The Steps Series: #1 – Set Your Budget


Firstly – Yes, I was absolutely hoping that my next blog post would be the second half of our proposal story, as written by TB.  However, I have determined that I need to stop nagging my fiance and give him a little grace.  Eventually, we will post the second half of my favorite story ever, he just travels A LOT for work and right now isn’t the time.  So instead of waiting and driving him crazy, I’m going to move on and then come back to it!


Where do I begin?

With money – the thing none of us loooovvvee to talk about (at least, I don’t.)  But the first step to planning a wedding should be determining how much money you have to spend.  This is a line I’ve told clients over and over through the years, but shortly after our proposal (as friends and family are asking if it’s planned yet) I found myself going the wrong direction.  If you begin planning before you have a budget in place it’s really easy for things to get out of hand and for you to get entirely off track.  I’m now speaking from experience.  Even though I knew to start with a budget, I’ve been planning weddings for other people for ten years, I was SO excited to start planning my own, so I jumped in before I was ready.  Luckily, I very quickly realized that things were headed down a financial path I didn’t want to go down, so I pressed pause on all communication with vendors and went back to gather a budget.  


Budgeting – Step 1


The first part of finding out a budget is to nail down exactly how much each set of parents is contributing (if anything.)  Most wedding traditions have changed throughout the years (or gone out the window), so it’s important to talk to both the bride’s parents, as well as the groom’s parents.  Once you know this amount, you can determine if there will be a difference that you and the groom will personally cover, or if you will remain strictly in the budget of what is being given to you.

For our wedding, we are being given a generous gift by our parents and we are covering what is leftover.  It is VERY important to us to not to go into debt over our wedding.  So in determining what we could realistically cover, we had several honest conversations with each other to begin setting aside an amount each month.  

*Small side note – I’ve seen it happen many times when brides have big dreams of elaborate meals, a premium open bar, a fantastic ten-piece band, peonies & garden roses everywhere and a guest list of 300 people.  But they are trying to strictly maintain the budget of $15,000 being given to them by their parents.  You have to also remain realistic.


Budgeting – Step 2


Once you’ve determined how much the parents will be contributing, ask them how they prefer you use that money.  I assumed that like most of my client’s parents, my own would prefer to just write checks for certain wedding items until we’ve reached the budget they set.  They, however, had different plans – they wanted to write me a check for the full amount so I could use it as I saw fit.  Perfectly fine with me (and I’m just so grateful to them), but where was I going to put that money?  I didn’t want to just drop it into my normal checking or savings account where it would get mixed up with my day-to-day funds.  So I went to my bank, talked to a banker and determined it would be best for me to open a second checking account where I could deposit that money, and have checks to pay my vendors with.


Budgeting – Step 3


Determine what is most important to you.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of us are on a wedding budget and that means that we can’t have it all.  Believe me – I get it.  I wanted the incredible band, the amazing photographer, the wonderful videographer, a delicious meal, a full open bar, and of course it all has to look amazing with those gorgeous X back vineyard chairs.  BUT…TB and I have a wedding budget and we can’t have all the things.  So we had to sit down and determine what mattered the most to us and that meant more of our budget would go to those areas.  For us, we determined that we want beautiful photos because those last a lifetime and we want to throw an incredible celebration that our friends and family won’t soon forget.  Our way of thanking them for all their support over the years.  


Budgeting – Step 4


Find and use a wedding budget calculator if you don’t have a wedding planner and are managing the budget yourself.  (Here are links to several that I found helpful through Wedding Wire, The Knot, and Bridal Musings.)  Once you start spending money it can be so easy to get off track and even harder keeping track of what deposits have been paid, what remaining balances are and when those are due.  There are free budgeting calculator on every major wedding website that can help you know what amount you should be spending in which areas and keeping track of what’s been booked and paid.

I knew I had our budget all worked out in my head and I knew approximately what we should be spending in what areas based on our total amount.  However, I still surprised myself when I began plugging it into the budgeting spreadsheet I use for my clients.  I had very quickly spent a larger chunk of my budget than I realized and had a bit less in some areas than I thought.  Nothing that can’t be made up for moving forward, but I’m glad I started inputting everything sooner rather than later.


Overall, you can have the wedding of your dreams on a budget.  You just have to be realistic and prioritize accordingly.


What is the part of your wedding budget that has you most confused or worried?  Post in the comments below and I’d love to share tips.

  1. […] In case you missed Step #1 – Setting your wedding budget, you can review that here. […]

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