How to Talk About the Wedding Budget (Without Bickering)

couple looking at contracts

It strikes when I least expect it: After a romantic, four-course meal; while I'm checking my news feed on Facebook; when I spot that Michael Kors bag I can't afford; during the meditation portion of yoga, when my eyes close and I finally give myself permission to relax and let go.

As I've gotten deeper and deeper into my wedding planning and it's time to select vendors, I notice that a budget-induced panic seizes me from behind and puts me in a chokehold during the strangest moments, when I'm not even consciously thinking about it. As a result, I find myself constantly bringing up the "B" word with a very perplexed Jason, my fiancé, who is much better at compartmentalizing subjects and doesn't understand why I'm thinking about which photographer we should choose while watching Planet of the Apes. Even though I try to rationalize that I know we can afford our budget, sometimes it just feels plain exhausting to be engaged.

I'm not alone: Every engaged or recently-married girlfriend I talk to seems to have had blowouts every time they communicate with their soon-to-be-spouse about money they spend on the wedding. I decided it was time to call in reinforcement: Farnoosh Torabi, a personal finance expert and fellow bride-to-be getting married next June in Philly! 

In a new blog series, this nationally acclaimed author (including Psych Yourself Rich: Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life and The Newlywed's Guide to Taking Control of Your Wedding) will guide us on how to reclaim our financial sanity. 

Ready? Let's get started!

Hear each other out: Before you even start the planning process, it’s important to have an open and honest conversation with your future spouse about your expectations, needs, and wants for your wedding. Will it be more low-key with only 50 guests or a big bash with 300 loved ones? What kind of setting do you envision your wedding taking place in? Which aspects of the celebration are most important to you? 

Decide who pays for what: Once you’ve shared your wedding goals together, calculate how much you can both feasibly bring to the table. “A wedding is becoming, more and more, a shared expense, so discuss what you’re each comfortable spending (and what, if any, contributions you may receive from family),” said Farnoosh. 

Here’s the tough part: Once you decide on a budget and determine who’s paying for what, you must commit to this agreement with your spouse. "From here on out, talking about money should be a lot less stressful because you’ve already developed a frame of reference and will understand your shared goals, values and budget,” said Farnoosh.

Set the date: Farnoosh recommends scheduling time on your calendar once or twice a month to review your planning progress with your husband-to-be. Scheduling a specific time to talk about finances will eliminate the urge to “sneak” little comments about it into every conversation. (Guilty as charged.) Bring plenty of vino to your planning date—you want the setting to be as relaxed as possible. You may also want to track finances in an Excel Google Doc spreadsheet, like Crista, one of our Real Bride Bloggers.

Tell us: How do you approach budget conversations with your fiancé?


—Stefania Sainato