Now that we are a mere four months away from our wedding, Rob and I are in the throes of wedding planning and we are at the point of making some tough decisions about what we can afford (as well as what we cannot afford) for the wedding. We set our wedding budget over the summer by adding up how much my parents set aside for us, how much Rob’s parents offered to contribute, and how much Rob and I were personally able to save and contribute toward the big day.
We decided upon which facets of the wedding were most important to us and were willing to splurge a little to make those happen. The very first vendor we hired was our photographer. As an amateur photographer myself, it is very important to me that I have classically beautiful portraits that Rob, our children, and I can look back upon and treasure for many decades to come. Of course, having a top photographer in the industry put a strain on our budget and Rob and I have had to find less expensive ways to “make it work” while still planning the wedding of our dreams.
The other elements that were important to us were the tent and caterer for our outdoor wedding. When people first heard that we were having an outdoor wedding at a private residence, many of them assumed that we would save a TON of money because we would not be renting a hall. Let me be the first to tell you that the notion is simply not accurate. Yes, it is possible to have a picnic style backyard wedding on a limited budget. But I want something special. It was important to me that we have more than a cheap white tent and a cookout.
I sincerely mean it when I say that I would either have a beautiful and special wedding reception or no reception at all. If all that Rob and I could afford was an intimate dinner for the two of us, that is what we would have and I would enjoy every moment of it without regret.
I wanted everything about our wedding to be classical and elegant. I was VERY concerned that we would overspend on the tent and not have enough money for a caterer so Rob and I waited to book the tent and furniture rentals (yes, the people need to SIT somewhere at the wedding and it costs a small fortune) until after we had found a caterer that would suit our needs and fit into the “reception” portion of our budget.
After those big three expenses were covered, Rob and I discovered there was no additional room in our budget for extra indulgences. Yes, we could afford flowers, and a DJ, and dessert, and a dress, and a suit for Rob, and jewelry and all the other “necessities”, but it was time for me to let go of some of my other fantasies.
As I clicked through my favorite outdoor wedding pins, I had to say goodbye to the notion of a plated dinner. The cost was simply astronomical. I also bid adieu to the gorgeous glass plates I had seen as place settings in all of my favorite photos. They were simply out of our budget.
Spoiler alert: there will be disposable dinner plates. It’s ok. I have made my peace with it and I know that it’s the only way I can still afford the other wedding essentials (like a DJ and a dress). Seriously, those plates are EXPENSIVE. At the end of the day, it’s all about priorities.
Rob and I constantly ask ourselves which matters more to us:
A beautiful tent or elegant dinnerware?
A top-notch photographer or an elaborate wedding cake?
Expensive wedding shoes or professional hair and makeup?
There is no right or wrong answer, as long as we stay within budget. Rob and I set our priorities and made sacrifices on the elements that were less important to us.
Before we make any purchases for the wedding, the two of us always take a look at our wedding budget to compare the purchase to our anticipated cost. If the item or vendor is less expensive than anticipated, great! If not, we discuss an area of the budget that we can trim to make up for the added expense. We also discuss whether or not the sacrifice is worth it!
And if we decide that we really want something that does not exist within our current budget (like a videographer), we make plans to save for one with our own money. Whatever it takes to keep our wedding from putting us in debt.
FREE Wedding Budget Template
It can be difficult to find a wedding budget that exactly suits your needs. I personally struggled with several that I had found online because they were not easy to personalize and most of them did not distinguish between deposits that were paid and the total cost of an expense. To remedy this problem, I made a wedding budget spreadsheet of my own and I’m sharing it with you for free. If you already downloaded our FREE monthly budget spreadsheet, this wedding budget template will feel like an old friend.
Download your free wedding budget spreadsheet and gain peace of mind as you keep track of every wedding expense.
Expenses that are Not Included In Our Wedding Budget
Just in case you are wondering, there are a few wedding-related expenses that have not been included in our wedding budget. I hired a wedding planner out of my personal savings and Rob and I are saving separately for a honeymoon, as well as for our wedding bands. All other wedding expenses are factored directly into the wedding budget.
At the end of the day, wedding planning is really a matter of setting priorities and sticking to your budget, however large or small it may be. Whether your budget is $5,000 or $50,000; priorities still have to be made and some luxuries will be sacrificed along the way. Check out some of my wedding inspiration on my Happily Ever After Pinterest board but beware: the board is filled with images of my wedding fantasy, not necessarily the reality of our budget limitations.
Marsha McGuire says
Great post. I think once you take the stress of the budget out, when you’ve made peace with this is what it is and how it will be, you find that planning is pain free. It really becomes black and white. Yes we can or no we can not afford it. My must have was a bagpiper in full regalia. I needed a little piece of Scotland in our very Irish wedding. Weird, huh? My husband’s must have was a very nice plated meal and a golf pitching area. Huh? In the end, we all got what we wanted and we kept within our budget which made enjoying the first year of marriage easy…no debt to worry about.
You’ve give great advice and insight.