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Budget Weddings

Realistic but affordable budget

Hi all!

My fiance and I just got engaged a little over a week ago, but it's been a long time coming. We started talking about marriage and our future together around the 6 month mark, and he popped the question right after our first dating anniversary. Now I'm trying to start the planning process because our goal is to be married by the end of the year. That being said, I have NO IDEA where to even start with our budget. We are both 28 and are working full time, so we are planning to pay for the majority of things on our own with a little help from our families. We both have some money in savings, me with a little more thanks to my parents allowing me to live with them rent-free (thanks mom and dad!) since college. However, I don't want to totally empty my bank account for the wedding. I don't want us to start out married life with unnecessary debt. We live in a fairly small-ish town in Tennessee, and we don't want to make our guests travel too far, so some of our options are limited in terms of venues. I don't really even know what amount would even be a reasonable number for a budget which is making the planning process pretty stressful so far. Any tips or advice?

Re: Realistic but affordable budget

  • blabla89blabla89 Atlanta member
    2500 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its Name Dropper
    Start by deciding together how much you can afford and are comfortable spending on your wedding. That is your budget. Whatever you are comfortable with spending is reasonable. You can definitely have a nice wedding without emptying your bank account. Then break down into how much you'll spend on each item (venue, food and drink, dress, officiant, etc.). You can find a lot of sample budgets on the internet to help you get started, and these boards have tons of great suggestions for saving money and finding deals.
    Wedding Countdown Ticker



  • dolewhipperdolewhipper [wh]orlando member
    1000 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary First Answer
    We figured out how much we could afford by figuring out how much we could save each paycheck. From there, and knowing when we wanted to get married, we knew how much we would have by that time. That was our budget.


    imageimage



    princessbuttercup09
  • Congratulations on your engagement! I agree with what PPs have said. As you'll see on here, there are many different types of weddings. You can have a more traditional wedding with many guests and sit down dinner, or less expensive alternatives such as an afternoon wedding, an evening wedding with a very small guest list, etc… The best advice I could give is to take a bit of time to think about what kind of wedding you want without assuming that it has to be one way. 

    Like a PP said, you can determine your budget by determining how much you can save each month, decide when you want to get married, and go from there to set your budget. Another way of doing it is to determine the maximum amount you're comfortable spending, see how many months it would take to save that, and determine your date from there (adjusting the budget if you realize it's too far away). 
  • Agree, start with what you can afford. Think about how much you have in savings, and how much of that you would be willing to spend of that savings. (If you don't own a home together yet, you may not want to blow all your savings right now when it could be used for a down payment). Think about how long you want to be engaged for -- some people have long engagements so they have time to save up. Multiply the number of months you'd like to be engaged by what you can reasonably afford to put towards a wedding, then add what you feel comfortable taking from your savings, and you have a number. From there decide how many guests you want to invite. Then you'll have an idea of the type of wedding you can afford. Do not rely on any money from anyone else unless you physically have the check in your hand. 

    We started with a budget of $10k for 80 guests. That $10k number was somewhat arbitrary, to be completely honest. That was my original comfort threshold in terms of what "should" be spent on a wedding, and was an amount that we as a unit easily could cover from savings without feeling in any way endangered. I had priced out some options and had found a great venue that would be very inexpensive and could fit about 85 people. However, FI had a lot more guests than he first thought. I told him he had to decide what he wanted to do: 1) invite everyone he wanted and have a late-morning wedding with a brunch reception, which would be less expensive per guest, 2) not invite everyone he wanted to, or 3) invite everyone he wanted, have the evening wedding we first envisioned, and spend about 50% more than what we first talked about. He chose option 3. He is the one who has the most savings between us, and can easily dig into it for more. We ended up upping the budget to about $15,000 to host 140 guests. We are planning on 100% attendance. If we have less, our costs will go down slightly. 

    I did my best to reduce costs where I could, like I did Vistaprint for invitations, so even though we had to print a lot more invites than I originally thought, I didn't spend more than our original budget, and I reduced my costs per table on centerpieces (since we are having a lot more tables than we first thought). We also have a venue that allows us to bring in our own booze. This is a huge savings, as we will be spending about $12 per person for booze for the night as opposed to $35 and up. Our most important things, other than having a good photographer, was to have good quality alcohol and food, so those are the largest parts of our budget. 
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  • As everyone else has said, have the conversation about how much you have saved that you want to put towards the wedding, then if you haven't done so- start a joint account.  You can sign up for free with ally.com  which is what we use.  From each paycheck, come up with an amount to be deducted each pay period.  Ally accounts earn interest (it's not a lot but whatever- it's free) and you can put your money in a place it won't be touched.  You can write all your checks out from that account to vendors, and put any gifts into that account.  

    My fiance and I have been together almost 7 years and have been saving for the past 2 years together like this.  Once we got engaged we figured out our max budget and what was most important to us.  We worked with vendors on bringing prices down and went with a venue that offered a large discount for having a November wedding.  If you are working with a budget, it doesn't matter when you get married- it's best though to look for the discounts wherever possible.  After you have your total max budget, decide together what is most important and where you prefer to splurge.  Then make a spreadsheet of what you want to spend on each item.  Always be honest about your budget because I have found that vendors do listen and are willing to negotiate.  
  • I'll also add, a wedding doesn't have to look a certain way or be at a certain time. You don't have to have lots of guests. The most important thing is to host all your guests properly for the time of day. You could have an afternoon wedding ceremony with a cake and punch reception in the church basement, and that would be perfectly lovely as long as it was a non-meal time with enough cake, punch and chairs to go around. That would be just as acceptable from an etiquette standpoint as an early evening ceremony followed by a cocktail hour, dinner, alcohol and dancing. 

    Also, don't believe the "average" wedding costs you see all over the place or be swayed by them. They are usually misleading and ultimately it doesn't matter what others spent on their wedding. 
    image
  • Hi all!


    My fiance and I just got engaged a little over a week ago, but it's been a long time coming. We started talking about marriage and our future together around the 6 month mark, and he popped the question right after our first dating anniversary. Now I'm trying to start the planning process because our goal is to be married by the end of the year. That being said, I have NO IDEA where to even start with our budget. We are both 28 and are working full time, so we are planning to pay for the majority of things on our own with a little help from our families. We both have some money in savings, me with a little more thanks to my parents allowing me to live with them rent-free (thanks mom and dad!) since college. However, I don't want to totally empty my bank account for the wedding. I don't want us to start out married life with unnecessary debt. We live in a fairly small-ish town in Tennessee, and we don't want to make our guests travel too far, so some of our options are limited in terms of venues. I don't really even know what amount would even be a reasonable number for a budget which is making the planning process pretty stressful so far. Any tips or advice?
    To the bolded, if your parents (or his) offer to chip in, great, but don't count on that money until the check has cleared the bank. Plan a wedding that you can afford with you and FI's own money, and anything else you get is extra or considered a payback for what you already planned. 
    Also, keep in mind that those who pay, get a say, so if your parents chip in they get more of a say than if they didn't chip in anything. 
    image
    badbnagdwayKimberlyR1002
  • One other suggestion I can give is maybe add up what you think things should cost.  Then add extra to that... anywhere from 25-50% more.  I thought I could do the food for $2500.  Which I could, but I originally didn't take into account things like, plates, cups, silverware, etc.  I also didn't think about the cost to have people there to serve the food, clean up plates, etc.  Since those really contribute to the guests comfort, my budget for food is now $5,000... so double what I thought it was.  So make sure you think of all those little things.  

    Same with my dress.  I originally budgeted $1,000, but basically forgot about things like alterations, veil, accessories.  My dress plus veil and accessories ended up coming in at just under $1500.  Alterations should be a few hundred more.   

    Also, the one thing I didn't do was come up with my final budget before picking my venue.  I now wish I had.  I rushed into it because I really liked the venue and thought the price ($3,000) seemed reasonable, which it probably is.  But I went ahead and booked it and the date and put a deposit down, and then started thinking about the budget after that.  Bad idea.  I also didn't figure out my max guest list before booking the venue, another bad idea.  Don't do that.  

    Last thing is, remember, for the most part, you don't have to pay for everything up front, but pretty much everyone will require a deposit.  My wedding is in September, but so far out of pocket I'm only out $800 ($500 deposit for venue, $300 for photographer).  My mom paid for my dress etc. in full.  So there is some time to save, but also keep close track of what will be due, and when it's due, so you can have the money ready to go.
    Married 9.12.15
    image
  • When I started my wedding planning, I started by researching the cost of weddings in my area.  I got quotes from reception venues, photographers, DJs, etc.   I asked people who were recently married (and who I was comfortable discussing money things with) what they paid for specific services.    I did a lot of homework and then asked myself the question of, "Can I afford this?" and how much money could I take from savings comfortable?   I looked at our incomes and I determined how much extra/"fun money" we had each month?   We took counted that extra money towards wedding expenses.   

    When all was said and done, I used money from my savings for things like the deposits. We took the balances from the vendors and treated them like monthly bills (but the money to pay them came from our "fun money'").  For example:  My photographer was $2000 total.   I took $500 from my savings and put down a deposit.  After that, I calculated the balance into monthly payments.  I put the expense on my budget calendar and I pay the photographer every month like any other bill.  

    Doing it this way meant we had to make some sacrifices to our "fun budget"  We stopped eating out and buying coffee every morning. I cut down on buying clothes, and little extras for the house.   But, it was worth it for us. 


  • Thanks for all of the tips everyone! I have talked to a few friends who have recently gotten married, and they have told me a little about pricing for the venues they used, many of which include catering, tables/chairs/linens, bar services, sound, etc. for an amount I feel comfortable paying. One even offers planning services that some of their package deals include, which would be wonderful since I am pretty clueless with all of this stuff. I have also found a dress I like that would be less than $500 and I have decided against a veil as it would cover the back of the dress, which is one of my favorite parts. I found a headpiece for $35 on Etsy that would go well with the dress and the hairstyle I have chosen. I already found my shoes a few weeks ago just because I liked them and realized they would be good wedding shoes. My FMIL is a photographer and is going to do engagement photos for us, but we will have to find a different photographer for the actual wedding so she can actually enjoy the day with us. We have talked about doing cupcakes instead of a big cake...does anyone know if that is typically cheaper?
  • Thanks for all of the tips everyone! I have talked to a few friends who have recently gotten married, and they have told me a little about pricing for the venues they used, many of which include catering, tables/chairs/linens, bar services, sound, etc. for an amount I feel comfortable paying. One even offers planning services that some of their package deals include, which would be wonderful since I am pretty clueless with all of this stuff. I have also found a dress I like that would be less than $500 and I have decided against a veil as it would cover the back of the dress, which is one of my favorite parts. I found a headpiece for $35 on Etsy that would go well with the dress and the hairstyle I have chosen. I already found my shoes a few weeks ago just because I liked them and realized they would be good wedding shoes. My FMIL is a photographer and is going to do engagement photos for us, but we will have to find a different photographer for the actual wedding so she can actually enjoy the day with us. We have talked about doing cupcakes instead of a big cake...does anyone know if that is typically cheaper?

    Just one tip -- do book your venue before you get too far down the road on your outfit. Ultimately, a wedding dress and accessories should be anything you are comfortable in, but that may depend a bit on the setting. If you had a wedding outside in the summer, for example, you may want something different than inside in the winter. 

    We are doing a small two tier wedding cake (butter cream frosting with fresh flowers as decoration) that will feed 50 people, and then about 180 mini cupcakes (final numbers tbd when we get our rsvps in). That will be $420 including delivery and set-up (so we will provide display items and flowers and she will set everything out nicely for us). The mini cupcakes (which are about an inch and a half wide) will be $1 a pop, and the wedding cake is $3.50 a slice. The same baker's full sized cupcakes would be $3 each. We went with minis because we wanted to get a couple flavors for people to try. So, in my limited experience, full sized cupcakes would be less than wedding cake per serving, but may not be a huge savings. The minis though are a good savings for us, and again, a good way to allow people to try some different bites. 
    image
  • We are doing cupcakes and so far the two quotes are the same if not slightly higher than an actual cake. But we didn't want to mess with someone cutting so it is what it is. Plus we get more flavors this way. Some people do sheet cakes cut in a back room to save $$
  • One thing that helped me was deciding to go with a simple but classic style. Some people think that budget means diy everything but it doesn't have to. We shopped around venues and the venue that we went with had a few dates in the late fall they were having trouble filling so they offered us a great rate if we took one of those dates. Since we didn't have a specific date in mind when looking at venues it worked out great. What was great about the price is it included, linens, candle centerpieces, cake, card box, bar, a lot of food, etc. Everything was included. Now I could have gone out & gotten a cake somewhere else and they would have reduced it, but I figured why not use their person, then I don't have to worry about delivery or anything and they are reliable. I could have done my own card box, but why spend the money on something when theirs was actually more secure then anything I could do. I did diy some things like the invites, menu cards, escort cards. But once you figure out what you are comfortable spending you can start working on checking out venues and your guest list & go from there. I felt that my wedding was beautiful and having a venue that could offer me so much reduced my stress considerably which made the planning experience enjoyable.
  • 2 more things to add:

    1. DIY is not the same as budget. When you start adding up time and materials (not to mention stress) it can be much more worthwhile to buy your own or check if your state/city has a fb consignment group specifically for weddings.Think about... who wants 25 centerpieces after their wedding? I could have saved ~$15 on 150 invitations if I had gone through etsy and printed my own invites. Instead DB took almost no time and that was one more thing to check off the list. 

    2. Make a priority list. While a hard budget is ideal, there will be things that you forgot or didn't originally think of (postage, gratuity, taxes, corkage/cake cutting fees) To counter that: early on when choosing between 2 things you don't really care about, choose the less expensive one. I picked the cheaper (but still comfy) chairs, davids bridal bundle invitations (i'm obsessed and can't brag enough about them!) instead of paper source, 200 thread count tablecloths instead "deluxe" tablecloths, hydrangeas instead of peonies etc.

     

    Good luck!



  • Thanks for all of the tips everyone! I have talked to a few friends who have recently gotten married, and they have told me a little about pricing for the venues they used, many of which include catering, tables/chairs/linens, bar services, sound, etc. for an amount I feel comfortable paying. One even offers planning services that some of their package deals include, which would be wonderful since I am pretty clueless with all of this stuff. I have also found a dress I like that would be less than $500 and I have decided against a veil as it would cover the back of the dress, which is one of my favorite parts. I found a headpiece for $35 on Etsy that would go well with the dress and the hairstyle I have chosen. I already found my shoes a few weeks ago just because I liked them and realized they would be good wedding shoes. My FMIL is a photographer and is going to do engagement photos for us, but we will have to find a different photographer for the actual wedding so she can actually enjoy the day with us. We have talked about doing cupcakes instead of a big cake...does anyone know if that is typically cheaper?

    Just one tip -- do book your venue before you get too far down the road on your outfit. Ultimately, a wedding dress and accessories should be anything you are comfortable in, but that may depend a bit on the setting. If you had a wedding outside in the summer, for example, you may want something different than inside in the winter. 

    We are doing a small two tier wedding cake (butter cream frosting with fresh flowers as decoration) that will feed 50 people, and then about 180 mini cupcakes (final numbers tbd when we get our rsvps in). That will be $420 including delivery and set-up (so we will provide display items and flowers and she will set everything out nicely for us). The mini cupcakes (which are about an inch and a half wide) will be $1 a pop, and the wedding cake is $3.50 a slice. The same baker's full sized cupcakes would be $3 each. We went with minis because we wanted to get a couple flavors for people to try. So, in my limited experience, full sized cupcakes would be less than wedding cake per serving, but may not be a huge savings. The minis though are a good savings for us, and again, a good way to allow people to try some different bites. 
    Also remember some places charge a cake cutting fee on top of what you are paying for the cake - so for our cake, we are paying the bakery, and then our venue charges a $1.50pp cake cutting fee. Lots of numbers to play with when deciding!
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • Hi all!

    My fiance and I just got engaged a little over a week ago, but it's been a long time coming. We started talking about marriage and our future together around the 6 month mark, and he popped the question right after our first dating anniversary. Now I'm trying to start the planning process because our goal is to be married by the end of the year. That being said, I have NO IDEA where to even start with our budget. We are both 28 and are working full time, so we are planning to pay for the majority of things on our own with a little help from our families. We both have some money in savings, me with a little more thanks to my parents allowing me to live with them rent-free (thanks mom and dad!) since college. However, I don't want to totally empty my bank account for the wedding. I don't want us to start out married life with unnecessary debt. We live in a fairly small-ish town in Tennessee, and we don't want to make our guests travel too far, so some of our options are limited in terms of venues. I don't really even know what amount would even be a reasonable number for a budget which is making the planning process pretty stressful so far. Any tips or advice?
    To the bolded, if your parents (or his) offer to chip in, great, but don't count on that money until the check has cleared the bank. Plan a wedding that you can afford with you and FI's own money, and anything else you get is extra or considered a payback for what you already planned. 
    Also, keep in mind that those who pay, get a say, so if your parents chip in they get more of a say than if they didn't chip in anything. 


    Just wanted to say I agree with this 100%. FMIL offered us a certain amount early on, but as of now we have only received a portion of it. We are planning as though we are not receiving anything else from her. Similarly, my dad said he wanted to contribute, but we have not received anything from him or heard anything more about his contribution since he first mentioned it, so we are assuming he will not be able to contribute (which is fine, because we planned based on money we actually have, not promises of money to come). Just don't spend money before you have it!


    BabyFruit Ticker
  • Agree 100% with what everyone is saying.. For us it was a little backwards than I'm sure some people do the budget. We are 26 and 27, we own two houses and have no car payments, both of us have a 401K and savings so the budget was pretty flexible if we just looked at "what can we pay out that will still allow us to be comfortable in our savings" this would have put us way over what we wanted to spend. FI wanted to keep it around $10K because he's VERY practical with money, but the fact that we have to have a winter wedding and we found a lodge we both love bumped it to $25K. Could we spend more? Yes. Do we want to for a one day event? No. So keep that in mind, spend what you can comfortably, but don't fee like you have to go to the top end of what that number is just to have a beautiful day.

    From a practical side we looked at is like when you get approved for a mortgage.. they will tell you a number but that is most likely way out of comfort zone, so you decide from $0 to that number what you are OK spending.

    Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • edited March 2015
    We added our savings, subtracted an estimate on a home down-payment for a very low-interest mortgage based on going prices in our area ($$$$), and then an additional ~$10k "cushion" for emergencies. What we were left with was $15k - our budget for both the wedding and the honeymoon. We probably could have afforded more, but we sat down and thought through our priorities and a luxury wedding wasn't one of them. If we have extra money then it will go toward student loan repayment and/or retirement savings.
  • I agree with PP in that you should decide on what you can afford/what you want to comfortably spend. When we got engaged I set a ridiculously low budget. I'm still fighting tooth and nail to cut some costs. HOWEVER, one thing I feel we did right is we each set ONE priority item. I wanted a really great photographer, my fiance wanted a live band. So we prioritized these two things, and then went with less expensive options for most everything else. It really depends on where you are as to a "realistic" budget. Decide on your priorities. Then make a guest list. It's impossible to know what your costs will be until you know how many people you are going to invite. Ask both sets of parents about the guest list. Then once you have a number  you can start e-mailing venues and ask for quotes. Buffet is cheaper than sit down dinners, off peak days are cheaper than saturdays. Decide what works for you. Then once you have your venue you can figure out the rest of your costs. 
  • NowIamMrsKleinNowIamMrsKlein Cold Canadian North (British Columbia) member
    500 Love Its 500 Comments First Anniversary Name Dropper
    Before we decided on our budget we did research into the items that were going to cost the most, and the necessary items to legally marry:

    Venue
    Photographer
    Food
    Booze
    officiant
    Insurance/licences

    We took an average of these costs and used that as where to start with deciding on our budget.
    We then compiled a list of things that were 'must haves' for the wedding

    -top notch photographer
    -open bar
    -be able to accommodate our entire family (200 people)

    From there we did further research into those items and adjusted our budget accordingly (this is without making any decisions on each item, simply researching costs)

    Then we made a list of everything else that we could think of requiring at the wedding and from there we were able to create a budget that fit what we believed would fufil our vision.


    We are very lucky that we have the savings already to be able to pay out of pocket for our wedding. We chose an 18 month engagement to ensure that there would be no need to go into debt or completely destroy our savings. We could have easily had a shorter engagement and still had a lovely wedding, but because of the few things that we had 'must haves' on our list, we chose to have the longer engagement to be able to afford them
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    princessbuttercup09
  • I don't remember who it was, but someone posted this website here one time: http://www.costofwedding.com/ 

    It uses your zipcode and gives you both an average and a median of what people pay in your area. It is a good place to start to get an idea of what things CAN cost in your area so you can decide what route you want to go. So far, I have seen it be pretty realistic for my area. 
    Wedding Countdown Ticker

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  • My fiance and I are both in our early twenties, working shift work, and moving into our own apartment a month before our wedding. Money is/was TIGHT. Our total budget is about $3000.
    All we did was add up how much we could set aside every paycheck (realistically), without accounting for any help. When my dad offered to pay for alcohol, we gratefully allowed him and put the money towards something else. (instead of a budget of $150 for a dress, I got to spend $400) 
    Then, write down EVERYTHING you will want at your wedding, and prioritize it to what is most important to you. Keep in mind that most people don't remember the details of a wedding. Most guests don't care if there's chair covers and sashes, or if their invitations had gold embossing, etc. They will care about the food, the beverages, entertainment, and celebrating with you. Try to keep in mind that the importance of the day is marrying the love of your life, and celebrating with family and friends. You'll start to find that the smaller things (eg: embossed cocktail napkins) don't seem to matter as much. :)
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