Creating and Sticking to a Wedding Budget

Creating and Sticking to a Wedding Budget

It’s time to plan your wedding, but you need to start out realistically. There is absolutely no reason that a couple should be paying wedding bills three and four years after the ceremony. That’s not a great way to start a new life and it adds to the overall stresses that can impede your blossoming relationship. The goal of creating a good wedding budget is to avoid all that. If you do this right, your wedding will be paid for before you walk down the isle.

Now, there are a lot of pieces of software you could buy to create a detailed wedding budget. However, start thinking frugal now – instead of using a purchased software you can set up your own spread sheet using Excel. Nearly every IBM compatible computer offers that as part of the basic programming. Excel is very user friendly and it won’t take you long to learn how to add and subtract in the spread sheet if its something with which you’re unfamiliar. Alternatively you could do this on paper (you can find paper suitable for budgets at nearly any office supply outlet very inexpensively).

In either case, your next step is setting up a list of vendors and other expenses in the first column of your budget. Here is a sample of some of the items that may be on your budget list:


            * Hall                           * Reception food                    * Reception linens

            * Music                        * Flowers                                * Clothing

            * Alterations                * Officiate                               * Photography

            * Church                      * Decorations                         * Favor

            * Gifts                          * Car(s)                                   * Invitations

            * Tent rental                * Chairs                                   * Equipment rental     

            * Travel expenses       * Honeymoon                        * Hair stylist 

Now, it’s obvious more things may come up along the way than what you initially list (which makes the computerized spreadsheet more manageable than a manual one). It’s very important that each time you think of an expense or spend any money that it gets noted in the budget.

The next few columns of information next to the vendor/expense row are for your ease of reference. You want the address of the vendor, their phone number, email and cell phone and the price they’ve agreed to contractually. For items that are not vendor oriented (like gifts for the wedding party) make a note of where you plan to purchase the item and how much you’ve budgeted for it. Don’t forget to list your deposits on items (and due dates), and to make note of every payment you send out (and when). That way if someone calls looking for a check, it takes only a second to tell them if the money is already enroute. In wedding planning your time is just as valuable as your budget!

Initially you won’t have a lot of information on your expenses, but if you already know the bottom line dollars you can spend you can allocate out a goal amount per expenditure. For example, if you want to spend no more than $200 on those gifts for the wedding party put that in a column marked BUDGET. Next to that you’ll be putting your TOTAL actual cost. Sometimes you come across a deal and you’ll actually be able to re-allocate some funds elsewhere. By the way Excel offers “page 2” and “page 3” etc. – so if you’d like a separate page where you can keep track of vendor communications, you can use that space.

Another cool tool in spreadsheets is that you can color in specific cells. This allows you to color code your budget. So cells with say a blue background are those for which the groom’s family is paying. Again, this is a quick visual cue that lets you know you don’t have to worry about that specific element. Other things you may want to consider color coding include:

            - payment due (red)                                       - paid in full (purple)

            - over budget (yellow)                                    - under budget (green)

 Really it can be as simple or complex as you wish, but ultimately you want this to be a tool that works easily for YOU.

Now, once this is done don’t let all that hard work just sit there. Remember to USE your budget. Every time you sit down to plan an element of your wedding, take it out. Every time you make a payment, take it out. Did you purchase something unanticipated for the event – add it on and change your figures accordingly. Really the biggest key to success with your budget is just being diligent.

If you’re not a good numbers person, or someone who tends to overlook small details you may want to ask a friend or family member to take over this element of your wedding for you. You can still help by giving that individual receipts and communicating about all your contracts and anticipated expenditures. However, its vital to staying on financial track that this tool be accurate. Some couples just prefer to have someone else handling money from the get-go to alleviate some of the number-oriented stress.

Beyond using the tool you’ve created the other key to sticking to your budget is having a strong backbone. Many friends and family members, while well meaning, will not understand your financial constraints. As a result they’ll be making all kinds of very tempting suggestions that just aren’t reasonable. In some cases they may even pressure you to make choices that aren’t comfortable. 

Learn to say NO, not only to them but to that inner magpie that wants all the pretty, shiny stuff even if it’s too expensive. It can be hard, and there is a way to compromise. If there’s something you find you really, really want then you need to determine where that money will come from by…. (can you guess?) pulling out your budget again and seeing where dollars can be trimmed. Add that new item on to your list with the cost, and adjust other items accordingly. This is really the best of both worlds because it allows that little frill that many couples crave, but still keeps your bottom line intact.

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