Blasting Through Your Wedding Budget

Most brides sit down, eventually, with a calculator and an Excel spreadsheet.  They pick one or two "must have's" and say they are perfectly fine skimping on the rest to stay within budget.  How often I have seen this quickly unravel is beyond counting.

Two friends of mine were planning a wedding in the sultry South. They found a gorgeous orchard with a phenomenal open barn space for the reception (similar to the Orchard Ride Pavilion seen here).  They had a budget of $8000 for the entire soirree, including rings and the dress.  Clearly they would be doing some major penny pinching since the venue itself was $3500 for six hours. We talked on the phone ad nauseum about ways they could save money.  Here are just a few:

  • Invite only family. Have a less formal celebration with your friends when you return from the honeymoon.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol served at the reception or have it be alcohol-free. Wine, beer, and spirits increases the cost of the event significantly.
  • Have the wedding ceremony in the same location as the reception thereby booking one less venue and avoiding the need for the cocktail hour.
  • Try to barter for photography/videography/DJ services. Lots of professionals are going this route in this rough economy.
  • Make the meal a simple meal. Offer only the choice of meat or vegetarian.  Simple good food that tastes flavorful is often overlooked as an alternative to a catered meal of, say, poached egg lovingly splayed against a roasted leg of lamb with a mint mousseline.  For this Southern wedding, we talked about good old fashioned barbeque: delicious, simple food with warm aromas!
  •  Create a playlist of exceptional dance music, stick it on an iPod, and press play. Music is just music and you could, in theory, get away with having your Cousin James make sure to pause during cake cutting, etc.
  • Rent the wedding dress!
Many brides' good intentions for the wedding budget gets quickly pressured to balloon. My friends ended up renting the barn and orchard but also wanted an incredible photographer (why not? the venue was too pretty to take poor pictures, they said) who then cost $2250.  Now they were up to $5750 without a dress, rings, food, music, or invitations. Then the bride tried on dresses that were WAY above her budget (tip #1 for dress shopping: never EVER put a dress on your body you can't afford!). Of course, one in the $4000 range sang to her and she just had to have it.  Then her parents wanted to invite their good friends and then the groom insisted on having microbrewed craft beers at the reception and then his sister didn't think barbeque was appropriate for a wedding reception and then...and then...and then they were over their $8000 budget significantly.  $22,000 was the final bill.  The event was glorious and the couple looked radiant and the photos turned out fantastic. But, they have put off buying a house for a few years to pay down the debt and they postponed the honeymoon indefinitely.  Plus, if you think about the 13% interest on the extra $14000, they will be paying those credit cards off for a while.
We create budgets for a reason. Weddings will have unexpected costs beyond what you estimate, so having a cushion for debt is important.  Just remember: you'll be paying for the wedding for a long time afterwards if you blast through your budget. Compromising on key areas is a win-win for the wedding and married life beyond!