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How to set a realistic wedding budget

There’s no denying that your wedding day will be one of the happiest days of your life. But let’s be honest – it’s also going to be the most expensive of all the confetti and the celebrating!

If you’re a bride-to-be, you’ll know exactly what we mean when talking about the B-word. It’s one of the most stressful hurdles to overcome, but it’s also the one key factor influencing every decision you make when planning your wedding.

Yep – it’s time to talk about the dreaded budget!

Setting a realistic wedding budget should be the first step you take when it comes to wedding planning. Your budget is essentially the driving force behind bringing your dream day to life. So, no pressure, but it’s imperative to get it right.

When planning your wedding, you’ll realise very quickly that every little detail adds up.

From choosing what photographer to book, what menu style to serve, and even the shoes you will be wearing on your big day. You’ll find yourself consulting your budget religiously for all of these decisions. It’s crucial to research and ensure your wedding budget is realistic to avoid any disappointment or financial stress along the way.

The good news is that there are some easy steps to clarify exactly how much money you can spend on your big day, where you should be allocating your budget, and the hidden costs to look out for along the way!

Before you even think about venue visits or dress shopping. You need to know exactly how much money you can spend in the first place. Trust us. You’ll want to get this part organised before you start making even the most minor decisions. This will give you a clear idea of your expectations from the very beginning.

First, figure out exactly where the money will be coming from. Are you and your partner covering all of the costs yourselves? Or do you have family members willing to contribute financially to your day?

Sit down with your partner first. Take the time to figure out how much money the two of you can put aside for your wedding. Look at how much you already have in savings, and then figure out how much more you’ll be able to save before the big day.

Once you have put a dollar amount on the contribution from you and your partner, you’ll need to approach any family members that have offered their financial support.

Some family members might be happy to contribute a certain amount of money towards your big day, while others might offer to take care of a particular element like the cake or your guest transport. If this is the case, make sure you give them an indication of what this might cost upfront. Don’t just make assumptions and lump them with a hefty bill!

Tally up any family contributions and your savings, and the total will be the amount you can realistically spend on your wedding.


Do the research

So, you’ve decided how much money you have to spend. But where do you spend it?

It’s essential to allocate your funds towards the different areas of your wedding before you start spending. Each element will cost you money from the venue to your place cards, so you’ll want to portion out the wedding budget accordingly.

The first step is to figure roughly how much each wedding vendor will cost. Write a list of all the services and products you will need for your big day. Next, start researching online to get a price estimate for each one.

Make sure the vendors you research are local to your area so that the costs will be relevant. There’s no point comparing florists in Sydney if your event is on the Gold Coast. Pricing is going to vary depending on your location.

If pricing information isn’t available via their website, you’ll need to contact the vendors directly to get an approximate cost. Try and source pricing from 2-3 vendors in the same industry to provide you with an average figure.

Your guest numbers are one detail you will need to provide to most vendors to receive an accurate price estimate. Pricing for services like catering or decor hire will be heavily dependent on this number.

Once your guest numbers have been confirmed, you’ll find it much easier to move forward and clarify your wedding budget!


Uncover hidden costs

So you’ve researched and compiled each vendor’s average costs. But did you read the fine print?

Unexpected costs are the quickest way to blow your budget. Take control of this from the beginning by determining any additional costs you might need to allow for.

While researching, ask the vendors if you should be aware of any extra costs or charges. This could include penalty rates for any overtime or Sunday work, transport of your rental items, rubbish removal from the venue the next day, replacement costs for accidental breakages, or corkage for alcohol service. Don’t forget to double-check if the prices quoted also include tax! Ask these questions upfront to avoid getting a surprise invoice after the wedding.

No matter how organised you might feel, there are always going to be unexpected costs or overlooked details along the way. It’s best to allocate 5-10% of your budget towards miscellaneous payments that might pop up.


Prioritise your spending

Now that you have calculated how much your wedding details will cost, it’s time to add this up and check if it fits within your budget.

If not, don’t freak out! That’s very normal. It just means that you need to start prioritising the different elements of your wedding to maximise your budget.

Depending on the vision you have in mind for your day, there are going to be some areas you should be spending more money on whilst cutting back on others.

If you haven’t defined your wedding vision, this is an excellent place to start! Sit down with your partner and figure out exactly how you want the day to look and feel and the essential elements.

A helpful tip is to list all of the wedding elements in order from highest to lowest priority. Maybe the ambience of your wedding is your top priority, while your wedding invitations are at the bottom. So it would make sense to allocate more funds towards music and lighting and then choose to DIY your invitations instead.

There might also be elements you can cut from the budget, like foregoing a wedding cake or guest favours if those details aren’t important to you. Don’t feel like you have to stick to tradition. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to your wedding!

You can also make some smart investments that will save you money in other areas.

One example here is your wedding venue. Sure, that corporate function room might be the cheapest venue option, but you will probably spend more money, time and energy on styling the room to compensate for the lacklustre space. A wiser investment would be to spend a little extra on a beautiful venue, saving you from spending hundreds on decor.


Minimising costs

Are you still struggling to keep everything within the wedding budget? You might want to consider making less traditional decisions to save money.

The date of your wedding is one easy way you can minimise costs. Consider having your wedding on a weekday or in the off-season, as this could mean a cheaper rate for your venue hire.

Another way to maximise your budget is to book seasonally when it comes to your food and flowers. Take an economical approach with your caterer by using local and seasonal produce only to create a menu friendlier on your wedding budget (and the environment!).

The same approach works with flowers – be flexible with your florist and work with the readily available flowers to save on overheads.


Make the tough decisions

If your wedding budget is spiralling, it’s time to make tough decisions.

It might sound harsh, but the easiest way to cut costs with your wedding is by reducing the guest list. If you are still struggling with your budget, go through your guest list with a fine-toothed comb. See if there is any room for movement. You might make the call to have no plus ones or no kids to save some extra money.

You also may need to consider that your wedding vision is simply unachievable with the budget you have available. Have you heard the phrase ‘champagne taste on a beer budget? If your dream wedding is an all-out extravaganza with 200 guests, a beachfront mansion and a string quartet, your budget is 5k. Something’s gotta give!

If your budget just isn’t aligning with your vision, but you’re not willing to negotiate, then consider pushing back your wedding date. This will give you more time to save to increase your wedding budget.


Track your spending

Once you have successfully allocated your budget, keep track of your spending!

Remember that most wedding vendors require a deposit upfront, with final payment due between 2-4 weeks before your day. With payments constantly being made, it can be easy to lose track of money that has already been spent. Any overlooked payments will throw your wedding budget right out, so make sure everything is well documented!

The best way to stay organised is to create a spreadsheet to document your expenses. Even the most minor expenses, like postage for any online purchases, should be included. Ensure you outline the due dates for the deposits and final payments. It’s so important to keep track of when payments are due to avoid any surprise bills you might have forgotten about!

To keep track of all your outgoings, consider using a wedding payments tracking tool like the one at WedSites which will give you an overview of how much you’ve spent and how much you still owe and get reminders for upcoming payments.


Sit back and relax

When your wedding day has come and gone, you should be relaxing and thoroughly enjoying your honeymoon – not worrying about the crazy debt you may have landed yourself in because of your unrealistic budget.

Setting a budget can be one of the most challenging tasks you and your partner will face in the lead-up to your big day, but it’s essential to get it right to prevent any last-minute roadblocks!

So take the time to sit down and create an in-depth wedding budget at the beginning of the planning process, keeping the above tips in mind.

And whatever your budget might be, don’t forget the most essential part of your wedding is celebrating the love between you and your partner – and that’s priceless!

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