If you haven’t read Chapters One or Two, I recommend starting with those posts first.
In those previous chapters, I have talked about what I used for wedding planning and I honestly believe that I was so successful at planning our wedding because I had The Joyful Wedding Planner to help guide me! I am using that as the framework for these posts, but I HIGHLY encourage you to buy the real thing for yourself. It’s only a $25 purchase for the full range of PDFs! The document is comprised of 160 pages of wedding planning goodness, so this low price is SUCH a steal! And the benefit of it being digital means that you can reprint any planner pages that you may want to replace or have multiples of.
Budgeting is never fun, but it’s a critical part of your wedding planning journey (and let’s be real, it’s pretty important in regular life too!). Chapter 3’s focus is all about helping you and your honey work on determining what your wedding priorities are and breaking down the overall budget.
(1) Start Saving Early
I can’t stress this section enough! Starting to save ASAP (if you haven’t started already) is going to be the key to minimizing your wedding-related stress. You and your fiancée should sit down and go through your finances together; this is a generally recommended practice for couples anyway, but especially important when wedding planning! Discuss what savings you may already have, where you can cut back a little bit (i.e. maybe make coffees at home instead of buying $4 lattes every day; it all adds up!), and how much you can comfortably commit to contributing from each paycheck to your Wedding Fund.
(2) Set Your Budget
Set your budget according to the money that you already have and how much you’ve determined that you can afford to set aside with each paycheck (see Step 1). This is also a good time to check in with any parents and/or grandparents to see if and how much they plan to contribute so that you know what you’re working with!
— Contributions —
If you are receiving any help from family members (or incredible friends!), you will want to keep track of who has offered assistance and the amount. Include any notes, such as “for wedding cake” or “toward rehearsal dinner”.
(3) Prioritize Your Budget
There will inevitably be items that are more important to you than others. For example, I didn’t want a ton of wedding decor items other than the basics, but I wanted LOTS of flowers… and in case you didn’t know, flowers are one of the most expensive items for any event. So, we cut the budget on decor items WAY back and prioritized floral arrangements.
— Our Priorities —
An exercise for you to both complete together: which of the following items are most important to you?
CEREMONY VENUE // RECEPTION VENUE // INVITATIONS / STATIONERY // DECOR // CALLIGRAPHY // WEDDING GOWN // HAIR STYLIST // MAKEUP ARTIST // GROOM’S ATTIRE // CATERING // BAR // CAKE & DESSERTS // PHOTOGRAPHY // VIDEOGRAPHY // DAY-OF COORDINATOR // RECEPTION MUSIC // FLOWERS // RECEPTION TABLE DESIGN // DIY DETAILS // CEREMONY MUSIC // COCKTAIL HOUR MUSIC // TRANSPORTATION // WELCOME BAGS // WEDDING FAVORS
After going through this list together, use the results to create two lists: Splurges vs Saves
(4) Be Wise About DIY
I definitely support Doing It Yourself (DIY) whenever it’s reasonable because having a handmade touch to any wedding really adds a really sweet, heartfelt element. HOWEVER, these projects can also go horribly wrong and some things should just be left to the experts (honestly, most times after you’ve bought all of the necessary supplies you haven’t really saved that much money and the end result isn’t ideal)… be honest with yourself about the time that you have available to dedicate to both large and small projects, as well as your crafting skills.
(6) Negotiate With Care
I really think that The Joyful Wedding Planner creators said it best: “[A vendor] may be willing to take a small percentage off of their package price under certain circumstances, but please don’t expect a discount — vendors have set their prices with careful thought.”
If your dream vendor is out of your budget’s range there may be ways to trim the cost down, such as: (1) asking to shorten the hours of coverage, forgoing the photo album, or lowering the number of prints from a photographer; (2) choosing a weekday to get married because venues often offer lower rates for off-season and non-weekend dates; or (3) asking your florist what blooms are in season (and therefore less expensive because they aren’t having to specially source anything; this is partially why we chose a June wedding date… I am obsessed with peonies!).
(7) Make Any Necessary Cuts Based on Priorities
This is where making your list of Splurges vs Saves based on your priorities in Step 3 is going to come in handy. You don’t need to make any generalized cuts (i.e. eliminating Cocktail Hour Music altogether), but rather decide what works best for your wedding style (i.e. having a preset playlist on your phone connected to a portable speaker instead of hiring a pianist to play during the Cocktail Hour).
(8) Considerations Around Alcohol
Booze can end up being a large wedding cost, but it doesn’t have to be. Some suggestions on minimizing the expense are: asking permission to provide your own alcohol (especially if you have a close relationship with someone who is in the industry and can get you a great price!); eliminating cocktails and only serving beer and wine for the whole night; or something as simple as skipping the champagne toast.
(Additional tips in this area are available with purchase of the digital version of the Joyful Wedding Planner!)
It doesn’t need to be brand new to be special… in fact, my best friend loaned me her beautiful veil for my wedding and that made it even more special for me to wear! Consider borrowing items from friends / family (maybe your girlfriends can each contribute one vase to be used as reception centerpieces? or maybe your neighbor has the perfect size easel to display your seating assignments? you can also ask to borrow jewelry pieces from loved ones to really add a sentimental touch!). Speaking of my best friend, she asked to “borrow” my handwriting skills for the gifts that she and her husband were giving to their parents. I loved being able to help her, even if it was in a small way, and I’m sure that the people that you and your fiancé are close to would be more than happy to contribute to your big day!!
If you happen to be getting married at a similar time as a a friend or relative, consider sharing some items with one another or even making bulk purchases together and splitting the cost (on general items such as welcome bags or sunscreen / blankets for guests?). While the following situation isn’t exactly “sharing”, I still think that it qualifies for this category: I ordered more table numbers than I knew that we needed (to round the bundle up to 12, when we only needed 8) because I was already thinking that I could sell them online to another couple, BUT it turned out that my venue loved them so much that they asked to purchase them from me so that they could offer them as an option for future events! I had fully intended to share them through the magic of the internet with another bride (since none of my friends were going to be married around the same time), but sharing them with MULTIPLE couples as they elect to use them at the venue sounded pretty great too. 🙂
(11) Take Care of Your Guests
I can’t tell you how many times I have attended a wedding and while everything around me was beautifully styled, there were some annoyances / inconveniences that I thought could have been avoided with a little forethought. Bug spray during an outdoor cocktail hour, bottles of water or hand-held fans for a summer ceremony, or a Honeybucket conveniently placed nearby so that guests don’t have to walk a significant distance for access to a restroom, etc. Guests will of course forgive these items because they love you and are happy to celebrate with you both, but wouldn’t it be best to keep them comfortable from the start? Make sure to leave room in your budget to keep your guests comfortable and happy!
If you’re looking for additional help in the budgeting department, the Joyful Wedding Planner’s got you covered with a: Wedding Vendor Pricing Guide (which provides you with ranges of what the actual cost of wedding-related items / services are so that you can loosely determine your budget <— CRUCIAL!), Tips on Tipping, as well as the SUPER IMPORTANT Budget Spreadsheet and Payment Tracker!
As I mentioned before, I know that this isn’t the most fun part of wedding planning, but once this portion is figured out everything else will be less stressful because you’ve determined what your collective priorities are and how much you can afford to spend on them.
(Click here for Chapter 4 on Vendors!)
Happy planning, friends!
P.S. In the spirit of full disclosure, I know these posts may seem like I am partnering with The Joyful Wedding Planner / Cultivate What Matters group, but this planner is seriously a head above the rest and was indispensable to me and planning our wedding! I just believe in it SO strongly and want to share it with you!!!