The national average cost of a wedding is $33,391 (excluding the honeymoon), and in LA the average price is $44,142.
Planning a wedding is a rabbit hole of expenses that can quickly spiral, often leaving other financial goals by the wayside. If you don’t set a clear path for how your wedding budget fits into your entire financial picture, it is easy to establish a larger wedding budget than your future life can afford. There is a perfect budget for everyone, but you have to determine what it is for you. Here is what to think about when setting your wedding budget.
Who is Paying
What is the total amount of monetary support you can count on receiving from others? Resources could include:
* Family or Friends
Once you know how much help you will have from others, decide how much you want to spend yourself. Let these numbers guide your budget, don’t start with how much you “want” to spend and realize your bank account and help from others doesn’t cover it. “Bride and groom national average pay 41.1% of the budget and 10% of the 13,000 respondents paid for their entire wedding themselves.” (Source: theknot.com)
Use a resource such as the knot.com wedding budget tool which gives the average percentage cost of each budget category. Set a realistic budget when you decide how much are you going to spend and stick to it.
Don’t Forget to Factor In Future Goals
The most significant mistake we see when couples plan for their big day is they forget about their other financial goals. Make sure your budget doesn’t overlook that there are other, equally important, things to spend your money on in the short and long term.
* House purchase
* Savings Goals, such as Retirement
* Car purchase
* Other Trips or Vacations
Having a long-term plan in place, like our Newlywed Financial Plan, for all your financial goals helps you prioritize your expenses and shows how overspending on a goal will affect your ability to reach the others. Are you willing to sacrifice an annual vacation for the next five years to pay off your wedding? Or, delay a house purchase for three years to have a larger wedding budget?
Where to Splurge
What details are deemed significant and essential will be different for everyone and will determine where you should splurge. Write out a list of what is most important to you and your fiancé and dedicate more of your budget to splurging on those categories. This is where I would spend extra:
A Wedding Planner or Day-of Coordinator
A wedding planner is someone who can control all the small details, organization, and makes sure everything runs smoothly. A wedding planner for the whole event will be costly, but you can also go with just a day of coordinator. A day-of coordinator will oversee all the activities of the wedding day from the vendors to the keeping the schedule on time. Investing in someone who will make sure all your memories of the day are positive is worth the expense for me.
Video and Photos
Memories last a lifetime, but having them in visuals makes it convenient to pass down generations and keep the day easy to relive at any time. Don’t go cheap here and end up with bad photos you don’t want to look at. Videos and pictures that you will keep forever and that tell the story of the day should be ones you love. Spending the extra money on a good photographer and videographer for a lifelong keepsake is worth it.
Where to Cut
“In general, wedding season months begin in late spring and continue through early fall and are therefore the most expensive, with weddings peaking in June and September. Winter, on the other hand, is often much cheaper—unless it’s December, when you’ll find yourself competing with company holiday parties and other non-wedding events for those much-desired dates.” (Source: brides.com) If you live in an area like San Diego, having an off-season wedding is doable because the weather isn’t very volatile. Get quotes for off-season vs. in-season weddings at the venues you visit to see the difference in prices.
A Saturday Wedding
“Having your wedding on a Friday or Sunday (as well as on any other midweek day) can make a big difference for your budget.” (Source: theknot.com) Just remember you do not need to have your wedding on a Saturday, instead make sure your key attendees, like parents, grandparents, and the wedding party are all available on the day you choose if it is a weekday. As for the rest of your guests, they will understand, and if they can’t come, that helps the next strategy.
Reducing the Guest List
The guest list often can turn into a whose-who of family friends and extended family and can be one of the hardest places to cut because you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Set strict guidelines on the lineage of family members and the number of friends for the bride, groom, and parents to invite, for example, each set of parents can invite 10 friends. For further managing the guest list consider an adult’s only party, condensing plus-ones, or using an A and B list strategy.
Going wedding dress shopping and having the perfect dress is one of the quintessential parts of a wedding but it can also be very costly. Today there are many low-cost online brands adding wedding dress lines for fractions of the cost of traditional wedding dress designers. You also have the option to rent a wedding dress or buy one that is used. If you do choose to buy your dress, you can sell it to another bride to recoup some of the money, if you are okay with letting it go. My mom’s wedding dress is still in a box under her bed, making selling it seem like a better option these days.
An unusual venue can be a great place to cut costs. Golf courses and reception halls do make it easy as they usually have everything on site and do many weddings a month, but a family member’s backyard or a park can provide comfort and a fun atmosphere with a little more planning but at a fraction of the cost.
Bartering with Friends for Services
Do you have a friend who is a great photographer or owns a flower shop? Utilize the resources around you to shop for great deals or ask to trade their service for something you know how to do. Offer a couple of hours of help building furniture or free childcare for friends or family who could provide some of your wedding needs at low or reduced costs.
For more ideas on where to cut and splurge, I found this article to be a great resource.
Read All the Fine Print
Make sure to read all contracts and vendor agreements thoroughly before signing.
I had a friend who signed her wedding venue contract without thoroughly reading all of the fine print. The venue is stunning, she loved it, and they had the date she wanted, so she signed without thinking about all the details. Later when looking at catering and rentals providers, she found out that in the contract there is a clause that everything must be ordered through a small list of approved vendors. She was left with no room to negotiate or find lower cost options because the vendors on the list knew they were her only option. Make sure to look for other details in the contracts such as cancellation policies and fees or grace periods for canceling because of extreme circumstances.
Take a step back and look at the day as a whole. It is one day of your life. Keep this in mind when all the details start adding up to real dollars. Ask yourself, what small details will never be remembered? Most importantly, don’t drain your savings accounts on one day. When deciding on a wedding budget, don’t just think about how much you “want” to spend on this day, but how that dollar amount will affect your ability to reach your other goals like buying a home, saving for a new car or contributing to retirement savings. Set yourself up to have a spectacular wedding and also the financial ability to meet your other near-term goals by setting the perfect budget for you.
You can add a newlywed financial plan to your registry, read how here.