What Should Your Wedding Budget Be?
Weddings aren’t cheap. It is not uncommon for a wedding to cost $30,000 or more – in 2017 the average wedding in the U.S. cost $33,391 – and that figure can go considerably higher depending on geographic location.
For example, the average 2017 Manhattan wedding cost $76,944! Meantime, there are a number of factors that go into the cost of a wedding apart from geographic location that include choice of venue, number of guests, time of year, time of day, wedding style, decor, menu, whether to have an open bar, entertainment, photography…the list goes on.
Needless to say, for a young couple (or any couple, for that matter) getting started with formalizing their life and future together – the expense, time and effort that goes into planning and executing on a wedding is no small challenge. So, what is the best way to budget and plan for a memorable wedding day that should ideally be filled with fun, laughter and memories? Let’s take a closer look.
Take Inventory of Your Savings and Income
For many people, their wedding will be the biggest and most expensive party they ever throw in their lives. It can also be one of the most stressful events to ever plan.
Therefore, from the outset, it is important to take a proper accounting of how much savings and current income can be allocated by each spouse, along with whatever contributions parents and loved ones may be making.
Do not dip into an emergency fund (money set aside for unexpected expenses or job loss – ideally three months or more of expenses) or retirement savings for your wedding budget.
Instead, set up a separate wedding savings account that will include spousal savings and allocate up to ten percent of monthly income along with any family contributions that will be made toward your wedding expenses. From here, you will have a good idea of how much is within your wedding budget.
Know Your Values and Financial Goals
Because weddings are expensive, it is important to get on the same page with your spouse about your values, financial goals, and of course – the wedding itself. The money that will be spent on the wedding is money that will not be allocated toward a down payment on a house, purchase of a car, paying off debt, saving for retirement or higher education, assembling an emergency fund, etc.
Spend the time necessary with your partner to discuss and map out your five- to ten-year financial goals before deciding upon what features are most important to include or exclude from your wedding reception. Once this is done, it becomes much easier to weigh the importance of certain wedding features against others. Hold true to your values and financial goals so as not to burden yourselves with problems after the wedding becomes a memory.
Wedding Features and Decisions
It is important to agree on most things related to the wedding itself. What style of wedding do you want – formal, informal, or something in between? How many guests will you be having?
The number of guests will be as significant a variable as any when it comes to managing the total cost of your wedding. What venue will you use for your wedding – a formal catering hall, a cozy backyard, or something in between?
Who will handle the photography? What about the music – a live band, a DJ, or an Ipod dock with speakers? Will you have an open bar or serve beer and wine? What type of floral arrangements will you have? What will everyone eat?
There are a multitude of questions that can be asked related to features within the wedding reception, and they all need to be weighed carefully according to you and your partner’s values and financial goals. When you get clear about your values and goals, it becomes easier to recognize what features you deem important or superfluous to making your wedding day memorable and enjoyable for all.
The Wedding Dress
For many women, the wedding dress is extremely important – yet this is one item that if considered carefully can save a lot of money from the wedding budget. Of course, many brides want to look like princesses on their wedding day, so it’s not a consideration to be taken lightly.
No one is going to be happy with a dress that is two steps away from the dustbin. However, there are options that many couples don’t consider, and it often does not make financial sense to spend thousands of dollars on a dress that will likely be worn only once. So, what are the alternatives to consider?For starters, many dress shops clear out spring inventory during the month of May, which is also when prom dresses (all white prom dresses, for that matter) are widely available.
Consignment stores and thrift shops may not sound glamorous, but they are home to many vintage wedding dresses that suit the theme of a vintage wedding. A simple, beautiful dress can also be found, and then all that becomes required after purchasing from such a shop is a proper cleaning and seamstress.
Remember – wedding gowns (and bridesmaids dresses) are usually worn only once. They’re not really that used!You can also search for a “sample” wedding dress that can be altered, as well as remain alert for the presence of trunk or bridal shows coming to your area. Many designers and retailers host these shows to clear out inventory for newer gowns.
Recognize that just as a new car loses a significant amount of its value once it is driven off the lot, the same goes for wedding dresses. Looking for a great, “like new” (worn only once) wedding gown can create significant breathing room in your wedding budget that can then allow you to increase the number of invited guests at your wedding.
Other Things to Consider
Create a spreadsheet for your budgeting after contacting vendors in your area and researching costs. Start with venue and number of guests. Always ask vendors whether taxes and gratuities are included in cost and adjust your spreadsheet accordingly.
You should also have a column for “surprises” and extras. For example – a band may require transportation, photographers can charge more for online viewing, fancy cocktails can cost extra – and cleanup following the reception is not always included. Many venues require wedding coordinators as well, and sometimes require that their professional planner be used – and that isn’t free either.
Meantime, look for other ways to save that can include designing all of your paper items (invitations, place cards, table numbers etc.) and addressing your own invitations instead of hiring a calligrapher or using a planner for these. Resist any temptation to upgrade any venue offerings – more expensive chairs or tablecloths, for example – will have little to no bearing on the enjoyment of your wedding.
Above all, remember your values and long-term financial goals, this will help when choosing your venue and number of guests, while also aiding in saving money wherever possible and resisting the temptation to spend on features that are not truly necessary to have an enjoyable and memorable wedding.
About The Author: Steven Brachman
Steven Brachman is the lead content provider for UnitedSettlement.com. A graduate of the University of Michigan with a B.A. in Economics, Steven spent several years as a registered representative in the securities industry before moving on to equity research and trading. He is also an experienced test-prep professional and admissions consultant to aspiring graduate business school students. In his spare time, Steven enjoys writing, reading, travel, music and fantasy sports.
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