I love hearing from couples how, soon after their fabulous wedding, they’re able to start saving and investing together. That’s a great financial goal for your wedding: To make it a celebration of the start of a prosperous life together. (Speaking of starting a prosperous life together, I provide an introduction on the subject of “Weddings & Money” here, followed by four blogs related to this.)
After you two start building your wedding fund without borrowing money, it’s time to create a wedding budget! My goal is to help you create one that thinks long term (beyond the wedding!), so that none of you would ever have to ask the question, "Why did we even spend for that?”
Here are 6 steps that you can share with your fiancé during your next wedding planning session:
1. Nominate a bookkeeper and choose your tool.
You will push the pen a lot during wedding planning, so it’s best to give the administrative, accounting, or bookkeeping role to the person who enjoys this task. If both of you enjoy doing it, assign which parts of the paperwork you’d like to split between the two of you.
My favorite tools: Google Sheets + Google Drive
A traditional notebook or those printable sheets from wedding magazines might do the job, but it was just so much easier for Mike and I to be able to instantly compute values on a spreadsheet. Also, with a cloud-based spreadsheet, we were able to track revisions, edit from various devices at the same time, and share it online with other people. Putting all your wedding-related files in a shared folder on Google Drive (docs, sheets, photos) allowed us to access these files using any of our devices (which made everything so much easier!).
GREAT NEWS! I've created a very elaborate and comprehensive Wiser Weddings: Budget Worksheet for you. All you need to do is sign up for it here in a matter of seconds! I designed it in a way that will be useful for whatever scale of wedding you're thinking of: from completely DIY to plug-and-play, including destination weddings.
2. Establish your “Guiding Principles” if you haven’t yet.
Guiding principles are a set of rules, agreements, or philosophies to help you make better and smarter choices together. These are elaborations of what you, as a couple, believe in - which are pretty much affected by your faith and preferences. Your vision for your wedding day will also define your guiding principles.
They make future questions so much easier to answer. Questions like “How many guests should we invite?”, “Are we going to order a dance floor?”, “Should we increase our budget on photography for drone shots?” and many more.
From there, you can list down your “Must-Haves”, “Good-to-Haves” and “Do-It-Yourselves (DIYs)”. Here are quick definitions for each of them:
- Must-haves: You really need to have these at your wedding because you’ve mutually agreed on their importance. Challenge each other by asking, “Won’t we achieve our vision for our wedding if we don’t have them?” Must-haves are also what you would put most of your budgets or efforts into, while not necessarily making your wedding expensive.
- Good-to-haves: These are what you’re ok with not having but are just nice to have. This list is where your excess budget can go.
- DIYs: These are items that you’ll do yourself to reduce costs, as pre-made items tend to be pricey. Consider the cost of your time though.
Read more about guiding principles here.
3. Establish your maximum budget for each wedding item.
This is a tough nut. The cost distribution of every wedding are as broad as the different shades of blue. But to give you a very rough idea of which items will get the biggest or the smallest slices of your budget, here's an industry breakdown:
Wedding Planner - 5-7%
Venue - 20-22%
Catering - 22-26%
Decors & Florals - 7-10%
AV & Entertainment - 6-12%
Apparel - 4-7%
Photo & Video - 4-7%
Wedding Rings - 1-3%
Pre-wedding activities (e.g. rehearsal dinner) - 6-8%
Honeymoon - 4-8%
Miscellaneous (Legal, Souvenirs, Your flights if you’re doing a destination wedding, Ceremony, Transportation, Stationery, Hair & Make-up, etc.) - 10-14%
These add up to 100%.
I can’t overemphasise the usefulness of your Guiding Principles, Must-Haves, Good-to-Haves, and DIYs lists. All these percentages will be defined by where you want to put your money into. And there are definitely ways to make them work!
So, let’s say, you are both very particular about having a great documentation of your wedding. Meanwhile, you’re not the type who likes too many things going on at a party. You just want people to talk to each other. You can then bump up your budget allocation for Photo & Video to maybe 8%, and stick to a 2% budget for AV & Entertainment.
Then, it’s time to put the dollar amount for each of these items based on the total budget you’ve agreed on. Still haven’t decided how much that is? I encourage you to read this and this in sequence to prepare you for some serious decision-making around wedding finances.
Note that the bulk amounts that you’ll establish for these general items will be further broken down into smaller amounts for the nitty-gritty of a wedding plan. My Wiser Weddings: Budget Worksheet contains those minute details.
4. Collect suppliers’ quotations for all your must-have items.
This for me was fun because it felt like window shopping!
Before you dive into this part though, you and your fiancé should have already answered the questions listed in numbers 2 and 3.
Most, if not all, preliminary correspondences with suppliers can be done through email. If this is the case, they will be sending you digital quotations. File and organise these in your wedding folder.
I suggest capping your search at 5 suppliers.
Make sure you ask for the breakdown of the costs they give you. Ask, “Have taxes been included?”, “Any service fees?”, and “Any late payment penalty fees?”. All costs should be in net.
Compile your findings in a tab on your budget worksheet you can name as “Quotations”, or simply fill out that part of the Wiser Weddings: Budget Worksheet.
5. Pick your suppliers for your must-haves and update your worksheet.
This is when you’ll be making BIG decisions. The shopping around is over. Resist the temptation of going further deep into Pinterest to find other themes that “might work” because that step is over.
At this point, you have to decide together which suppliers you want to work with. Ideally, the costs of the suppliers you’re picking are within the budget you set aside for those items. If it goes over, you should be able to allocate more to it from your other items. But try your best not to be going over 100% of your total budget. Again, exercise godly stewardship of your finances during this wedding planning season.
6. Collect suppliers’ quotations for your good-to-haves.
Now that you’ve pretty much allocated your budget for your big-ticket items, you’re about 80% done with budgeting! Your surplus money (and hopefully you still have some at this point) can now go to your good-to-have list.
It’s best to give yourself a deadline in doing this part because the nitty-gritty can throw you off balance and eat so much of your time. One you’ve budgeted for your good-to-haves, you will definitely have to go back to tackling the details of your must-have items to reevaluate the costs side-by-side.
I know it can get overwhelming especially when you see just how much money you are putting into a one-time event. I thought of suggesting to Mike, my husband now, that we should just elope. Then a wise and caring friend reminded me that our wedding day is a celebration of God’s goodness in our lives, and our closest family and friends would be blessed to witness that. Like how one’s birthday can be celebrated through a small backyard picnic, your wedding day doesn’t have to break the bank.
Speaking of not breaking the bank, here’s another treat for you: read about sticking to your budget while investing in your future marriage here.
Stay tuned for stories of inspiring and wiser weddings.
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