I joyfully attended two weddings this week and helped my client Andrea (not her real name) craft the budget for her wedding at the end of June. As she gets closer to the big day, how to create a wedding budget is at the top of Andrea’s mind.

So, with wedding season underway, I thought this would be the perfect time to write about how you can plan a financially sane wedding.

How to Create a Wedding Budget in 7 Simple Steps

Weddings are beautiful, exciting and emotional celebrations. With all the planning and details involved, they can also be extremely stressful. And wherever money’s involved the anxiety can shoot through the roof.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Planning the finances ahead of time will help you stay calm and in control. This is how I create a wedding budget is 7 simple steps:

1. Know how much you have to spend

I know this sounds obvious, right? How can you even get start planning your wedding if you don’t know how much money you have to work with? But lots of folks dive in, hiring vendors, writing checks and swiping credit cards without knowing what their financial boundaries. Which is unfortunate. Because it’s way too easy to end up in debt and paying for that wedding for months (or years) to come.

Knowing how much you have to spend and setting good financial boundaries means that you understand which financial commitments you can undertake. This helps you eliminate uncertainty and fuzziness and reduce anxiety. You’ll feel more confident and in control of your money. Isn’t that how you want to feel on your (or your child’s) wedding day?!

Related contentHow to set financial boundaries {success story from a client}

2. Make a list of your spending categories

You’ll be surprised at just how many there are. When Andrea first started planning her wedding budget she thought it would be simple: Venue, gown, band, catering, photographer. You know, the basics. But as she worked through the expenses she remembered all the “incidentals” like renting a car (plus gas of course), a sight-seeing trip for her out of town visitors, the rehearsal dinner including alcohol, and thank-you-gifts for her parents and future in-laws. Because Andrea and her fiancé Eli will be hosting the rehearsal dinner outside, they’re using the wedding as an opportunity to do some much needed gardening work.

Andrea was both surprised and relieved by the planning process. “Oh, perhaps that is a lot of money,” she said when all the numbers came together. And relieved. Because until we entered the numbers into her online software (the Money Minder Online that I routinely use with my clients), “everything just existed in my head,” said Andrea. And that fuzziness was pretty anxiety inducing. But once Andrea saw the total, she knew she could take charge of the decision making and make different choices.

3. Prioritize your expenses

Wouldn’t it be fun to plan a no-limits, royal wedding like Harry and Meagan? I can just imagine: the flowers, the food, the horse and carriage, the dress. Oh yes, the dress!

And don’t forget the jewels.

But alas, most of us don’t have a royal budget and we’ll have to pick and choose. Each one in accordance with his and her means. While the bride and groom are king and queen for the day, each with a unique personality and a priority list, the parents of the couple, who may be funding the celebration, will also have their needs and wants thrown into the mix. Use this as an opportunity to build bridges between the two sides so that everyone arrives at the wedding hall feeling like this is his and her special day.

Consider your finances carefully as you set your priorities. Focus on those things you’ll remember most. Here are a couple of suggestions. But really, any and every spending category can be adjusted downward if need be:

Music. Do you need a 7-piece band or will 5 instruments work just fine? If your budget is tighter, a keyboard player might be just fine.

Food. When I go to a wedding, the food is not the first thing on my mind. Yes, I do remember the food from TWO weddings I’ve attended which was phenomenal and more than plentiful. But at the end of the day, it’s not about the food. It’s about joy and happiness and sharing this special day with the bride and groom. Review the menu and see where you can cut

4. Negotiate with your vendors

Rule number one: everything is negotiable. Shop around before you sign a contract so that you know the range of market prices – yes, there will be a range. And don’t accept the first price quote you get. Vendors usually quote a high price first, leaving a margin for negotiation. If your heart is set on a certain venue, photographer or band, knowing what similar suppliers are offering gives you leverage to negotiate a lower price. You might also be able to arrange a package deal, like the band throwing in the sound system for free rather than charging out for it separately.

5. Track your spending and stay connected with your money

Creating your spending plan is not a set and forget activity. It’s only step one of the process. Step two is adjusting the plan as you put down money and make real purchases. Real costs will differ from estimates. For example, when Andrea and I created her wedding plan, we estimated the cost of a two-week car rental. Only after she starts comparing prices will Andrea be certain of that expense. If it’s significantly greater than the estimate, Andrea and Eli might have to cut back somewhere else to stay within budget.

Tracking your expenses and adjusting your spending plan are an ongoing process. Stay connected with your plan daily, especially as you near the wedding date, to avoid unwelcome surprises.

6. Set up an emergency fund

Life happens. Always. Hiccups and mess ups are part of every celebration, as we discovered when our daughter got married last June.

Related Content: 5 Mindful Money Lessons That I Learned from My Daughter’s Wedding

Having money set aside in a dedicated emergency fund will help you reduce stress and anxiety so you can enjoy your special day with a full heart.

7. Keep the lines of communication open and flowing

This is not just your celebration. It takes two to tango (plus parents and maybe even grandparents). Each person brings his or her own life experiences and expectations to the wedding canopy. We can never really know why it’s important for the father-of-the-groom to invite 60 of his colleagues from work (Andrea’s story). Or why the mother-of-the-bride insists on a certain color scheme (not Andrea’s story). Rather than locking into your own position, try stepping out of your box and taking the other person’s point of view. If only for a few moments. You might gain awareness into their priorities and be able to grant them the benefit of the doubt. In a loving and curious way, you can also ask them to help you understand why this particular expense is so important.

Communication is key! Planning a wedding is stressful enough as it is. Do what you can to avoid unnecessary friction between everybody involved.

Weddings are wonderful and special occasions. Take care of yourself, stay connected with your spending plan and try to stay calm (and excited, of course!). Managing your wedding money properly will help you rejoice with a full heart. Without paying for the celebration for years and years to come.

If you need some help creating your wedding budget, contact me by clicking here. Let’s arrange a free discovery call. I’d love to see how I can support you.

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