Budgets. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they are essential to wedding planning. Whether you’re comfortable tackling finances, could use a little help, or are sweating at simply hearing someone mention the “b” word, I’ve got the tips you need to cover all your big-day bases. I strongly recommend using all of them, but at the very least, promise me you’ll use #11.
Here we go!
1. Use a budget tracking tool. Organization is essential before making any decisions or purchases. Even if you are extremely frugal and excellent with money management, when it comes to wedding planning there are many moving parts and expenses add up quickly. A tracking tool will provide a clear snapshot of your finances and keep you on track as you plan.
2. Prioritize. Think about the details of your day: entertainment, food, photography, etc. Make a list and decide which details are most important to you and your spouse-to-be. Knowing where you really want to splurge will help you be more resourceful in other areas, and will help you both plan the wedding that means the most to you as a couple.
3. Communicate before planning. Check in with your significant other about your financial situation, and have a clear understanding of who (if anyone) from either side is going to help contribute to the event. (Tip: if something is truly important to you, such as flowers, for example, try to find a way to pay for this item without help. While tough to admit, sometimes others offer to pay so they make “take control” and make decisions you might not be happy with.)
4. Know your style. Do you dream of extravagance, or are you low-key? Knowing your taste as a couple and being realistic not only keeps you on track with your budget, but also protects you from being swayed toward more expensive options or the wants of others. Coincidentally, understanding your style will also help ensure you have the wedding that truly reflects YOU – the one you will forever relive through your photos and think back upon for years to come.
5. Solidify your guest list right away. Guest lists can get out of hand quickly, and an innocent suggestion of inviting a 3rd cousin twice removed can incidentally open up an entire layer of family that now must be invited as well. Considering price-per-head, this may not be what you had in mind. Capping the number of guests leaves more to spend on the details.
6. Think beyond the wedding. A wedding is a huge undertaking to the point that we tend to focus on everything leading up to the big day. But how about what comes next? Do you plan on purchasing a new home shortly after? Would you like to take a lavish honeymoon? Is there another major purchase in the not-so-distant future? Ask yourselves these questions and plan accordingly, and keep it in mind before signing contracts. Your married selves will thank you.
7. Do your homework on vendors. Before you book any vendors, tap your network. You may find there is an up-and-coming photographer in your area who is just your style and willing to do the job for significantly less than that star photographer who is booked out for three years. No matter which vendors you book, make sure they are reputable by reading reviews or through recommendations from those you trust.
8. Consider hidden fees. There are things you just don’t think about until you’re knee-deep in planning. These are things like tips for vendors, stamps for the RSVP cards, and gifts for the bridal party and/or parents.
9. Hire a wedding coordinator. You might be saying, “But that’s just another expense!” On one hand, yes, it is. But a good wedding planner has connections, is an insider to the business, can help you save money, and does this professionally. Not to mention they are a great neutral party to bounce ideas off of, negotiate vendors – even help settle tricky family situations (a skill that is priceless!). Even the most level-headed brides and grooms can benefit from the services of a solid wedding coordinator.
10. Build in a cushion. Let’s face it: not everything goes as planned, and it’s likely that an unexpected expense or two will creep in. For us, it was booking a last minute shuttle to transport the bridal party and parents to the hotel after the reception – something we hadn’t considered sooner. It might be an item that breaks, a misplaced piece of jewelry (yikes!), an extra alteration, etc. These things happen, and you’ll be able to keep your cool if you’ve planned ahead.
11. Feed your emotional budget. You might find it odd that I am suggesting as my last tip that you track your emotional budget. But this is crucial. You aren’t going to be able to fully enjoy any of these lovely things you are working so hard for if you are spent emotionally. Take care of yourself, stay hydrated, attend gym classes, stay away from negativity, have a date night once per week with your spouse where you discuss anything but the wedding. Do what makes you, you, outside of the wedding. View the wedding as not just a day but a kickoff to the rest of your lives together; this will help you stay grounded and calm.
Alessandra Macaluso is author of The Real-Deal Bridal Bible and What a Good Eater!, host of the Real-Deal Brides podcast, and blogger at AlessandraMacaluso.com. Alessandra’s work is featured in several anthologies, and she has contributed to The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, and many other online publications. Her original screenplay “Polar Suburbia” placed as a semi-finalist in the Moondance Film Festival.