Let’s face it: no one likes to talk about the budget. As a bride, you’d rather spend time dreaming of stunning gowns, amazing flowers, and turning your wedding into the Pinterest pictures that have become your latest obsession. But, having the unpleasant discussion about budget early can save a couple from a lot of disappointment during the planning process. I’ve seen many couples focus solely on the wedding and not the marriage; having a lavish, over-the-top, over-the-budget wedding that impresses all of their family and friends. Afterwards, they are left starting their new lives as a married couple – which is enough of a transition – with a mountain of debt. With a little planning, and a lot of reality, you can have a beautiful wedding that is cherished by all for a lifetime; as an added bonus, you can return from your honeymoon with the security that your wedding is already paid-in-full.
Be realistic about finances:
Before you put down the first deposit on a ballroom, or place the first floral order, take a long look at your finances. Yes, it’s boring and can really kill the planning high that you’ve begun to float on, but it will save you a lot of stress later. Honestly, few things can put a strain on marriage more than financial issues, and life continues long after saying “I do”. Take the time to plan out how much you can afford to spend after your monthly expenses each month, and set your wedding budget accordingly.
“If you could describe your wedding in three words, what would they be?” This is the first main question I ask a potential client. It’s actually important for both me and the bride, because it encourages the couple to focus on what is really important to them. Once you have those words, brainstorm what elements contribute to describing your wedding in those words. For example, if one word is “fun”, then an energetic DJ and a photo booth for guests might be something to consider. Or, if your word is “sexy”, you might want a ceremony filled with candles and deep red rose petals. Whatever words you choose, focus your energy and budget into creating that vision, and don’t spend the money on other elements that won’t mean as much to you down the road. If you want a “relaxed” wedding, shelling out money for a formal, seven-course, sit-down dinner might not bring you the experience you want. I encourage you and your fiancé to sit down together and set the priorities that you want to focus on for your wedding; it streamlines the planning process, and allows you to create the perfect day for YOU.
Do your research:
Allow me to clarify this. By “research”, I do not mean focusing only on posting Pinterest pictures and attending every bridal show within a hundred-mile radius. Online resources and bridal shows are a wonderful way to gather information and inspiration for your wedding; I highly recommend them. But don’t overload yourself and become overwhelmed with the task of incorporating EVERYTHING you see into your day. I would encourage you to focus at least some research on crucial elements like your venue and vendors. Take the time to visit different venues and talk with their staff. Go to tastings with different caterers, and talk to several florists to see which one might be the best fit. Utilize the expertise of a planner that has experienced how different places and vendors execute weddings. A planner also has many vendors that he/she is used to collaborating with on events; considering these vendors could ensure that you are working with companies that are professional, provide an excellent product/service, and can save you a lot of money.
Control your guest list:
This can be a touchy subject, especially when dealing with family (check out my post: Navigating Family/Friend Drama). But here is the reality: your wedding is for YOU and whoever YOU want to be there. Try not to feel pressured into inviting people that you aren’t close to (or don’t even know), if your budget does not allow for it. If you find that there are some expensive elements that you desperately want to incorporate, consider that fact that pricing for a lot of vendors is on a “per head” basis. If you have a large guest list, factor that into your budget when considering these elements. I was given a good piece of advice when I was planning my wedding: if you haven’t spoken to a person in over a year, think carefully about whether or not to invite them to the wedding. Believe me, big weddings are awesome! Intimate weddings are too. The most important thing is to consider your guest list FIRST, before the major planning begins; once it is set, try – within reason – to stick with it.
Know your limits:
Think about the kind of person you are. Think about the kind of person your fiancé is. Now, have the planning process that works best for the both of you. If you are not the DIY type, don’t attempt to make thirty centerpieces and 300 favors the week before the big day. If you have trouble making decisions, don’t wait until the last minute to look for the perfect gown. If you are very traditional, consult with a planner early to be sure that all of the important elements of your ceremony are accounted for in the timeline. If you and your fiancé are paying for your entire wedding, don’t be afraid to have a long engagement and ensure that you have the budget for the day of your dreams. Do you see my point? This is your day, and you not only have to right to make it everything that you want; but you also have the right to make the planning process as smooth and enjoyable as possible.