Actual wedding costs depend mainly on size, scale, and location. Keeping this in mind while planning for a budget wedding is critical to keeping costs down. A formal wedding with 250 guests obviously costs more than a backyard fete with 60 guests. And a wedding in New York City costs more than the same function in Iowa City.
Before you get too discouraged, do some research to find out average wedding-related costs in your area. Doing some legwork early in the wedding planning process can save you money later. Attend a bridal show or two and make a note of the prices vendors advertise. Or call around to several wedding vendors in your area and ask what different packages cost and what they include.
In many cases, extra expenses arise because couples give in to impulses or requests from family members and close friends. Or they simply don’t keep a close eye on what they’re spending.
Here are some tricks to help you stick to your budget:
Make sure you both understand and agree to the budget you’ve worked out. Think of it as good practice for merging your finances after the wedding.
Post your budget in a place where you’ll see it often, such as on the refrigerator. If you and your fiancé(e) don’t live together, make sure each of you has a copy of the budget you’ve agreed on.
Discuss any adjustments before you include them in your budget. For example, if you find a cake topper you love, but it costs $50 more than you budgeted for, talk to your intended before you commit to spending the extra money.
Look for other areas you could trim to compensate for an additional expense. Say you forgot to include your great-aunt and her husband in your guest list, and your mother insists that you invite them. If your reception cost is $40 per guest, you’ll need to shave $80 from somewhere else in the budget — perhaps by deciding on a less expensive bouquet or choosing less expensive centerpieces.
Write down any changes or adjustments you’ve agreed to. That way, you won’t experience misunderstandings later.
The tighter your budget, the more important it is to build in a cushion for unanticipated expenses. A slush fund of between 10% and 15% of your total budget gives you breathing room when one of your line items costs a bit more than you expect. Plus, by setting this money aside upfront, you don’t have to frantically redo your budget to find the extra funds.