7 STEPS TO SETTING A REALISTIC BUDGET
Photography: Tropical Media Group
Budget – That very daunting, a whole lot confusing, sometimes hard to stick to number that couples set for their wedding day. When I planned my wedding, keeping my budget was a huge priority, since Ipo and I were funding our entire event. Like most queer couples, this idea that daddy is going to cover the wedding just isn’t the case. I was daddy, so I knew that if I didn’t want to spend the next 10 years paying off my wedding, I needed to stick to my budget. But like…how? I don’t want to say this is a full-proof method, but I have had some great success with these steps if they followed to a tee, so if that is interesting to you, keep reading my 7 steps to setting a realistic budget that you can stick with.
Photography: Sharvis Ortega
#1: Write Down How Much You Want To Spend Don’t think about it too long or hard. Just write down the number that you want to spend at MAX for your wedding day. Unless you have a ton of cash flow and are able to plan with no budget in mind, you will usually have an idea of a number that is your top line. For myself, that number was $15,000 in 2019, which I think in 2022 would roughly equate to about $20,000 in #inflation. That was my MAXIMUM amount of money I would spend and not a dime more. Hold on to that number, because we will come back to it.
#2: Figure Out Where You Want To Get Married One of the hardest things for couples is figuring out how much money they want to spend on their wedding, because typically this is your first go around. You really don’t know how much this should all cost, so you are shooting into the dark about what you should spend. What ends up happening is you google “How Much Do Weddings Cost” and end up with a number that is not reflective of the place you plan to get married. If you are planning to tie the knot in Wyoming, that overhead cost might be lower than if you plan to get hitched in Hawai’i. The number that pops up on google search is an average of thousands of weddings around the country, so it's skewed. What you should do is figure out where you want to get married and then do your research of what things cost in that area. Don’t just google “How Much Do Weddings Cost In Hawai’i” – I mean really price out some of those big ticket items like venue, planning, photo, video, food. Get a gauge for what it will actually cost.
#3: Figure Out Your Priorities
Once you know what things cost in your area, now it is time to make a list of the top 3 things that are important to you. These are your must haves on your wedding day that are pretty non-negotiable. I know, everything is important on your wedding day, but some things are going to have to give if you are wanting to stick with a budget, so figure out what items are the ones that don’t have a lot of wiggle room. That could be having a completely open bar, your dream venue on the beach, having the clear tent with the lights and the pretty white dance floor, the all you can eat taco bar with 6 types of salsa, or maybe it’s more wholesome, like having time to spend with your guests. Whatever your top 3 is, those will be first and foremost on the budget. Everything else will be secondary to those three things.
#4: Put Together Your Guest List I say this one with my chest, because I feel like it is the most overlooked thing when it comes to setting a budget, but how many people you invite will DIRECTLY affect your budget. More people, more money, and sometimes more problems (if you haven’t, go read our blog on why small weddings are the vibe). I had roughly 120 people at my wedding, which is quite frankly bonkers that I was able to keep within my budget of $15,000 with some of the big asks I had. Looking back, I know I would have been a lot less stressed if I shortened my guest list a bit, because it would have given me a little more wiggle room and I wouldn’t have had to make so many adjustments to fit my phat ass (aka my wedding) into a size 2 pair of jeans (aka the budget).
I am not saying that you can’t have 200+ people at your wedding, but it is going to cause that overhead number to go up quite a bit to accommodate for that larger size. We invite out of obligation, not out of necessity, especially if you come from a big family. Remedy this by creating an A list, B list, and C list. Divide your guest list up into your must haves, kind of want, would be nice. That way as you start to price things out, you can decide on which list works best for you.
Side note: Kid’s cost money, sometimes as much as adults. That is all.
#5: Price It Out Now, you will combine steps 2, 3, and 4 and start by pricing out those must-have wedding needs in accordance with where you plan to get married. For example, your dream venue has a max capacity of 150 guests and costs $5,500, but they require you to use their food vendor. Roughly that is going to cost you about $65/person (not including tax or tip) at the venue of your dreams. You have 75 people on your must have guest list. That will be an additional $4,875. Your next must have is to have that photographer you have been following for years. For 6 hours of service, they charge $5,000. Lastly, you really want to have amazing flowers on your wedding day. For the florals you want and the 8 tables you have plus all the other vignettes, it will be roughly $2,800. For your top 3 things, we are looking at $13,675.
Now start plugging in numbers, based on your initial research for the supplemental things that did not make that top 3 list. Every single thing you want at your wedding needs a price. This does not have to be exact number like how the non-negotiable items were, but it should again be reflective of the area you are getting married in.
#6: Cross-Check and Adjust Remember your first step? How did it hold up once everything priced out? If that estimated cost for everything busted past the budget number you set, don’t freak out. Now, you want to go in and make adjustments. The beautiful thing about a wedding is that you are able to tailor this day to fit your needs and ditch some of the more traditional things you think you need, but really don’t. This is the time to go through your wedding with a fine toothed comb and really question each item if you really need/want it. Do you actually need all 75 people there or can that number go down to 40? Do you actually have to have a custom cake and desserts or can you opt to DIY a dessert bar with Costco desserts? Do you need a full bar of items, or can you just serve beer and wine? I am a firm believer that every budget is doable, whether you have $6,000 to spend or $60,000. What the big difference maker is, is how willing you are to make adjustments to fit that budget. Being realistic and willing to make adjustments to your ideas is one of the best ways to stick with your budget. It is either you or the budget that is going to have to be flexible.
Step 7: Track What You Spend and Actually Stick To Your Budget This is a two step process. First will be to figure out how you want to track what you spend. Whether that is a spreadsheet of sorts, create a log where you can plug in the actual costs.
Second, is to actually stick to the budget you set. My financial advisor made a really good point to me in one of our meetings that if you set a budget, but don’t stick to it, you are essentially just logging in numbers. Make these budget line items non-negotiable to you. If you set your budget for invites at $150, don’t go over that number just because you see something you like for $200. Create the mindset that you are not spending more than $150. The second you start going over some things, you will do that with everything and it is really hard to go back and adjust numbers once you set the precedent that this budget is flexible.
Photography: HPW Productions
I will leave you with this last bonus tip. As someone who was on a budget and now does this for a living, it is important for me to make sure that couples don’t go into debt over their wedding. What a terrible way to start your marriage. Don’t get it twisted – Weddings do cost money. So, if you are planning on taking that step as a couple, start saving early. Discuss your budget in the beginning stages of the planning process – well before you start booking your vendors. Make sure that the budget is a reflection of you both and not just one half of the equation. If you are the half that does not want to spend a lot of money on the wedding, while the other half is ready to blow it all, please talk it out. I fell victim to not fully listening to my wife who was definitely more frugal than I and I put us in a few years of credit card debt and a series of not so great money fights, that looking back could have been avoided if we just did these steps. We hope you find this helpful and if you need more help with budget setting, we love creating spreadsheets and budgets. Contact us here.
Photographers featured: Jon Cu Photography Dearest Jane Photography Danielle Bennink Kenzie Kate Photography The Singlers Photography Jose Phesser