Talking about money – especially talking about money with your future in-laws – can be a pretty uncomfortable topic. You might as well be telling them about that time when you got wasted at a frat party freshman year and –
You know what, there’s a chance they could read this. I’m not going to finish that story.
Early in the planning stages of our wedding (when my “planning” process still consisted of “Pinterest”), I decided that our budget was going to be a nice round number of thirty thousand dollars.
Thirty THOUSAND dollars? Where did that come from? How did I realistically think that I was going to get my hands on that much money? I had less than TWO thousand dollars in my bank account at the time – where did I think I was going to find another twenty-eight thousand dollars just laying around?
“We can do it.” I said. “We’ll just have to really save.”
And by ‘really save’, I meant –
NO EATING OUT. Ever. Not until after the wedding. In fact, let’s just start limiting our meals altogether. NO FANCY GROCERIES FROM WHOLE FOODS. And you know what? We spend too much money at Trader Joe’s too – let’s start buying our groceries at Target.. NO MORE STARBUCKS. It’s Keurig coffee from here on out. If one of my friends wants to have a Starbucks date, I will bring my own coffee in my own mug. NO SHOPPING. No new clothes. No new shoes. No new stuff. Not until after the wedding.
I mean, really. No new shoes? The ‘starving myself’ concept was more likely.
Clearly – this is not the way to create a realistic budget.
If your “budget planning” includes not getting a haircut for the next twelve months, or only spending $25 a week on groceries – then you’re not budget planning, you’re just pretending. And you’re going to get yourself in trouble once you start booking vendors that you can’t afford to pay. .
STEP ONE: Include your partner. In order to create a realistic budget, the first step is to sit down with your partner and – you guessed it – talk about money. Yes, it might be uncomfortable. Especially if the two of you haven’t really talked about money before. But you’re getting married, so you might as well get used to it. Don’t try to go about this “managing” everything on your own. Your partner needs to understand how much things costs and what your goals are. Remember – you’re in this together.
STEP TWO: Figure out where the money’s coming from. Alright, these can be tricky waters to navigate. Are mom and dad planning to help out? Not that they have to – you and your partner are two grown adults after all, but… but, really, are they?
If one of you, or both of you, have families that are willing to contribute – that’s great! But keep in mind that sometimes when parents are donating, they expect their money to be spent on certain things in a certain way. (AKA – they believe this gives them more of a “say” in your wedding planning decisions.. But, on the other hand, some parents have no interest in what you’re planning as long as it makes you happy. Make sure you know which kind you’re dealing with before you start budgeting their contribution.)
STEP THREE: Decide, realistically, how much you can save on your own. The keyword here is: realistically. Comfortably. While still buying all of your groceries, getting your hair done, and going to Starbucks once in awhile. Could you each pull $100 out of your paychecks each week and put it into a savings account? Depending on when your wedding date is, you may be able to save $2,000+ – that could pay for your photographer, or your florist, or one of your other vendors!
STEP FOUR: Choose your non-negotiable must-haves. These are “non-negotiable must-haves” that you both agree on. Let me say that again – YOU MUST BOTH AGREE ON IT or it’s not “non-negotiable”. Is it finding a really great photographer? Is it getting married outdoors at.a really scenic location? Is it making sure you have a large guest list in efforts to party big with all your friends and family? Choose two or three and stick to it (this will drive your focus when wedding planning and also help you decide where to really invest. Don’t do more than a couple though – otherwise it will be tough to prioritize where your focus needs to be.)
STEP FIVE: Prioritize where you want to splurge. Pick one or two things – the photographer, the venue, the food, the dress, whatever it is doesn’t matter – but pick one or two that you really want to have the “best of the best” and give yourself permission to splurge. For our wedding, it was the photographer, because we knew that we wanted really great pictures. (If you’re having trouble figuring out where to splurge, go back to your non-negotiable list to help guide your decision.)
STEP SIX: Estimate your guest count. Chances are this will not be your “final” guest count – your mom will want to invite her friends from high school, his mom will tell the neighbors they’re invited, But at least get a general, ballpark estimate. If you say “between 100-120 guests” that’s fine. That’s an estimate. And vendors will ask you for this number when you start getting estimates from them.
STEP SEVEN: Time to do your research. Check out venue pricing in the area where you want to get married. Depending on where it is, this will drive your budget. A wedding in New York City is going to be priced differently than a wedding in Topeka, KS. Do your research and adjust accordingly.
Honestly – the best thing you can do is set a budget and then lower that number by about twenty percent. As you get closer to the wedding, you’re going to reach a new stress level of “screw it – let’s just pay someone to do that” and it’s going to factor in to this magical number that you’ve so carefully estimated.
For us, it was the “champagne toast” that our wedding coordinator talked me into directly after the ceremony. Did we “need” this? No. But did she talk me into it because “So, what’s everyone going to do after the ceremony? Just stand up and wander off?” – No! I thought, How tacky! Let’s have this really fancy champagne toast that she’s talking about for an extra $600! This was decided three days before the wedding. So, trust me, it can happen to anyone.
PLAN ACCORDINGLY. And happy budgeting!