The Wedding Basics, Step Two: The Budget

So, your guest list is finished! Now you have to start thinking about the money.

We know, that almost made you close your browser, right? This is no one’s favorite topic. But we promise you’ll feel so much better once you’ve got all the numbers nailed down! Here’s how to land on your final budget without running away screaming.

Who’s Paying for This Party?

If you and your partner are solely funding this event, then this step is easier. Take a look at what’s in your bank account, and figure out how much of it you want to spend.

…Okay, that may not be as easy as it sounds. Some things you might want to take into consideration are how big you’re imagining the wedding to be and what you can’t live without. Maybe it’s a great photographer or a top-notch meal. But whatever it is, start getting some quotes from local vendors to figure out what’s feasible with what you’ve got. And no matter what things are most important, it’s also good to start getting an understanding of the things that will probably cost the most no matter what, like the venue and catering.

But let’s talk for now about if someone else is paying for your wedding. You may know right off the bat if your family is willing to contribute, but if you don’t, please borrow our script on how you can non-awkwardly ask them:

“Hey [Mom/Dad/Aunt Betty]! We’re so excited to start planning our wedding, and are sitting down today to get the budget figured out. There’s no pressure to contribute, but we wanted to find out now if there’s anything you felt strongly enough about having at the wedding that you’d like to help pay for it. If not, then we’ll just look forward to celebrating with you on the day-of! Can’t wait!”

Obviously feel free to adjust this as needed, but what we hope to accomplish here is both to find out if anyone wants to contribute and also to set the clear ground rule that if your family really, really, really wants you to have flowers at the wedding, and you personally don’t care if there are flowers or not, then they can either offer to contribute them or accept your final call on where the money gets spent. Which leads us to…

The Payments and the Power

If you’re paying for the wedding entirely on your own, you may wind up having a smaller affair, but you also get to completely decide every detail. If someone else is paying for it, then like it or not, their opinion matters.

Obviously, this is still your wedding, so you’ll need to decide how much control you’re willing to give away. If someone offers to, say, pay for your wedding outfit, but then will only pay for it if you pick the one they like, maybe that’s money you don’t want to take.

The best way to work with the people paying for your wedding is to start laying down ground rules from the get-go. What are you willing to compromise on? What absolutely has to stay the way you’ve pictured? Try to have a conversation with the person who’s funding the wedding about what accepting that money means and how much of a say that person is now expecting to have. Getting these big, hard conversations out of the way early on will mean a much more relaxed wedding planning process down the line.

Where the Money Goes

Once you’ve got your budget all figured out, you have to decide where to spend it. Let’s get back to talking about where you want the money to go. What’s most important to you? Being able to invite whoever you want? Decor? Hair and makeup? Narrow it down to three things that are really important to you so that when you have to start making hard choices, you know what’s been important to you from the get-go.

One of the things that was most important to my husband and me was inviting the guests we wanted to invite and making sure they felt comfortable. That meant arranging shuttles to and from their hotels, hosting a brunch the day after the wedding so we could spend more time with them, and putting together lists of things they could do if they were traveling from out of town and staying a few extra days in our city. Overall, this meant more of our time and money went to our guests than to many other parts of our wedding, but that’s what made us happy.

So, what will make you happy? You may not be able to have everything on your list in just the way you pictured, but by picking a few key things that you want your time and money to go to, you’ll still wind up with a wedding you can happily tell stories about for the rest of your life.

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