Congratulations on your engagement! Now, it’s time to start thinking about how soon you want to start dropping thousands of dollars. One, two, three years from now? Whenever that may be, you’ll need to decide how much you and your fiancé are willing to spend. No matter what you are going to plan, from this point on everything will be sent through your budget filter – that is if you don’t want to overspend.
Looking for help on budgeting was few and far between. The blogs we read either had what seemed like an unlimited budget or they didn’t feed their guests; both unrealistic situations. Hopefully, our advice and experiences below can be of help, and if not, thanks for reading anyways.
What’s your budget spending limit?
It’s important to think about family contributions at the beginning stages of your budget. A holistic view of your budget is important because it will be a key player in your planning. Say you’re willing to spend $35,000, but your parents are going to give you $10,000. Does that mean you are only spending $25,000 from your own pockets or are you going to spend $45,000. It’s important to be honest with your soon-to-be spouse about your budget. If you two are going to be paying for the wedding on your own, you need to agree on what you’ll be spending. Maybe this means you plan on saving for two years, or you’re going to do more planning and DIY projects on your own. In addition to family contributions, look to your friends. Do they have talents or skills they would be able to offer at a discount? It doesn’t hurt to ask, and more often than not, they would be more than happy to help out.
Research, Research, Research!
Once your budget has been set, do your homework. Look at vendors and venues. What are they charging per person? Creating this budget ahead of time will be very helpful because it will lay out everything you plan on spending and help you stick to that as much as possible. Say you allocated $20,000 for the venue, but it only ended up costing $15,000, you’ll be able to show those savings and possibly reallocate that to something that ended up costing a little more than what you anticipated.
For our budget, we created an extensive excel doc with everything we were planning to spend: projections, actuals, totals, savings, and an amortization table for the budget. We were going to pay for everything over the course of our engagement; no loans, no credit card debt. As we started placing down payments on vendors and buying decor, we would update this doc to keep it up to date. Some things came in under budget (such as creating and printing our own invitations) so we were able to allocate those savings to things that came in over budget. One of our married friends, Kate, gave us an important tip: negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. There is no reason why a vendor or store wouldn’t be able to negotiate. And the worse thing they could say is, “No.”
If you need help starting up your budget, but don’t want to create a complicated master excel doc, sites like WeddingWire and The Knot have budget tools that will help set you up. I admit we went a little crazy, but it helped us stick to our budget.
Guest Lists and Head Counts
Based on the homework you did, you’ll know whether or not you’ll be planning to spend $50 a head or $300 a head. To help build this budget, you’ll need to create your wedding guest list. By no means is this list final. Fatima and I created a guest list with 4 columns. Our first column consisted of just family. This list made up 50% of our total invites. Columns B-D were prioritized accordingly, for example, potential “plus ones” from our families were put on these columns. Ask yourself, who do you want at your wedding? People you barely know? Or your closest family and friends? This helped us decide how many people we were going to be feeding at the reception. That number started at 150, dropped to 80, and was set in stone at 110. Not only will this number affect your food count, but your favors, invites, save-the-dates, etc.
Creating your guest list can be stressful, especially when you have a million people in your ear:
- Start with a master list of everyone you want to invite.
- Prioritize them into columns.
- Narrow down to everyone you want to be there.
Set some guidelines:
- Are you inviting the elementary school friends you don’t talk to anymore?
- Are you letting everyone bring a guest, no guest?
Aunt Marge and Her New Boyfriend Al
One important tip we have for you, is define your guest list “plus ones” for your own purposes. This can be defined by however you want to define it, but it’s important to define it. In order to get everyone we wanted on the list and stick to our budget, plus ones would have to be dealt on case by case basis. We set some guidelines:
- Married couples
- Mutual friends who were dating
- Do we mutually know them/have we met?
Then, handle curve balls as they are thrown at you. Shamelessly, I admit we referred to the chart below in some instances (the chart was recreated because I can no longer find the original – it’s a mashup of memory and other infographics). While overall we did not run into any drama (that we know of), there was one moment where our decision on a plus one was questioned. Ultimately, our response was, “this is our wedding and we can invite whoever we wanted.” Consult the infographic when you get stuck.
One thing to note: guest list etiquette has changed quite a bit from when our parents got married. While looking for advice, we came across a lot of outdated etiquette and “rules” on larger wedding websites that didn’t fit into our wedding. While it was hard at first to say, “No” to those first few plus one asks, you have to remember this is your wedding, your money, and you can invite whoever you want.
Wedding photos taken by our phenomenal photographer, Beth Laschever.