The proposal was perfect. You were swept off of your feet, and you're still on cloud nine. Between stealing glances at the new bling on your finger, you add pins to "The Big Day" board on Pinterest at a record pace. You'll have a signature cocktail, a sparkler send-off, a cheesecake bar, fresh orchids overnight shipped from Columbia, and don't forget the designer dress. Quickly, you put down your phone and rush off to the corner store for a PowerBall ticket. Clearly, it's going to take every bit of the million dollar jackpot to pull off your wedding plans.
News flash: getting married doesn't mean going broke. You can still have the wedding of your dreams on a budget. All it takes is some careful planning and prioritization. Let's take a quick look at how to get started.
First thing's first: look at the big picture. According to costofawedding.com, "The average wedding cost in the United States is $26,645. Couples typically spend between $19,984 and $33,306, but, most couples spend less than $10,000." That's a fairly large range of dollar amounts. Give some thought to where you'll fall on the spectrum. Where are the funds coming from your wedding? Are you and your significant other footing the entire bill? Will family members pitch in? In total, how much money do you have to work with? (Side note: I overhear lots of couples talk about opening a 0% interest credit card for wedding expenses. Spoiler alert: this money will need paid back. Don't think you can "afford" to pay more for a wedding because you're not paying for it all right now.)
Next, it's time to start putting together the pieces. Give some thought to all of the items you need to include in a budget. Talk to friends who recently got married. Scour the internet for the necessities. Here's a non-inclusive list: venue, catering, photography/videography, wedding attire, music, rings, flowers, favors and gifts, invitations, cake, decor, and miscellaneous. Estimate how much each of these items will cost, and add them up. Be sure to use realistic numbers. Call vendors if necessary to get a ballpark figure. If you're within the range you have to work with, congratulations! If not, it's not the end of the world.
There are tons of ways to trim down your budget if needed. The quickest and easiest way to trim down your expenses is to lower the guest list. Food and alcohol has a per-head cost; the fewer the people, the less you spend in these areas. If you still need to pare down your spending, head back to the budget. Prioritize the items in your budget. Which are non-negotiable? If having your wedding in your dream venue is extremely important to you, then where you can cut in other areas? Think about what is really going to leave an impact on you and your guests. In three months, will anyone remember what your centerpieces were? If not, then consider spending less in that area so you can spend more other places. There are tons of great places online to help with this process. One tool that is particularly helpful is Wedding Wire's Budget Tracker. It lets you set a budget (with guidance on the items to include), track your spending, redistribute funds, and even email reports.
At the end of your wedding day, you shouldn't be in debt. Your wedding is about celebrating the love you and your fiancé share, not about throwing a blowout party (though that can be fun, too!) With careful planning and attention to spending, you can have a beautiful wedding without breaking the bank.