12 Ways to Have Your Dream Wedding Part 1 :: Wedding Budget

This post was originally published on February 24, 2014. It has been updated for content and new images!

wedding budget how to have your dream wedding

Over the course of the next couple of months I will be sharing with you a series of articles on 12 Ways to Have Your Dream Wedding. I truly want that for everyone. I want you as a bride (or groom) to have the most amazing day of your life.

You’ll put in an incredible amount of time planning this day. You’ll probably spend a “pretty penny” on this wedding. You are marrying the man or woman of your dreams, the love of your life, your best friend. Why wouldn’t you want it to go smoothly and be wonderful? I’m sure you do. But too many times the wedding day ends up being stressful and chaotic.

It literally breaks my heart to see a bride upset and frustrated or even crying on her wedding day (yes, I’ve seen it) because something is not going right. It’s devastating. I never ever ever want that for you or any bride.

So I’ve written these articles to share with you my perspective on what you can do to prevent that from happening. A lot of this is just good-old common sense and none of it is that much work. But I promise if you incorporate these ideas into the planning of your wedding day, you will reap the rewards of a beautiful, calm and fun wedding day of your dreams!

Dream Wedding Budget Talk

A recurring theme that will come up during the course of this series of articles is that having your dream wedding is more than just what happens on the day of your wedding. There is often a year or more of planning that goes into a wedding and stress during the planning phase can impact your feelings about the whole darn thing.

One of the worst parts of planning a wedding is thinking about and talking about money. Money . . . I don’t even want to talk about it. It’s that ugly topic that makes people uncomfortable, guilty, embarrassed, frustrated, angry, trapped, compromised . . . You don’t want to ask anyone for money, you don’t want to take your parents’ money, you don’t want to spend any money or conversely you want to spend a ton of money but your fiancé or your parents don’t. And these feelings of conflict can follow you all the way through the planning to the wedding day itself.

So what do you have to do? You have to talk about money even though you don’t want to. Get it out in the open. The first thing I believe is essential to having a wonderful wedding is to really get real about the money aspect of things. Let me tell you, you do not want to be at your wedding venue and the caterer is looking for a final payment and you thought your parents were going to pay for that but they thought your fiancé’s parents were paying for it, because no one wanted to talk about it. All the while you’re supposed to be having the best day of your life.

Let’s talk about how to approach money.

Decide What Kind of Wedding You Want

First you need to decide what you want for a wedding. Do you want a lavish celebration in a 4-star hotel with millions of flowers and Cristal flowing all night? Or do you want a backyard barbecue with your family and friends and your dad grilling up burgers. Really, it’s probably something in between? All of these weddings can be beautiful, meaningful and special. But it’s up to you to really decide for you (and when I say “you”, I mean you and your fiancé) what your dream wedding looks like.

As you go into planning your wedding, you might be surprised at the opinions, suggestions and expectations your family and friends have for your special day. It can be surprising and frustrating as you’re going through the planning if you don’t know what you want and everyone else is telling you what they want. So figure it out! Figure out if you want the lavish wedding or something simple and understated. Once you know that, you have something to work with.

Figure Out How Much It’s Going To Cost

Once you know what you want, you need to figure out how much it’s going to cost. There are tons of wedding budget calculators out there online and in books and magazines. And they’ll tell you all of the things you might need to spend money on. The venue, the dress, shoes, gifts, transportation, flowers, photographer, etc.

If you don’t know how much it costs to have the wedding of your dreams, you can’t move forward. Be realistic when figuring out how much it will cost. And then plan to probably spend a bit more than you have planned. Things always, always, always come up.

Now Start Talking About Money

I believe that scoping out the costs of the wedding you are dreaming about should be first, rather than figuring out a budget and then trying to retrofit your wedding into it.

Are you paying for the wedding yourself? You and your fiancé? Help from parents? Your parents? His or her parents? There are no “standards” anymore for who pays for a wedding. Many couples are paying for their weddings themselves. But now that you know how much the wedding will cost, it’s time to figure out where the money is going to come from.  Have an honest conversation with your fiancé about how much you and he/she can put toward the wedding if you are paying for it or paying for part of it, if you have the cash now or will have to pay for things along the way.

Then talk to parents or family. Get specific on how much they are willing to give you or what they’re willing to pay for. Dad may say “I just want my baby girl to have the wedding of her dreams.” But what does that mean exactly? Share with them how much the wedding will cost and your plans to assist with paying, then nail down their contribution specifically. Knowing this up front will ease your stress level throughout the planning process.

Maybe your parents can’t afford to pay for the whole wedding but would love to pay for your dress. That’s awesome. Do your parents know how much wedding dresses cost these days? Does paying for the dress mean that they’ll pay for the dress and the alterations which can add to the cost significantly? Springing the cost of dresses at the bridal salon or the alterations on them down the line is a recipe for disaster.

Get clear about money! Or maybe your parents would rather just give you a set amount of money to put toward the wedding, which I think ends up being a bit easier along the way. Here’s why: If your mom (and bless them, they mean so well) is involved in paying for each little nit-picky thing for your wedding, she may have opinions about each little nit-picky thing. And that can lead to delays and stress and arguments. What if she doesn’t think you should spend $1000 on custom designed invitations and thinks you should buy yours at Target and print them yourselves. When you are in control of the money, you can spend it in a way that fits your dream wedding vision.

Be gracious but also be specific with your family about money.  Talk honestly about what the costs are and how they’ll be handled. I promise it will pay off as you spend the next year or more planning your wedding.

Bonus Advice

Now I’m going to throw out my personal advice on paying for a wedding. I don’t think anyone should EVER go into debt to pay for a wedding. EVER!

If you aren’t able to pay off whatever you charge on credit cards within a couple months of the wedding, you should not be spending the money.  A wedding is a beautiful occasion but believe me, you do not want to start off your married life buried in debt. That’s just the financially prudent side of me coming out.

Also, say Thank You to those who are helping you. A card or gift is not out of line for all they are doing to help you have your dream wedding.

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