providing dance lessons for your first dance. Hair, makeup, flowers, calligraphy, these are all areas where you may know someone who would be honored to provide services for you for free or at a significant discount. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Be hesitant asking a friend to do something like photography, videography, or to DJ the reception as this would mean they would need to give up being a guest at the wedding and work the entire event. Try to stick to tasks that would still allow your friends to party and enjoy the day by your side.

Avoid the “W” word: Whenever possible avoid telling a vendor that this is a wedding. You may need to in the end, but if you can get a quote first you have more negotiation room. You will find that vendors mark up the prices when they hear “wedding.” This can be extra helpful for vendors such as cake bakeries, limo companies, and formal wear shopping, for everyone except the bride of course. Ask for a quote for a formal event on __ date at __ time for approximately __ guests. Keep it vague and see what you are offered before mentioning that it is actually for a wedding.

Wedding date: Saturdays are always more expensive, ask venues for a quote for a Friday or Sunday and you will find a significant cost savings and an easier time negotiating. Consider having your wedding on an “off day” like a Friday evening or a Sunday afternoon. If you have many out of town guests they will be taking days off from work anyway and it could work out even better for flights if your wedding is not on a Saturday. Also, think about three day weekends such as Memorial Day or President’s Day where you could get an “off day” price for a Sunday or Monday that wouldn’t pose much conflict for guests.