One of the most critical and often stressful components of wedding planning is setting an established budget and sticking to it. Although some couples might balk at the idea of discussing finances at a time when love and romance reign supreme, the fact remains that everyone has a budget. Regardless of your financial situation, a financial plan is critical. Being up-front and realistic with your partner about how and where to allocate wedding funds can actually prevent unnecessary expenses, ensure that you’re really getting what you paid for in the end, and minimize stress throughout the wedding planning process. For couples who are not already managing their finances together, this is also a wonderful time to work as a team and build a solid, healthy foundation for handling joint expenses. While sorting through the many “must haves” and “maybe nots” that can go into a wedding, it helps to keep in mind that language is also subjective, and words like “affordable” or “expensive” are relative to the individual.
When searching for potential vendors and asking for referrals on social media, be open to sharing what your budget goals are for certain services, even if it’s just a ballpark figure or price range. Others may be more inclined to offer up suggestions with an idea in mind of your budgeting needs. Being specific with vendors about what elements must be included for the ceremony and reception can also help eliminate minor details that add up, leading to unforeseen additional costs down the road. Deciding ahead of time what aspects of a traditional wedding can be given the boot, so to speak, will keep you well within your budget without having to give up any part of your dream. When it comes to guest invites, having a firm number in mind that works with your budget can greatly reduce the chances of going over budget given the variety of guest-related expenses, such as invitations, catering, and guest gifts.
PERSPECTIVE FROM A PRO:
Overall, it truly is you get what you pay for. Many couples come to me, as an elopement photographer, wanting specific locations, vendor recommendations, permit information, etc. but don’t want to book me because I’m out of their budget. All those things they want are included (and more) with any booked package, whereas oftentimes a cheaper photographer won’t have the resources, knowledge and experience. It goes back to prioritizing what you want: having amazing images and those resources to make your day epic, or having still potentially good images, but not as many resources to take your day from good to great.
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Discussing money and financial matters can be awkward and uncomfortable, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. The bottom line is that weddings accrue costs outside of everyday living expenses, and this is where budgeting comes into play. This is especially true now. Shifting economic situations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic have led millions of families to take a closer, more direct look at their finances and a wedding budget is an important piece of this conversation. Among those in the position to do so, many family members are willing and happy to support couples by contributing monetarily, either up front or later on. By directly addressing the amount that loved ones are volunteering, or which services they are offering to cover completely, the budget can then be adjusted accordingly and funds can be directed elsewhere.
When talking to or meeting with vendors for the first time, be clear about your overall budget and what you have allocated for the intended service. Most vendors offer different tiers of services or packages that work with couples’ budgeting needs. Furthermore, discuss what the exact costs will be and where extra fees may occur along the way. Asking vendors to provide an itemized list of services with their costs is also a great option for record keeping to stay within your established budget. It doesn’t hurt to ask vendors about different payment options, bundle deals or discounts to stay in your range. The worst they can say is no.
The easiest part of working with your wedding budget may just be staying mindful of the “where and what” in the big picture sense. Planning ahead for “what if” scenarios with a budget buffer will account for any additional costs that were not previously factored into the budget beforehand. This can include out-of-pocket and last minute expenses, such as tips or transportation fees. Throughout the wedding planning process, maintaining a log or “budget book” with your partner will ensure that all expenses are accounted for as well. Last but not least, be mindful when exploring vendor websites and social media pages to get an idea of price ranges, before going too far into the planning stage for their services. This will save you and the vendor valuable time and stress throughout the planning process.
For all of the four-letter expletives that might come to mind while working on a wedding budget, being specific, direct and mindful should help to ease the process and ensure that your dream wedding meets every expectation.