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4 Ways to Keep Your Budget on Track

By now you know how pricey a wedding can be -- and how easy it is to lose track of expenses! Stick with a budget you can afford and keep up with all those payments.

1. Get organized. Create a budget spreadsheet with a set dollar limit for each part of your budget (attire, reception, flowers, etc.).

2. Tell your vendors. Work with your vendors to come up with a budget-conscious plan. Be clear about your price-range so that there are no surprises when it's time to sign the contract.

3. Take your budget with you. Create a pocket-sized version of your budget for when you're out and about.

4. Make a list of no-nos. Whether your weakness is mochas or Manolos, be honest with yourself about where you can cut costs.

Wedding Budget 101

Whether you have $100,000, $10,000, or $1,000 to spend, with careful organization, zealous budgeting, and a few money-saving tricks, you can have the wedding you always wanted. From the flowers and the dress to the venue and band, here's how to budget for the wedding of your dreams.

Photo: Veer

Who's Paying?

Talk with your families about who will pay for what: Some brides' families still pick up the entire tab, but more and more groom's families are participating too. How do you bring up the conversation? For many couples, talking to each family separately is the best way to have truly open discussions. When you do talk, here are strategies for determining your initial budget.

  • Ask both of your folks to commit to a specific dollar amount, and then add up all the contributions to create your budget.
  • Alternatively, it may be easier to ask each set of parents to finance a particular aspect of the wedding (such as the ceremony, honeymoon, or catering) instead of just committing to a dollar amount.
  • Decide how much you two can contribute between now and the wedding. (37 % of the couples we polled say they're planning to contribute financially to their wedding.)

Cost Considerations

If you’re planning on a formal candlelit dinner in the grand ballroom of that amazing hotel downtown, your budget is clearly going to have to be much bigger than if you’ve sketched out an afternoon tea and dessert party in your parents’ pretty backyard. In general, there are several major factors that will really affect what you’ll need to set aside.

Guest List Size
There’s a per-head cost for food and liquor, and these two are typically the biggest expense in the whole wedding, so changing the guest list size is the surest way to increase or decrease your costs. On top of that, you’ll save on all your other details, including décor, stationery, favors, and rentals, because you won’t need as much of everything.

Wedding Setting
Some cities and towns are just more expensive than others. New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles are the obvious culprits, but small towns and remote destinations can entail greater costs if things like flowers and talent have to come from afar. Tourist towns can also up your wedding price tag during peak season. Likewise, certain venues are more expensive than others. Some -- such as a city park -- come with no (or low) fees. Others might cost you the equivalent of a year’s college tuition. Also, be aware that many popular locations have head count minimums, meaning they won’t host a wedding that’s too small, and some may also have a per-head minimum that requires a certain type of event.

Date and Time
Highly sought-after seasons and days of the week are pricier for obvious reasons. An evening reception is usually more expensive than a brunch or afternoon reception, not only because of higher catering costs for dinner, but also because people tend to drink less during the daytime, and many couples choose to go more low-key on elements like lighting, music, and décor during the daytime.

Wedding Style
The more formal the affair, the more expensive, because you’ll have to match the site, food, and musical entertainment to the overall upscale tone. The outlay for a full six-course meal is typically greater than for a cocktail soiree with mostly hors d’oeuvres; the fee for a twelve-piece band is greater than that for a DJ or a quartet; all-out décor like lighting, specialty linens, and dramatic floral displays also will run up the bill. Plus, fancier affairs tend to be larger.

How Much Do You Actually Need?

Just like buying shoes, an apartment, or a pair of jeans, when it comes to financing a wedding, you should figure out how much you need to spend to get what you want. Set your expectations accordingly. Knot Note: The average cost for a 150-person wedding is about $25,000 (higher in urban areas).

  • Here is a basic breakdown of what you can expect to pay:
    Reception: 48%-50%
    Ceremony: 2%-3%
    Attire: 8%-10%
    Flowers: 8%-10%
    Entertainment/Music: 8%-10%
    Photography/Videography: 10%-12%
    Stationery: 2%-3%
    Wedding Rings: 2%-3%
    Parking/Transportation: 2%-3%
    Gifts: 2%-3%
    Miscellaneous: 8%
  • To avoid stress, allot about 5% of your budget for a "just-in-case" fund.
  • If you're paying for your honeymoon yourselves, remember to budget for that as well.

How Much Can You Save?

As soon as you're engaged, start putting aside as much of your income as you can for the wedding. Saving 20% of your monthly income is a good -- though painful -- goal. The longer your engagement, the more you'll be able to sock away.

  • Ways to save: Limit your spending on small stuff (renting movies instead of going out; going to Starbucks once instead of twice a day; downloading just the song you love instead of buying the whole CD). These changes will hardly affect your quality of life, but after a year, the extra cash will cover some wedding essentials.
  • Make the most of your money: Instead of stashing your money in a low-interest savings account, consider buying CDs or opening a money-market account. The interest rate can be double that of a savings account. Just check the fine print to avoid penalties.

See More: Budget Wedding Ideas