Setting a Wedding Day Budget


Some couples pluck a figure out of the sky. Others bury their head in the sand entirely and some couples have a working figure based on what they either have saved or feel happy to spend, but they never really know if it's realistic. So I wanted to share with you my experience (so far) and what I've learnt from previous brides.

Having recently become engaged myself, I've most definitely ridden the wave of excitement, joy, pure happiness, but as soon as it really sunk in, I became a little overwhelmed and wasn't quite sure where to start. I think you know the feeling I'm talking about? Well I've been lucky enough to have some amazing clients over the years, that have given me some of the best advice and not only that, I've met some incredible suppliers too whilst hustling away in the wedding industry, so I thought, why not share it with you!

Have you thought about setting up an online account? Google accounts automatically generates a new email address, which is great for specific use such as emails from suppliers, Pinterest inspiration and imagery (of course) and just general communication between all of the contacts relevant to your wedding day. This way, no important emails get lost in your personal inbox and together you and your partner can view them at any time. Google Docs is another great feature of having a Google Account. You can create any type of document which saves it all online for you and you can even get access to them whenever and wherever you are. Genuis right? (you'd think I work in the Google sales department) 

Start with writing up on some basics, beginning with a list of everything you'll need to pay for, a figure you're happy to spend on each thing and what each one will actually cost. Once you have these listed, your research begins, which is when you'll want to add a couple more columns in for deposit payments costs and their due dates. Then once deposits and expenses begin going out, you'll be able to stay organised with the spreadsheet throughout.

Setting up a spreadsheet was literally the first thing we did (we are suckers for a spreadsheet) and honestly, seeing it all written down really does make you realise how much saving you need to do to have the wedding of your dreams, but it's all about being patient, realistic and enjoying the process.

First things first

After being in the wedding industry for quite some time, I've listened to my fair share of stories where couples don't write anything down, then panic six weeks before their wedding, when they realise they're in way over their heads. So I learnt that by keeping tabs on your saving and spending the entire time, knowing where to save and where to splurge, you can make adjustments as you go, before you get too far in.

You want to start looking at the 4 most important things to you and for these, it's totally ok to splurge. Is it the venue? The Photographer? The music? The makeup artist? The good thing about the more costly parts to a wedding, is that you can book them by paying a deposit pretty early on and stagger the remaining payments throughout the year. It seems the more expensive parts to any wedding day, tend to be the things you and your guests remember the most. The photos will hang on the walls for life, your hair and makeup are going to make you look and feel as beautiful as you should, the music sets the atmosphere and the venue, well, the venue is everything! 

Prepare for Surprises

I've been told on many occasions to prepare for surprises. Not long ago, I had the pleasure of doing the makeup for a bridal party of 10, in Oxford in a huge stately home venue. The bride was telling me how she, really loved this band who she'd been a fan of for years. Unfortunately for her, not until after she'd paid the deposit, did they tell her they were 'now based in Ireland so flight tickets must be covered'. I mean!!! Absolutely not ideal, and some pretty harsh news to swallow with her wedding day just around the corner. With no chance of getting an alternative band booking in time, she went ahead and paid for them. It came with a hefty eight hundred and fifty something pounds for flights alone, almost £1,000 of her wedding budget eaten up by the band.

This is only one example of one poor bride getting overly excited before finding out all the information first or even reading the contract! So, read the fine print, because expenses that seem appealing to the eye and just the one bulk payment aren't often the case. If the total of the line item isn't in your overall budget, cut it.

There are lots of other examples of unexpected costs:

  • Setup and Breakdown Fees: Cleanup isn't always included, and you may have to pay overtime rates depending on what time your reception ends.
  • Custom Cocktails: Signature drinks and spirits can add £2,000 to a 200-person wedding
  • Digital Access: Some photographers charge to view and share your photos online. 
  • Planners: Before you enlist a pro, know what you have to spend and factor in that rate. Many venues require you to contract their in-house wedding coordinator or bring in your own outside wedding coordinator.

Charge Responsibly

No matter how tempted we get to boost our cash flows, credit cards aren't always the answer. "Never pay for anything that you can't pay off in 30 days," says financial expert Farnoosh Torabi, host of American So Money podcast. (I highly recommend listening to as many wedding related podcasts as you can) That is, unless you qualify for a card with a zero percent purchase APR, which lets you skirt interest payments as long as you pay your entire balance within a certain time frame (usually 12 to 15 months). 

I personally wouldn't go down the credit card route. The last thing you want, as you walk into married life, is to be in debt because of 1 day representing the rest of your lives together. Just think, is it worth it? 

Think before you swipe the plastic!

Find ways to save

As I'm completely obsessed with looking at everything wedding related myself, I did a little research into the things that people really do make you think 'Do I really need to spend that much on this?' Or 'Why don't we do this instead, no one's going to notice?'

Thought about changing the venue?

Raw spaces like barns and village halls aren't for everyone, but you could easily make them wedding-beautiful. It may mean you have to bring in your own tables, chairs, china, glassware, silverware, kitchen equipment for the caterer, even restrooms and AC or heat, but in comparison to the overall price you'd pay for a venue where everything is done for you could be huge. I suppose it depends how much you like to DIY, but it's worth thinking about! Before you commit, estimate the total price of a wedding at that space versus one that includes all the basics.

Edit the guest list?

Each attendee costs far more than his or her meal when you consider the invitation, welcome drink, transportation, slice of cake, and wedding favour. "Never have a B-list, and be ruthless with your A-list."Apparently for the average 135-person reception, shrinking the guest list by 15 people could save you approximately £1,200.

Go off-peak?

Have a winter wedding? Choose a Friday or Sunday? Or celebrate with mimosas over brunch instead of hosting a four-course, wine-paired dinner.

Host the ceremony and reception in the same place?

Doing so could save as much as £4,000 on transportation for the wedding party and guests.

Have you chosen your music?

Depending on where you want to splurge and save, we all know a DJ is cheaper than a band. If you aren't so bothered about this part of the planning, you could cut the costs a little and have a DJ set instead.

Order all of your own paper items yourself?

This means ordering or creating your own wedding invitations and appropriate inserts. Keep in mind that further down the line, you may be ordering place cards and table numbers and even programmes too. Technology has made it easy to do a lot of this stuff on your own at home. A lot of newlyweds-to-be choose the appropriate paper (most companies online will send free samples) and print them on their own printer, then assemble, stuff, and post them. It's fun and creative and definitely something to be proud of. Call your bridesmaids over, drink some wine, and get it done! They say the invitations are supposed to 'give away hints' to the theme and colour scheme of your wedding day, so why not make it count.

I'd love to know if you've found this helpful. Feel free to comment and share your experiences, whether you're in the midst of it all or whether you've already had the wedding of your dreams.

Vanessa Elles Brides