Once the excitement of getting engaged starts, it can easily be interrupted by thoughts of “How much will this cost?”
Creating a budget that keeps all parties involved happy and carefree will be tricky. This chapter will help you with specific tools to keep all of your expenses in perspective. The key to successfully planning your wedding starts with a detailed budget. Leave your financial worries behind in order to enjoy your engagement by creating a rock-solid budget!
Wedding Budget Money Matters
Money is normally the first item on the agenda after announcing the engagement to family. Be prepared for a very long list of questions from the individuals who will be contributing financially to your wedding. If you are not having a traditional Western wedding where the parents of the bride pay for just about everything), then you are either completely in control or will encounter more people to manage. Keep in mind that you have two families coming together. Money is no object for some families. For others, money can be a great source of stress and tension for all of the individuals who will be paying. Tread lightly!
When Money Is No Object. Really?
There are some very lucky (and rare instances when couples find that their wedding budget does not have an upper limit. If you fall into the category of an unlimited-budget couple, you still need to set a budget. It may sound contradictory, but a budget is made for flexibility purposes. If you go over your budget in a certain category, you can make those adjustments as you go along. You need to make sure that your wedding professionals are not aware of this unlimited budget, so they do not take advantage of you.
If you find that you have a large amount of resources to put toward the wedding of your dreams, then you should hire a wedding planner A wedding planner can help you make the right financial decisions based on your style rather than your budget.
If your parents are paying for your wedding and money is no object) a budget will help them to see a clear picture of what your wedding might cost. The other issue to consider is that if your parents are in charge of the budget, they are also in charge of your wedding. Having an unlimited budget might give you limited choices. Be sure to communicate clearly with your parents from the beginning about your vision for your wedding day. It your vision does not coincide with their vision, difficult decisions and com promises will most likely have to be made.
Tighter wedding Budget? No Problem!
The majority of brides do not have an unlimited budget. It is normal to have a finite budget. If money is especially tight, it’s best to prioritize so that your wedding can have the things that are most important to you. First you must decide what type of wedding you want. Your job is to try to construct a budget based on your desires, using the resources you have available. Perhaps you and your fiancé don’t want a big formal (or semi-formal) wedding You may both shy away from over-the-top frills and opulent details, preferring to avoid much of the headache and expense by holding a small, simple affair. If this is the route you want to go, there are plenty of options: a backyard wedding at home, a simple dinner at your favorite restaurant, or a civil ceremony.
You may decide, though, that you want as much of the grand, traditional wedding that your budget will allow. In either case, planning expenses becomes particularly important. You’ll want to make every dollar go as far as it possibly can.
Who Will Pay for What
Now that you know what your overall budget is and the type of wedding you want, you’ll need to figure out exactly how you’re going to afford it. Who will pay for what? This question is very important in the beginning stages of the planning process. You must have a face-to-face conversation or phone conversation with everyone who is paying for part of the wedding. Communication is essential
Traditional Western Wedding Expenses In Traditional Western cultures, it is customary for the bride’s family to bear the majority of the wedding expenses. If you fall into this category, the bride and her family traditionally pay for the following:
- Wedding gown and accessories
- The groom’s wedding ring and gift
- Invitations, reception cards, and announcements (including calligraphy)
Fee for ceremony location
- Floral designs for ceremony and reception (including flowers for attendants)
- Music for ceremony and reception
- All reception costs (including the location rental, food, décor, etc.)
- Transportation, accommodations, and gifts for bridesmaids
- Wedding planner expenses (if you plan to hire a wedding planner)
The groom and his family are traditionally held responsible for the following expenses:
- The bride’s wedding and engagement rings
- Gift for the bride
- Marriage license
- Officiant’s fee
- The bridal bouquet, mothers and grandmothers’ corsages, as well as the boutonnières for the groom’s wedding party
- Rehearsal dinner
- Groomsmen’s lodging (optional)
If you are holding a multicultural wedding, please note that you must consult with each set of parents to understand one another’s culture. In some cultures, the groom’s family pays for everything. In this scenario, the two sets of parents must come to an agreement as to who will pay for what.
Even if you are having a traditional Western ceremony, you may feel uncomfortable asking your family to incur wedding expenses. There are several ways of handling this. It is not uncommon for a couple to bear the brunt of the wedding expenses themselves. If the idea of paying for your own wedding scares you (especially after you start finding out how much things can cost), just know that your own opinions carry more weight if you are the one writing the checks.
Remember that if you are going outside customary cultural wedding traditions, you must keep all parties informed. Be aware that some other traditions will go out the window at the same time. For example, you may not have much say about the food if your future in-laws are paying for it.
If you are not paying for the entire wedding out of your own pocket, be sure you get set dollar amounts from each person that is graciously contributing to your wedding. This will help avoid confusion and will help you design an overall budget. Setting Up and Sticking to a Budget
After you decide on the type of wedding you would like to have, you’ll need to figure out exactly how you are going to afford it. The amount you allocate to your overall wedding budget will help you to determine everything from the number of guests you can invite to the type of cake you will have and everything in between).
Running the Numbers
There are two ways to create a budget. The first is to determine the amount of money that is available right now. This will include any money that you and your fiancé may have squirreled away for the event, as well as any contributions that you are aware of. For example, you might know exactly how much your parents have saved up for your wedding day. The total of these resources is your total budget, assuming that you’re planning on paying cash for the bulk of your wedding expenses.
If your parents have no wedding fund planned, then there is a second way of creating your budget. Maybe you are sure your parents will want to chip in and help defray the costs of the wedding. Try tallying up the cost of your ideal wedding before asking for financial assistance. You may find that you will get a better response if you have a ballpark figure to present (rather
than asking for a vague contribution). The Wedding Budget Worksheet at the end of this chapter will be a valuable resource to you. It will give you a good idea of the amount of services and goods that many weddings include.
Doing Your Wedding Homework
If hiring a wedding planner to help you create a budget is not an option, you’ll need to do your homework!
Although your budget numbers may differ from a friend’s budget, asking newlyweds for their advice will give you an idea of what certain services might cost. For example, you may want to spend more on photography than your friends did or decide to have a DJ instead of a band. Their choices will help to bring perspective to your budget. After speaking with newlyweds, skimming magazines, and consulting parents, your next best bet is the Internet. There are several wedding websites that can help you determine what is the best budget for your city and number of guests. Most national wedding websites can help you navigate costs from wedding dresses to planning for gratuities.
Keep in mind that many bridal websites have budget calculators based on national averages. Your wedding and your city may be above or below the national average, which is why finding the right vendors and getting professional local advice is imperative.
Sticking to a budget is always the hardest part. Be sure to include your fiancé and the parties involved with funding the wedding when making changes to the budget. You may find that you will have to
make compromises to stick to your budget. When looking online, be sure to take all advice with a grain of salt. Some websites have professional advice columns and some websites have advice from newlyweds. Wedding professionals are selling their goods or services and newlyweds are basing their advice on their budgets. Take all information into account, but be sure that the choices you make are right for your
wedding. Also, don’t let an online negative review about a wedding professional keep you from researching them. Nine times out of ten, if a wedding professional has more positive reviews than negative, they are a reputable company and deserve the research (especially if you have heard great things about them from other resources).
Tracking Your Expenses
After doing all the research, you can finally insert the cost ranges into your budget. The best bet is to set up a spreadsheet or table like the spreadsheet at the end of this chapter. Always start with the proposed budget amount and end with the most expensive scenario. This way there will be no surprises for you.
Proposals, Proposals, Proposals
The only way you will be able to figure out a real approximate cost of the services and goods you want for your wedding is to ask for proposals. Here are some hints on how to get reasonable proposals:
- Ask for proposals from two to three wedding professionals for each category of service or good you are looking for. This will give you more negotiating power and will help you to see the average costs of each type of wedding professional. If you see more than three professionals, things will really start to become a blur and you might be wasting your time,
- Try to get proposals from the same wedding professionals that your friends used. Wedding professionals love referrals and will be more apt to provide a discount or added value to the package of your choosing
Wedding budget Decision Time
After receiving proposals and keeping all of your options in mind, the decision time has arrived. Many find that making a decision can be overwhelming due to the fear of buyer’s remorse. Buyer’s remorse, simply stated, is once a deposit is put down on a wedding professional, there is no going back, even if you want to! The best way to reduce buyer’s remorse is always to weigh the pros and cons of each wedding professional. Here are a few ways for making the decision for each type of wedding professional:
- After speaking with vendors, evaluate how they each stack up against the others (within the same category of wedding professional). This way you can weed out which ones won’t work for you, one step at a time. If you still have doubts, research their websites and other websites to see if you can find their pros and cons.
- Last but not least, always ask questions. Keep in mind your wedding professional wants your business. The only way they can confidently serve you is by knowing all of your needs and answering all of your questions. Communication is the key to a successful working relationship with your wedding professionals.
Traditional Gratuity Guidelines
From the minute you start planning your wedding to the time you go on your honeymoon, gratuities should be part of your overall budget planning. Keep in mind that this is the most important day of your life-you want to make sure that the wedding professionals you are using on this day are compensated for their extra effort.
What to Expect
Several wedding professional companies will include gratuities in their initial proposals. The most common are caterers and transportation companies. Another common area where you will see gratuities built in to proposals are at hotels. Don’t be surprised to see gratuities built in to other proposals. In the case where a gratuity is not built into the proposal, you should consider cushioning your budget to make room for it.
The Gratuity List
- Caterers/Facility Wait Staff-Sometimes your contract will include a gratuity already. If your contract does not have a gratuity included depending on the service provided, 10 percent of food and beverage only, before taxes, is traditional (no need to have a gratuity added for the rentals they provide for you). Remember your catering services are normally 50-60 percent of your entire budget and caterers do most of the setup of your event (tables, chairs, linens, etc.), break down, and cleanup. If you feel your catering sales manager did a particularly great job, an additional gratuity of your choice is always nice to help make your event a successful one.
- Bartender(s) – A caterer or hotel banquet manager might include their gratuities in your contract. If not, depending on the service and the type of bar, 5-10 percent of the beverage bill is customary. A bartender will likely be the first person to take care of guests once they arrive at the reception site or cocktail hour. Bartenders normally work the hardest the first two hours of the reception.
- Florist – Gratuity (not delivery charge) might be included in the contract. If there is no gratuity specified, a 5-15 percent gratuity is standard (before taxes, delivery, setup, and breakdown). Some florists will bring extra flowers to decorate in addition to what is in your contract, so take note and tip accordingly. Depending on the size of your wedding, most florists will bring additional staff to help create your floral designs in a timely manner; this should be taken into consideration as well.
- Religious Officiant – Normally not tipped, however, if you have a personal relationship to the officiant or the church/temple where your ceremony is being held, consider a monetary charitable gift of their choice. Some officiants have a standard rate for services. If your officiant does not have a standard rate, consider an honorarium monetary gift, depending on your budget or affinity.
- Civil Officiant – Hardly ever tipped, as most civil servants are not allowed to receive tips due to local law. Consider giving a nice and appropriate gift for the occasion.
- Musician(s) and DJ(s)—Their gratuity might be specified in the contract. If not, consider a proportionate tip per musician or DJ (based on 10-20 percent of the contract), depending on each person’s involvement.
- Chauffeur(s)/Limo Driver(s) – Almost always specified in event contracts. If not, depending on service, tip 10-15 percent of contracted price.
- Parking Valets, Powder Room Attendants, and Coatroom Attendants – Gratuity for the facility should include these tips. If you have hired outside vendors for these services, again gratuities should be included. If not, consider $2-5 per car.
- Hairstylist/Makeup Artists —-If you are at a salon, tip as you normally would. If you have a contracted individual who comes to your home or hotel and a gratuity is not already included in the price of their services), the gratuity should be between 10-20 percent.
- Pedicurist/Manicurist/Beautician (facials, hair removal, etc.)-10-20 percent each
- Masseuse-10-20 percent each
- Photographer(s) and Videographer (s)-10-20 percent depending on any extra effort. A photographer’s or videographer’s assistant (or second shooter) should be tipped as well. Some clients like to wait to tip on these two vendors until they receive their images and/or videos. However, tipping the day of the event will probably motivate them to pay special attention to the processing and have quicker delivery of images and DVDs for you.
You can ask your coordinator to distribute gratuity envelopes for you. It is also appropriate to include your gratuity with a nice thank-you note so each of your vendors can show future clients for reference.
Even after careful planning there are several expenses that can pop up a month before, a week before, or even the day of the wedding. The most important thing to note is that you have a choice in planning for these extra expenses or simply saying “no” to them.
The Unexpected Guests
After all the RSVPs have been counted and you made the calls, you have to make plans for last-minute, unexpected guests. Although it is not com mon for guests to show up at the last minute, it is also not unheard of! For instance, if all of your family is local and the majority of them are coming) the tendency of family members is to think “There is always room for one more.” There are all types of scenarios where unexpected guests arrive to a wedding uninvited. You simply have to be prepared to bear the costs of this and not expect guests to pay for it.
Gifts, Tips, and Repairs
In your budget you should always make room for giving gifts and saying thank you to those who are helping you during the wedding process. However, there is always a nice next-door neighbor and a generous coworker (who may not necessarily be on the guest list) who will surprise you with a nice card or wedding gift. You can have an extra invitation available for these people or simply have an extra thank you note available. Either way, this is an extra expense that you need to prepare for. Other tips and gratuities will pop up along the process of engagement and wedding planning. A couple of typical examples include the fantastic bartender at the bachelor or bachelorette party or the bellhop at the hotel who helps you unload your five suitcases full of wedding paraphernalia.
Finally, the one thing that engaged couples dread planning for the worst-case scenario. The worst being: doing any kind of repair to your dress, suit, the bridesmaids dresses, the groomsmen’s suits or shoes, or any other wedding party clothing. Always having a backup option is the key to a flawless wedding day. Being prepared financially for this will help ease your stress and keep you prepared for the big day!
Using a Wedding Budget Worksheet
The following spreadsheet can be used to plan out your wedding budget from start to finish. Take the advice from this chapter and put it into practice here. You can either rip out these pages and place them in your wedding notebook or create a spreadsheet online or on your computer for effortless changes along the way. This spreadsheet is meant to be a guideline and not law for your wedding. Again, budgets need to be flexible, and if you keep that in mind during your engagement you will have less stress and financial anxiety.