Real Brides Spill Their Biggest Budget Mistakes

We asked recent brides to share their biggest money mistakes and — more importantly — what they would do differently today.

All Those Little Details

wedding invitation
Photo Credit: Dana Grant

My single biggest budgeting mistake was the florist. Though my flowers were gorgeous, looking back, I see they were overpriced. I wanted calla lilies and found these beautiful purple ones called Picasso lilies. There was a miscommunication somewhere along the line and I thought we’d be getting a floral arrangement in a small basket for my flower girl. Instead, we got a bag of petals, which we couldn’t even use at the church since it didn’t allow petals to be tossed.”—Melissa, Hanson, MA

It is so easy to get caught up in all the details and spend a little extra here, and a little extra there, but all that spending adds up in the end. Looking back, we could have scaled back our budget. Though we loved some of those little details, they did not ultimately make or break our wedding.”—Caitlin, Lowell, MA

We decided to make our invitations ourselves because we thought it would be a fun project that would save us money. Plus, we had a very specific idea of what we wanted our invites to look like and the printing services we looked at didn’t really match our style. At the end of it all, we spent hours coming up with a design, trying it out, failing, coming up with a new design and going back and forth to various stores for supplies. Don’t get me wrong, the invites turned out awesome, but considering the time it took to design, print and assemble our handmade invitations, I would have spent a little more time researching stationery companies and comparing the prices of the printed invites versus all of the materials we bought separately.” —Sarah, Chicago, IL

“While we came in at or under budget on many wedding items, we did not budget enough money for gifts. We wanted to give worthwhile and meaningful gifts to our parents and bridal party, and ended up spending way more than we originally wanted to for good-quality gifts. To avoid this, I would say shop early and shop often. Do not wait until the last minute. Take advantage of big sales and Black Friday deals.” —Kathryn, Columbus, OH

Favors. We had picture frames for the photo booth, but our photo booth didn’t work for a good chunk of the reception and half of our guests left the frames. Favors weren’t a huge cost when you look at the total, but it was probably unnecessary and I don’t think it made a difference to guests’ enjoyment of the night.” —Anita, Chicago, IL

“To show appreciation for guests who took time out of their schedules to travel to our wedding, I spent two solid evenings packaging salt-water taffy into little Tiffany-blue paper boxes that I assembled, complete with a Tiffany-blue ribbon. Many guests left them on the table at the end of the reception and I ended up taking 20 of them home!”—Kristine, Milwaukee, WI

“I ordered linens and charger plates and we could have easily gone without both. the only person that really pays attention to the details when throwing a party is the person who is throwing it. I would have gone with the hotel’s linens and skipped the chargers.” —Cindy, Chicago, IL

Accounting for Extras

purple wedding
Photo Credit: Oco Studio

We were on a budget, so we really only saved for the known expenses, and that almost proved disastrous. Since I’m not big on traditions, I didn’t realize it’s polite to invite out-of-town guests to the rehearsal dinner. Quickly, our rehearsal dinner went from 15 to 35 people. Fortunately, a generous couple — completely out of the blue! — saved the day and offered to host the rehearsal dinner as their wedding gift to us. It would have been wise to have extra money set aside since some new expense always comes up.” —Ashley, Alexandria, VA

Our biggest mistake was that once we got to the finish line, we totally blew off our budget and let a flurry of incremental expenses trickle in. We tripled the amount we budgeted for our rehearsal dinner because we wanted to get the celebration off to a great start. We should have anticipated about 10- 15 percent in overages because there will always be some unexpected costs or financial decisions you’ll make when emotion, not logic, gets the better of you — which it often does.” —Angie, Lawrence, KS

Next: Six ways to keep your budget in line ►