Eight Steps to Savvy Spending
By Lindsey Madsen, Photos by Tyler Rye
Getting engaged to be married can feel like a fairy tale come true. Brides quickly dive into planning the wedding they have always dream of. They daydream about lush floral arrangements and start imagining a reception fit for royalty. While there is nothing wrong with any of that, reality sometimes has a different plan and the fairy tale can quickly turn into a scary story if you aren’t prepared. No one wants their wedding day to be tainted with heaps of stress over money and financial frustrations. You can have the wedding of your dreams at a price that suits your circumstances, and this 8 step outline can help you stay on track and achieve a real life fairy tale.
Step 1: Get Organized
Before spending a single penny, get yourself organized. One of the first things I did when I got engaged was buy a wedding planning book. It quickly helped me realize how many decisions needed to be made. At first it seemed overwhelming, but the planner was laid out in a way that it helped me break each task down into small sections. Nowadays there are so many options to help you get organized. Besides the traditional notebooks and three ring binders there are phone apps and websites devoted to keeping everything in check. While I love all things digital I would still suggest getting a three ring binder or folder to keep all the documents in one place. A wedding takes a lot of planning, and with that comes price sheets, agreements, contracts, menus, fabric swatches and many more physical objects that should remain together in one safe place. Don’t forget a wedding planner can help with all of this!
Step 2: Demystify the Money
Money can be a sensitive subject, and many people avoid talking about it, but when it comes to a wedding, not talking about it can add huge amounts of stress. This step has a few parts. First of all, you need to figure out who is helping you pay for the wedding and how much they’re assisting with the finances. If your parents or relatives want to help, but don’t want to say how much right up front, you will have to make an educated guess. My advice is to guess low. It is always better to have extra than not enough. Once you have the amounts from whoever is helping, figure out how much you and your fiancé are willing to put toward your wedding. For the average person I would suggest spending no more than 20-25% of your annual income (not including the engagement ring). If someone else is paying for the wedding entirely, it may be easy to assume budgeting isn’t your responsibility. The decisions, however, are still yours and therefore it is still incredibly important to decide where this money will be spent, so that you don’t overspend or lose focus on what’s important to you and your fiancé.
Step 3: Make A List
Don’t you just love lists? Having something to review and check off keeps me organized and helps when I am taking on something new. I know lists don’t work for everyone but this step is really important, so please don’t skip it… I promise it will help. Sit down and make a list of every single possible thing you could spend money on for your wedding. Include all the major items like food, flowers, cake and venue, but also all the little things. Leave nothing out: table numbers, bridesmaids’ gifts, place cards, sparklers, it all adds up – so seriously, write it all down. If you are having trouble with this step, your wedding planner or the internet can provide you with lists of everything you might need. Whether you get a list from the internet, a magazine, or make it up on your own, just make sure it is comprehensive. Once you have this list I recommend transferring it over to the computer so it can be easily updated. Microsoft Excel is great for this, and it can be transferred to Google Drive, so it can easily be shared with all necessary parties. Just make sure you don’t skip this step, because you will need it for step four.
Step 4: Prioritize – Prioritize – Prioritize
For you and your fiancé, planning a wedding is really just the first step in beginning a life together. Making decisions together, budgeting money, prioritizing options, finding compromises and of course showing grace to your in-laws are just a few of the skills you will need to plan a wedding. With your list from step three sit down with your fiancé and decide which areas are the most important to each of you. I would suggest each person do this separately so that you get honest answers. You can do this by assigning things a number on the scale of 1-10, 10 being the most important. Once you have gone through the whole list, review them with each other and make adjustments where necessary. Keep in mind that although ultimately the decisions lie with you and your fiancé, if others are helping pay for the wedding, their opinions should be considered as well. I also suggest giving a copy of this list to your parents or other involved parties because it can shed some light on their priorities and help in the budgeting process. For example, a bride that I recently helped through this process realized that the kind of food served at their reception wasn’t a high priority for her or her fiancé, but it was very important to both of their parents. When she got to that stage of planning she made sure that the parents were involved and because of that they were happy to pay a little more to make sure it met their expectations. On the flip side, if there are several things that receive “1s” across the board, you know that those might be things you can forego and allocate that money to more important priorities. Knowing what is truly important to each other up front can help avoid disagreements and frustrations down the road.
Step 5: Estimate Your Spending
Once you know the amount of money you are working with and you have your priorities decided, go back to your list from step 3 and write out estimates and maximums for how much you would like to spend on each category. There are many percentage type calculators online that can help breakdown and allocate the money, but don’t forget to include the little details like taxes, delivery charges and tips. Next to your estimates, write the maximum amount you are willing to spend. If you are hoping to leave the store with a $1,500 dress, but would be willing to exceed up to $3,000 if necessary, put $1,500 in your estimate column and $3,000 in your maximum column. Keep in mind the maximums should still add up to your total budget or amount available to spend. This step can take some time because you will need to really think about the kind of experience you want for yourself and your guests. Your list of priorities will help in this step, because if you know that you want to have incredible food for your guests then logic dictates that your catering budget will need to be bigger. If having an over the top party is your goal then money will need to be allocated for an incredible band and appropriate venue. I will say this when it comes to a wedding photographer… always prioritize a professional photographer! A bad photographer can make a $100,000 wedding look cheap, but a great photographer can make a $5,000 wedding look incredible!
Step 6: Book Vendors
Your list still needs one more column: actual cost. As you book vendors write the total amounts (again, don’t forget taxes, set up fees, alterations, etc.) and adjust the other columns. If your cake costs $300 less than you imagined, it is your choice to save that money or to allocate it to another category. If, however, your cake costs $300 more, that money needs to be subtracted from other areas of the budget.
Step 7: Stay Organized
No, this isn’t a repeat of step one. This is its very own step. Whether you chose a binder or folder in step one to “get organized” staying that way is even MORE important as planning continues. Spending a little here on a garter and a little there online can add up quickly and wreak havoc on your budget. Keeping all your vendor contracts, deposits, cancellation policies, receipts and paperwork in one place is crucial to staying on track. Any time a dollar is spent for your wedding, a receipt should be filed somewhere. To take your organization to the next level, set up events in your calendar with reminders for when final payments are due. This way, you won’t be surprised when your photographer calls asking for a payment. How horrible would it be if a vendor didn’t show up on the day of your wedding, because the balance was never paid? If you stay organized this won’t become an issue and will keep your wedding day stress free.
Step 8: Stay Strong
Whatever you do, try to stay within your budget. This is easier said than done, we are human and we all have our weaknesses. My advice is to have a plan in place for those moments of weakness. Call your fiancé or a friend and have them talk you out of purchasing that $400 pair of shoes, when the ones you already bought are just as beautiful. I also suggest keeping the money budgeted for the wedding in a separate bank account that isn’t easy to access. That way it will make you stop and think twice before splurges are made. It might not always be fun but we set budgets for a reason: they help us not to spend more than we can afford. It can be hard in the moment but once the day has passed you will be much happier knowing you have no regrets on the money that was spent.
There is no reason a wedding can’t be beautiful and meaningful at any price tag, but it’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement and overspend. Money problems are lingering and can affect every area of your life. It is vital that you don’t add to them right before you embark on something as life changing as your marriage. Take your time, work through steps, set a budget based on facts and thoughtfulness, and you will be successful in planning the wedding of your dreams.
Cake- Cupcakes by Julie
Caligraphy- House of Vandy
Design & Styling- Forevermore Events
Dress- Alta Moda Bridal
Hair & Makeup- Katie Livingston
Jewelry- Sarah Gardner
Mens Wear- Perfectly Suited
Photography- Tyler Rye Photography
Plates- All Fired Up Pottery
Ribbon- Silk and Willow
Shoes- Bella Bella Shoes
Video- Red Tie Cinema