How To Efficiently Prioritize Your Wedding Budget
Prioritizing your wedding budget may seem like a no brainer, but it may not be something you’ve considered in depth. After getting engaged, almost everyone naturally begins to think about the elements of their wedding day that, to them, are most important. But I must emphasize the importance of putting some organized thought into this early on, doing so will make the planning process much easier on you.
Creating a wedding budget is all about prioritizing what is most important to you and your future spouse—and it’s different for everyone—and then balancing “want” with “necessity”. If you splurge in one area of your wedding, you’ll need to save in other places to make up for it—or else you may find yourself over budget. But here’s the big flipside that proper planning can reward you with: You actually get to Splurge! Yup that’s right, If you take the time to prioritize your budget you will see it’s possible to now book that dream venue, or afford your dream dress—rather than settling across the board, you can now have enough money properly allocated to “go big” and enjoy the best of whatever makes your dream day.
Here are a few great tips to help you get started with your budget, and with your careful spending and organization, a reward most likely awaits you!
Make a list of EVERYTHING.
When I say everything, I literally mean everything that comes to your mind when you think of your wedding day. As hard as this might be, try making this list without thinking of money or numbers, just write as many wedding factors, vendor-types, attributes and details that YOU could imagine wanting.
Some ideas to get you started: Venue, Location, Guest Count, Attire, Florals, Food & Beverage, Dessert, Photography, Videography, Officiant, Bridal party gifts, Wedding Bands, Transportation, Ceremony, Music, Decor, Stationery, Rentals, Traditions, Furniture, Lighting. I mean the list goes on but you get the idea. This is YOUR list though, so you should be writing down anything you would want to have at your wedding – if you could have it all. Just think of this as your “dream list” and remember nothing you write is FINAL. We are just starting to brainstorm to get a better idea of what’s most important to you.
Next, this list is going to transform into a list of Categories. In the event of similar categories from the same “family”, choose the most all-encompassing and place the others underneath in a list.
For example: “Food&Beverage”
You can list possible options, such as passed Hors D’oeuvres or stationed food and signature cocktails or a simple bar, providing your own alcohol, Light refreshments, Multi-course meal, Buffet, or Food Trucks, late night snacks – ideally, what type of food would you like under the main category of Food. Not every category will be long… this is fine, categorize it anyway, this list will be so handy for reference in the future when struggling to make budget decisions.
Remember this is your “Dream List” so don’t hold back!
I don’t want to create your list for you, but these are just some examples of things you will be writing down:
Guest count: If immediately a small intimate wedding comes to your mind, write it down. Eloping? If you picture a large wedding with many guests, make note. Kid friendly wedding, or would you like children to attend?
Venue: Dream venue in mind? Indoors, outdoors, destination wedding? Is ceremony and reception at the same place?
Dessert: Do you dream of a beautiful tiered cake? Or a dessert bar?
Photography & Videography: Is there a photographer or company that you’ve already been following and love their style. Write them down!
Transportation: Limo, shuttle buses, no transportation provided.
Music: DJ or Live band.
Décor: Calligraphy signs, custom made signs, big centerpieces, table layout, ceremony details (arches) etc
Stationery: Fancy invites, or basic. Save the dates, wedding programs.
Rank your list items based on importance to YOU & YOUR FIANCÉ.
Next to everything you wrote down, rank by “importance to you” on a scale of 1-5, 1 being a “must have” and 5 being “nice, but don’t NEED it”. This is where prioritizing is going to help you in the long run. I suggest saving your “1’s” for 3 specific things that are the most important to you. Communicate with your partner as well and make sure you are on the same page with the items you put a 1 beside. To help you decide what deserves a 1, think about when you attend a wedding or party — what are your favorite elements that you notice and enjoy. Are you drawn to the decor, food, entertainment? When you visualize your wedding is your attire something that you are constantly thinking about or is it florals, florals and more florals? Your guests having a blast on the dance floor or eating the best meal you can imagine. The reason this list is so important is because it forces you to rank the middle cluster of vendors. The ones that you really haven’t put much thought into at all up to this point, but know that they come with having a wedding (linens, round tables or rectangle, charger plates, chairs etc). It’s this ambiguity toward these areas that can sometimes make deciding which business to book so difficult, because you just don’t really know how you feel about their role in your wedding day. Does it really matter if you book a high-end DJ that comes with extra perks, or are we okay with saving some of the DJ money by hiring a reasonable priced company that includes just the basics and using the money you saved elsewhere? Are you okay with basic linens and rentals or do you want more high end rentals? Without having thought through and assigning a level of importance to each part of the wedding day, these types of questions will quickly become overwhelming as you move further and further along in your planning. During this step, you’ll also want to cross out any categories or list items that you simply won’t be including, or you just don’t want.
I know the ranking can sound a bit harsh, but it’s a necessary evil. Even though you may rate some things in the 4-5 range, I would still get quotes and meet with these vendors because you may be able to squeeze them into your budget, they will just come secondary to your priority list. Refer back to the list before signing any dotted lines. Often, you just have to go with your gut – and when you were making your list and you put a 1 beside something, don’t be afraid to splurge on this particular factor, because you can just SAVE, eliminate, DIY, and make the things on the lower end of your list work. If there’s a will, there’s a way.
Remember every wedding is different.
EVERY wedding is different so don’t worry about playing by the “rules”. Don’t let anyone tell you that you should be spending 50% of your budget on your venue, remember this is your day and you need to do what will make you happy! Cake cutting is a wonderful tradition but if its more important to you to have a live band, opt out for a smaller cutting cake or dessert bar and use that money toward something you really want which will make a huge difference in your wedding day.
There are plenty of standard budget sheets online that will tell you that you should be spending x y & z percent on venue, catering, florals etc. Use these “standard” sheets as only a guideline and with a grain of salt—nobody should tell you how much money you should be spending and where. These sheets can be a great tool for getting started and guiding you in some direction and estimated wedding costs if you’re completely lost while budgeting, but I recommend spending YOUR money on what is most going to make you happy. Don’t sweat the small stuff and worry about breaking any traditions. Once you prioritize what’s the most important to the two of you (what will ultimately please you AND your guests) everything will start moving in the right direction.
Photography by: Jodee Debes
Prioritize, then Plan Accordingly.
Always use your “dream list” as reference. Once you’ve come closer to a finalized priority list, start to plan accordingly. I suggest having a rough estimate of what your budget will be but this step will help you finalize your budget If investing in a high-end photographer is a must because pictures mean a lot to you but linens & dining-ware are just minor details – then prioritize photography on the top of your list & plan accordingly. Start reaching out to your dream vendors and getting quotes. If you already have dream vendors in mind contact them immediately, but don’t hesitate to reach out to multiple vendors, this way you can compare quotes. Keep track of your quotes, and this will also help you make final vendor choices. You won’t feel guilty splurging on the areas that mean the most to you because you will be spending more carefully on items you have now acknowledged as low-priority. If push comes to shove, you’ll know where you are willing compromise.
Always refer back to your list if you are unsure.
Use your “Dream List” as reference. As you begin saving ideas on Pinterest, and talking with other vendors, engaged couples, or newlyweds, it’s very easy to get carried away and overwhelmed. Suddenly you’re feeling like you have to incorporate these ideas into your day, even if it’s something that was never really important to you before. When this happens, take out the list and remind yourself of the elements that were the most important to you. This isn’t to say you won’t swap a few vendors around in your ranking as you plan, but it will keep you from falling into the trap of making everything a number 1 priority. Remember if something was a 4 or 5 it was probably low on the list for a reason. Don’t second guest yourself. That’s how it becomes easy to overspend because you lose sight of what was most important to you. Remind yourself that in order for you to splurge on a particular element, there’s a trade off, and something else has to move down the list to make it happen. This will keep your spending in check and your budget on track. This list will always help you make the important financial decisions during your planning process!
Never lose sight of the reason you are having a wedding.
Photography by: CHARD photo
A marriage. When all is said and done at the end of the night, you will be marrying your best friend. You will be husband and wife, your closest friends and family will be there celebrating the two of you and like I said before your guest will be happy seeing you happy. The dresses, cake, flowers, food, and drinks will not define your marriage, they are just material bonuses at the end of the day. Prioritize the marriage—not the wedding details. Don’t sweat the small stuff and try to enjoy the planning as much as possible. Budgeting may seem daunting and stressful but when carefully planned and thought out it’s not as difficult as everyone may tell you. And always remember what a wedding is really about…The happily ever after!