Each time I sit down with a prospective client, I have a three-page survey for them to fill out at the beginning of our consultation. In the survey, I ask general questions about what vendors they have already secured for the wedding date as well as questions like, "Where did you find Lazar Bridal Consulting?" and "What has been the hardest part of planning your wedding thus far?" It never ceases to amaze me that most clients state, "The budget!" as being the hardest part of planning their wedding.
What generally happens at some point in the planning process is the dreaded reality of, "How much is this thing really going to cost me?" or "How can I afford the wedding of my dreams?" I am here to tell you that anyone can have the wedding of their dreams and keep it within a reasonable budget.
To begin with, stay away from those wedding sites that have everything itemized by how much it "should" cost and uses a budget calculator to estimate your cost per guest! The one thing I always tell my clients is, "The wedding day is about you and your fiance and it should reflect your style, personality and the things you enjoy doing most as a couple." You are going to find throughout the planning process that there are things you need and things you do not need for the big day. For example, if you are having your wedding ceremony and reception at the same place, you do not really need to budget in the cost of a limo for the entire day. Also, if you do choose to use the same location, you save tons of money on decorating costs as well. Most of the little budget calculators do not offer you options for savings like these.
I like to suggest that my clients break down the budget into several different portions. For starters, choose the five most important parts of your wedding day that you are not willing to skimp on. It could be anything from the wedding gown and reception site to catering or alcohol choices. Choosing these five things is usually a big reality check for most couples. It is at this point they realize what is most important to them and now they can work on making it happen.
Itemizing your top choices like this gives you a better idea on parts of the wedding day you would not mind saving money on. For instance, you want an open bar (a bar where your guests do not pay for unlimited drinks) for your guests, but know that can be rather costly. Why not cut down your catering menu to one entree, or better yet, have a buffet instead of a sit-down dinner.
Most clients realize that their pictures are one of the most important parts of cherishing their special day for years to come. Unfortunately, photography can be one of the most expensive parts of any wedding. This is where having the help of a wedding coordinator like myself can come into play. If nothing else, hire a coordinator to assist with vendor referrals. If you happen to be one of my clients, there is a special photographer in town that only charges my clients $1200 plus tax for capturing their entire wedding on film and provides the couple with a CD of all pictures. This allows my clients to crop and print their own pictures at a fraction of the cost. And even better, they own all the rights to their pictures and don't have to order overpriced pictures from their photographer. You would be surprised at how much a wedding coordinator can save you in the long run. In general, my clients save a minimum of 15% with vendors I refer to them. Imagine the overall savings this has on a tight budget!
The budget should not be something you stress about obsessively. Sure, you want to make your wedding day special and fun, but also keep in mind that you do not want to go into debt for just one day of your life, no matter how special it is! I see it all too often; a client comes to me and they are maxing out credit cards left and right, or a family member has taken out a second mortgage on their home just to finance the wedding. Hello?! Does anyone realize how dangerous this is? In this day and age, your credit is everything. Why tarnish your credit when you are trying to build for your future?
If your budget cannot accommodate a wedding feast for 250, scale it down. You would be surprised how much more intimate a wedding is with 100 people or less. In my opinion, it is generally more romantic too. Do not feel obligated to invite everyone you knew from childhood or everyone at your workplace. If you want these people to be informed of your marriage, send them an announcement shortly after you are married.
The best advice I can give anyone getting married is to not fret about the wedding budget. Use the engagement period for what it was really intended for: to plan your future. I know it is hard to think about much beyond the big day, but I assure you it will pay off in the long run. Be practical with your spending, and remember to, above all, make your wedding day a reflection of you and your fiance. It is the little details your guests will remember the most.