Planning a wedding is a big undertaking. You’ll be making hundreds of decisions and considering thousands of details. For many, planning a wedding is their first time planning a large-scale event. From managing your timeline to hiring vendors and keeping tabs on your budget, there are many moving parts to manage. Setting a wedding budget might be one of the biggest challenges of the entire process.
In fact, it’s common to go over your projected costs for certain expenses throughout the planning period. Overages don’t mean you’re a wedding planning failure, but you’ll have to adjust your spending in other areas. Before you start thinking about how to deal with going over budget on your wedding, let’s examine what’s important to have on your wedding budget checklist.
Steps to budgeting for a wedding
1. Calculate total wedding costs
Calculating your total wedding budget should be your first step when creating a wedding budget. It’s crucial to sit down with all contributing parties to tally up how much everyone is throwing into the pot. Consider each of your savings, as well as how much the two of you can save towards the wedding over your engagement.
Throw in any contributions from family members, and you’ve got your total wedding budget. It’s important to finish this first step of budgeting for a wedding before you book anything for your big day. You shouldn’t spend a dime until you know the total sum.
2. Decide on what you want
When making a wedding budget, consider what things are important to you. Many couples go into debt or spend more than they planned on their weddings because they feel pressured by traditions, media, and sometimes even family or friends! There’s so much information out there that will tell you about all the “must-have” items and services that it’s easy to lose sight of the true purpose of the whole event. Don’t blow your budget on things you don’t want or don’t care about.
If a destination wedding is part of your dream day, you’ll have to consider controlling costs carefully. Learn more about planning a destination vs. a local wedding.
3. Do what’s best for you
It can be easy to fall into the trap of holding your wedding plans up against those of your friends or family. Just remember: their circumstances are not your circumstances. You and your partner are planning your unique event, representing, and celebrating your unique love with your unique tools and skills. And it’s OK to do that in the context of your unique financial situation. Avoid the comparison trap. Stay focused on your union, and how to make a wedding budget you’ll be comfortable with.
4. Keep track of what you are spending
One of the quickest ways to go over budget is to slack on keeping track of your spending. Keep an up-to-date tally of each expense related to your wedding. If staying on budget is your priority, spreadsheets should become your best friend during wedding planning. When budgeting for a wedding, account for every penny to ensure you don’t go over budget.
5. Budget for the unexpected
Like everything else, complications can happen during wedding planning. There will be unexpected fees, occasional overages, and gratuities. It’s important to set a buffer in your budget to allow for each of these potential pitfalls so you’re not caught off guard. Set aside 5-10% of your budget for unexpected costs.
How to deal with going over budget on wedding planning
If you’re over budget on your wedding, you’ll need to find places to cut costs. The venue, catering, and live music are the largest expenses for weddings. Some areas you might save money while wedding planning include having a cash bar, buying wedding items on sale, and cutting back on your decorations and flowers. If you can’t recover your budget with small expenses, identify the priorities for your wedding. For some couples, a specific venue might be the most important thing, while for other couples, it might be worth finding a cheaper venue to keep the perfect wedding menu.
If all else fails, consider reducing the guest list: it can reduce catering, alcohol, transportation, and other costs per person without changing other details. A smaller guest list may also open you up to smaller — but equally beautiful — wedding venues at a lower price point. If you keep this wedding budget checklist in mind during your engagement, you’ll have a better chance of sticking to your big-day budget.