Monday Musings with Maureen: Tips for Building a Fluid Wedding Budget

Ideas, Tips and Reflections from Garrett County Maryland

Posted by Maureen

Budgets actually rule my life. I happen to love them and have multiple, and they change about once a week. So needless to say creating a working budget for our wedding was a TASK.

A disclaimer here: I am no finance expert or professional event planner. I just wanted to share my thoughts on one of the most important aspects of the Wedding Day – your budget!

Aside from having a complete stranger help you zip up and tie together the pieces and parts of various wedding dresses, the budget may be the most intimate part of your wedding planning. Discussing money is not something most people are comfortable talking about, and when you’re bringing two families together to celebrate this momentous occasion, tension could be added to the situation when trying to figure out who is paying for what. Budgeting for a wedding is an incredibly individualized project and should end up being very fluid. With every quote and purchase your budget is likely to change. Unless you have unlimited funds, which I’m assuming most of us don’t when planning a wedding, each piece of the wedding day needs to be thoughtfully integrated into this document. Think of it as your new sidekick, no matter the size of the event. Otherwise, you could end up putting things on credit cards, and no one wants to start their marriage with more debt than they may already have.

This blog post is mostly a guideline on how to get started and, at the end, I’ve included some great resources to help you figure out how to spend the money you’ve got.  

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Who’s paying for what?

Before you have your heart set on a small intimate wedding of 50 guests, or that popcorn bar and chocolate fountain, poll your fiancé and both families to find out what you’re working with. There are some great resources to let you know traditionally who pays for what in a wedding, but in 2018 it could go any number of directions, so it’s great to get an early understanding of who is contributing and how much. Some may have a specific number in mind, other parents may offer to buy the dress and cover the venue cost. When you start with this understanding, you can start to compile your total budget estimate.

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Make a List of Priorities

Make a list, then make another list. I’m guessing you already have an idea of the things that are the most important to you and your significant other, so my suggestion is to write these down and figure out what you’re willing to compromise on, and what you items you’re willing to spend more on. For some, it’s the dress. For others, it may be really important to have an open bar, and others may prefer to have 250+ guests. For mine and Tom’s wedding, we agreed the priority was the photographer, which is pretty apparent since my relationship with Jess has become so strong! 🙂 Tom and I knew the wedding day would be beautiful no matter what we spent, and we wanted to be sure we had someone there that we got along with well, could corral our family and friends for photos, and had a style we loved.

The dress was a little more important for my Mom. She was paying for it, so she had a number in her mind that she was willing to go up to, and that worked for us. I didn’t have any cake at the last four weddings I had been to, and neither Tom or I ate cake at our own wedding. So I definitely don’t recommend spending huge amounts of money on the cake. I wanted to be sure there was plenty of food from the time our guests arrived to the moment it was time to hit the dance floor, so we went overboard on appetizers and scaled back on the cake and desserts.

One priority I also want to bring up is transportation, especially for a wedding in Garrett County. Some may not think about it, but unfortunately for us, Uber, Lyft, and taxis are hard to come by. So one line item you may want to add that you hadn’t been thinking about is transportation for your guests. Garrett County has a range of options from A Touch of Class Limousines to County Caravan

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Start Early

We set our wedding date over a year out so we had plenty of time to research vendors, get quotes and structure our Wedding Day around a budget AND aesthetic that worked for us. I realize some may have a shorter timeline, but look for sales for everything from shoes (Bought mine for $20!) to cocktail napkins. I’m pretty sure most paper goods and wedding favor sites have sales every other week so there’s no reason to be paying the full retail price for anything paper, monogrammed, or disposable. Starting early will also help with being able to avoid any premium costs that might come with needing something sent via rush shipping like your guestbook and gifts for your wedding party.  

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Go Local

Now that you have your estimated budget and priority list, start thinking about ways to source locally. You might be surprised to find how affordable local vendors are. Your local flower shop may be able to help you find seasonal pieces to stay in budget, and your neighborhood bakery may be a better option for your wedding cake than the fancier shop in the next city over (or an hour or two away…something that lends to the idea of “fancier” and beyond the local) that might be out of your price range.

This is going to be one of those pieces of advice that’s super individual. Just don’t be afraid to source some local help for some of your key line items. Our local liquor store, Deep Creek Beverage, helped us put together a list for alcohol and mixers that was within our budget. The bar budget is something I had been stressing about for months because our venue allowed us to bring in our own. Using any online calculators just wasn’t working for us, so that local help was huge!

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Gather Resources

Is budgeting something you do at work or is something you’re really familiar with? If it is, don’t reinvent the wheel just for your wedding. Use a system that’s already working for you and tailor it for the specific event. If you’re not a personal finance guru, there are dozens of wedding specific resources out there to help you get started. I recommend reviewing 2-3 posts (see below) from the experts and picking pieces you love from each to help create your own. Also, use other resources around you. I heard from a lot of recent brides how much they appreciated a planner. If you have the money for it, great! If not, use some of your vendors as resources. We booked Jessica very early in the planning and she was a dream to have available for asking questions and helping plan the day of timeline. If I could do it all over again, I would have secured a person to have for the day of the event. Making sure I got payments to vendors the day before the wedding instead of having someone take care of it the day of was a stress I could have gone without!

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The Knot has a great budget 101. It’s a great resource and is pretty all inclusive! They helped me think about some of the smaller items like being sure to budget money for hair and makeup trials, and even food for your bridesmaids the morning of the big event.  

A Practical Wedding has a list of sample wedding budgets, including a downloadable spreadsheet and breakdowns of budgets from $2,000 to $30,000.

Wedding Wire has a budget tracker tool. You can enter your budget number and WW will suggest how monies might be distributed. Tracking expenses and setting up payment reminders is also included.

Now that March is officially here and many recently engaged couples are entering planning mode, a budget will serve as a good starting point and road map for putting all the wedding day details in place. Whether big or small, we hope you’ll use the budget to help plan a wedding that is uniquely and beautifully you!

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