Wedding Budget Basics

Champagne dreams on a generic cola budget? Here's how to manage funds and have your dream wedding without going broke-or crazy.
wedding budget basics

Before you begin planning your wedding, you must decide on two things: your budget and the size of your guest list. All other details will be determined by these two factors. Thats because the amount of money you have to spend will affect the formality of the wedding, the location at which you have it and the number of people you can afford to invite. (The cost of food and drink at a reception is generally calculated on a per-person basis, and this amount will be the biggest expense you incur.)

But do not make the mistake of thinking that you cannot host a big wedding unless you have an extravagant budget. There are many things you can do to keep the costs down and still invite the number of people you want. For instance, its generally less expensive to hold a wedding reception on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon than in the evening. And Friday night can be cheaper still. Or, you might consider a morning wedding followed by a brunch. Also, most banquet halls and restaurants offer a variety of different menu options that will help you tailor your reception to your budget.

If you want to go all out, however, and have a formal black-tie wedding with an elaborate sit-down dinner and eight-piece band, it makes sense to keep the guest list down. The fewer people you have, the more you can "upgrade" the celebration.

Before you make any final decisions, its smart to talk with both your families about your plans. Theres a good chance that each of your parents has some preconceived ideas about your wedding, and you do not want to start out stepping on toes. And theres another good reason to include your families in this initial planning stage: Hopefully, they will be contributing to the cost of the wedding. While in the past the brides family picked up the majority of the expenses, today its more likely that you, your groom, and both sets of parents will be contributing money toward the wedding expenses.


Managing Funds—and Expectations

Money often comes with strings attached, and if you do accept financial assistance from your parents, you will be somewhat obligated to at least consider their ideas. If your wedding costs will be shared by both families, there are some steps you can take to keep the arrangement as tactful as possible.

First, rather than having to go to your parents or his parents each time a bill comes due, you might have each family agree to handle a certain aspect (the band, flowers, photography). This way each party can be billed directly and money need not change hands between family members. However, this system could suggest an uncomfortable level of ownership, and you may find that, for example, your mother will pay for the florist only if she can pick the centerpieces.

A more effective (and stress-free) way to manage these funds is to collect the money that each party has promised up front and start a checking account in your and your grooms names thats used only for wedding expenses. By pooling all the funds, no contributor will demand to take control of an element because shes paying for it. Plus, with only you two paying all the bills, your accounts will stay organized and you can keep on top of your budget.