Creating a wedding budget is one of the most stressful aspects of wedding planning and can leave you feeling frustrated and burned out with wedding planning just a few weeks into your engagement. We've put together our best tips for creating your wedding budget without threatening to just call the whole thing off and elope. (Though if you decide to do that, that's fine too!) Here's how we recommend you get started.
Figure out what sort of wedding you want to have. You don't have to get super detailed here, but it helps to go through the major elements of the day (location, season, type of venue, photography, approximate guest count, entertainment, and food) and think about what you want for each item. As you do so, figure out what's most important to each you. Is being married on the beach more important than having your extended family there? Would you rather have great food or a great band? This is also a good time to ask your families what they envision. What relatives and friends do they want to invite? Do they have strong feelings about any other parts of the wedding in particular?
Estimate what you and your partner and your families can reasonably contribute to the cost of your day. Maybe you already know what your parents can contribute, or perhaps you know they won't be paying for any of it. In any case, it helps to have a ballpark figure in your head as you being doing your initial research.
Do some research. Starting with the basic elements you just came up with, figure out what it would cost to have that wedding you want to have. Is it reasonable? If not, go back to the drawing board and see what you can adjust to make it work. Would you be willing to get married on a Sunday in order to book your dream photographer? Can you try a different location if it meant you could afford to feed 250 people?
The research phase is one of the more tedious aspects of wedding budgeting because this is when you'll need to start digging a little deeper and asking very specific questions about your ideal venue (particularly with regard to catering, decor, lighting, and rentals) so you know what additional costs you might incur. Give yourself time to work through it all; it can take a few weeks to get information from all your potential venues and vendors and to re-think what kind of wedding you want to have. We recommend figuring out what your wedding would look like at three different price points, or figuring out three ways your wedding could look at the same price point. This is useful in the next step when it's time to...
Talk to your families about their contributions. It's the conversation that no one wants to have but it's absolutely necessary. We recommend telling to them what sort of wedding you're hoping to have and what it will cost based on your research. This is where it's really handy to have three different wedding examples to show them. Then if they say, "There's no way a venue should cost $10,000" you can say, "Well, here's what a $5000 venue looks like...are you OK with it?" (Need more advice on this topic? We have plenty more tips for talking to your parents about the wedding budget!)
Decide if there is anything you won't include in your shared budget. You and your sweetheart may be more comfortable for paying for certain things (like your attire, your hair and makeup, or the gifts for your bridal party) out of your own pocket rather than from your joint wedding savings. You also may find it makes sense to have your parents pay for something specific -- like the photographer, for example -- rather than just giving you cash. If that's the case, you may want to remove those items from your budget so you can just focus on how much cash you as a couple will have/need to have for the wedding.
Make your actual wedding budget. Create a spreadsheet and enter all the aspects of a wedding you plan to include, followed by your estimated allocations for each. Under each main category, list all the items that are included in that budget and give each a dollar amount. Then add a line for miscellaneous & fees and give yourself $100-$500 in each category to account for unforeseen costs. This step will involve a lot of adjustment as you realize you'll either need to find extra money or reduce what you had hoped to spend on certain items, and you may have to revisit it several times during your planning process.
Once you've created your spreadsheet, you can officially say you have a wedding budget! From there, determine how exactly you'll pay and whether or not you need a monthly savings plan, and then start booking vendors and making deposits.
Feeling overwhelmed? Yeah, we feel you. Our best advice is to remember that your wedding budget and major wedding decisions will likely be a moving target for a few weeks. While the order listed above may work for you, it may also make more sense to do things in a different order, or to re-do some of these steps a few times. Keep in mind that having to re-think your original vision is totally normal, and that you will get through it and be well on your way to planning a wedding that you and your sweetheart both adore.