So, you recently got engaged, and you’re ready to jump into wedding planning? Great! Welcome to the complete guide to planning a wedding on a budget. Weddings are now an entire industry, and prices are through the roof for even the little things. With the effects of the pandemic pushing back a year’s worth of weddings, demand for wedding-specific items is higher than ever before, leading to price increases and fierce competition for venues and top vendors.
In this environment, it can feel impossible to stick to a budget and have the wedding of your dreams, but it is possible. These are the main points covered in this exclusive guide.
- Set a budget and a plan to stick to it
- Make a priorities list
- Set a planning timeline
- Be strict with your guest list
- Register early and intentionally
- Choose your wedding party with care
- Set aside time to enjoy your engagement
Your dream wedding is within reach—no matter your budget. Learn how to pull it all off with this guide.
Set a Budget—And a Plan To Stick To It
Setting a budget sounds much easier than it is in practice. Here are some budget setting tips this guide covers:
- Find out who is contributing to the costs
- Decide who will cover what
- Estimate a guest count
- Decide on a venue type
- Set a realistic budget for each item
- Make a budget spreadsheet
- Learn to say “no”
Find Out Who Is Contributing to the Costs
When you first start planning your wedding, it’s vital to understand who all plans to contribute to your costs. Sometimes, you or your fiancé’s parents will want to contribute or cover some or all of the wedding costs; other times, the costs fall entirely on the couple getting married. Start by having those conversations and finding out who wants to participate in the cost-sharing.
Here are some tips for broaching the subject:
- After announcing your engagement, talk to your parents about when you will start planning the wedding and ask if they want to be involved in the planning process.
- Ask your parents if any of them saved money for the occasion—some parents put away money over their child’s life for their wedding.
- Take no as an answer, not an attack. Sometimes, people can’t contribute for reasons you don’t know or understand; remember that “no” is a complete sentence and doesn’t indicate their happiness for your engagement.
Decide Who Will Cover What
Once you know who is contributing and what they are willing to spend, delegate specific tasks and note who pays for what.
Find a few things or one big thing that matches the budget of the person. For example, if your dad said he is comfortable paying up to $5,000, consider putting him in charge of paying caterers or purchasing the venue. Showing your loved ones what they are paying for instead of just accepting their money can make them feel more included.
Estimate a Guest Count
You and your partner must sit down and write out an estimate of how many people you each want to invite. Don’t forget to include people your parents want to invite, but don’t fear setting a boundary. If your parents say they want to invite 200 of their closest friends (that you’ve never met), it is okay to say no and set a more reasonable limit.
Decide on a Venue Types
Different venues cost different amounts. The venue must:
- Accommodate the number of guests you wish to invite
- Fit your budget
- Have the correct date available
- Feel like a good fit for the couple
Set a Realistic Budget for Each Item
Write out a list of all the things you want for your wedding and assign them a realistic budget that indicates the maximum amount allotted to the item. The best way to stick to your budget and come in precisely at or just below it is to consider those maximum amounts as hard rules. For example, if your budget indicates that you can spend $40 per person for meals, you cannot book a caterer that quotes $42 a plate.
Make a Budget Spreadsheet
Creating a spreadsheet dedicated to your budget helps you write those maximums down so you can share the spreadsheet with others who will hold you accountable. You and your partner know each other well—if your partner tends to impulse spend, writing down their purchase before agreeing to it can help curb their habit. If you feel tempted to go over budget on flowers, having a hard rule in place can help keep you in line.
Learn To Say No
While it can be heartbreaking to have to turn down your dream venue due to budgetary constraints, the ability to say no will ultimately save your wallet. Once you set those hard rules for budget maximums, you must practice turning down things you want. Talk with your partner and hold each other accountable for your purchases.
Make a Priorities List
Creating a list of you and your soon-to-be spouse’s top priorities or non-negotiables is a great way to ensure you get your dream wedding, even with a budget. If you always dreamed of a bouquet of peonies and a mermaid gown, you can get it, as long as you’re willing to compromise in other areas.
Talk With Your Partner
Talk to your partner and learn what is essential to each of you on this day. What your partner envisions for the big day and what you want could be complete opposites—it’s crucial to have these talks early on in the planning process.
Choose One To Three Things Each
Throwing a budget-friendly wedding doesn’t mean you can’t still get your dream day. Decide what makes your dream day special and prioritize those things. Discuss the non-negotiables with your partner. Set a “priority budget” that allows each of you to choose one to three things that are non-negotiable. Continue choosing each until the budget is spent.
Know the “Why”
Making a priorities list provides an opportunity for you to bond more with your partner and connect on a deeper level. When your partner shares the one item they absolutely need for the big day, ask them why. There may be sentiments you didn’t know about behind their picks.
Set a Planning Timeline
Part of what eats into betrothed couples’ budgets is dragging out the planning process or rushing it. Giving yourself too short of a planning period can lead to tons of impulse purchases and feeling constrained to a specific day for the ceremony. On the other hand, giving yourselves far too much time to plan can lead to second-guessing your decisions and spending more money fixing mistakes.
Decide How Long To Plan For
Come up with a realistic timeline to plan your wedding. Setting a date for the big day can feel intimidating, but once you have set your date, the rest of your plans can all fall into place.
Be Strict With Your Guest List
For the majority of weddings, the most expensive part is the guests. On average, in the United States, each wedding guest costs upward of $200. While this cost will vary based on your other decisions—such as the menu, seating, and alcohol choices—it is still essential to note.
List Necessary People on Both Sides
You and your fiancé should each make a list of who must get an invite. People such as parents, siblings, and best friends should all be listed here. This gives you two an idea of your lowest possible guest count.
Talk With Your Partner About Guests
Discuss anyone you do not want attending the wedding. While most of this may seem like it goes without saying, discussing everything out loud helps establish boundaries and set expectations. This can mean telling parents that you will not send an invite to anybody you have not met. It can also mean establishing that certain friends or family members who are not positive contributors to your lives as a couple are not allowed. These can be difficult situations, but keep an open mind and understand each other’s boundaries and reasonings.
List Wanted, but Non-Necessary People
Once you’ve established who you are inviting and who you are not inviting, it’s time to fill in the extra seats in your budget with people you’d love to see on your big day. Set a number of extras for each member of the couple and write your lists accordingly.
Plus Ones, Kids, and More
Discuss the ruling for providing a plus one. This is a touchy subject, but many couples decide between these three options:
- Give everyone a plus one.
- Give no one a plus one.
- Provide a plus one to those that are engaged, married, or have a long-term partner that both you and your fiancé know.
Setting these rules gives you backup in case anyone becomes upset that they didn’t get a plus one.
Next, establish if children are welcome on your big day. If you choose to allow children, be transparent with parents about what you expect of them regarding supervision. If you choose not to allow children, it is most polite to provide a list of local childcare options for the guest.
Register Early and Intentionally
Registering early for gifts may seem a tad taboo, but it can be mutually beneficial to you and your soon-to-be spouse and your guests. There are many wedding-related events before the actual big day that involve gift-giving. Registering early helps guide your guests on what to buy and keep track of the gifts you have already received.
Choose a Registry
There are tons of online registry options out there, and all have their pros and cons. What matters is that the one you choose fits your needs. One of the first things you should do is decide where you want to register. Choosing a registry is stressful, but actually registering for gifts can be loads of fun!
Send It Out
Once you’ve registered, send out links to your registry or communicate with guests about where you are registered so they can look at your list as far in advance as is convenient for them. Sending this out in advance helps your wedding party and close relatives who may be involved with events before the ceremony, such as planning events, bridal showers, bachelor or bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinners, and more. These are some occasions on which people like to bring gifts, and giving them a list of things you’ll appreciate in advance helps everyone out.
Prioritize what items are most important to you and which you could do without. This helps guide guests to purchase the things that matter most to you and your partner. If you can, try to choose a registry with a priorities feature that allows you to rank your gifts or list them in order of importance.
Tip: Consider registering for help with the honeymoon costs. Using a service that allows guests to “gift” you an experience rather than a physical object is a great way to save money.
Choose Your Wedding Party With Care
Who you choose to be in your wedding party can make or break a budget. Your wedding party is responsible for parts of the costs of your wedding, but it can also have a significant influence on how you plan your wedding as a whole.
Decide How Big the Party Will Be
The size of your wedding party contributes to costs and the number of guests who will be in attendance. Couples often run into discrepancies with how many people they want on their side of the wedding party. When one partner wants their ten closest friends on their side, but the other partner only wants their three most trusted confidants, there can be a strain. Have these conversations early in the planning process so you can prioritize your wedding parties.
Outline Wedding Party Responsibilities
When you ask your friends or family to be in your wedding party, let them know their responsibilities and what you expect of them in terms of time commitments and financial contributions. When you ask them to be in your party, consider providing them with a list of duties and ask them to thoroughly look it over before they answer.
It’s understandable if a person cannot commit to taking two weeks off work and spending $5,000 on somebody else’s wedding—if they give you a respectful no, don’t hold it against them.
Set Aside Time To Enjoy Your Engagement
As stressful as planning a wedding can be, being engaged is an exciting and fun time. It is easy to get caught up in the planning and forget to enjoy this stage of your relationship. Your engagement and wedding will go by in a blur; take time to make loving memories during the hectic hustle and bustle.
Even with this complete guide to planning a wedding budget, you still may feel stressed about ensuring your day is perfect. As long as you prioritize, communicate with your partner, and learn to let go of what doesn’t matter in the long run, your day will be one to remember forever. Congratulations on your engagement! Now go enjoy your day.