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Say “I do” with wedding budget basics

What we'll cover

  • How to make decisions together 

  • How to separate your must-haves from your maybes 

  • How to set spending limits 

First comes love, then comes engagement, then comes the all-important wedding budget discussion. If you’re getting ready to tie the knot, you know there are a lot of costs to consider before anyone walks down the aisle. From flowers to the dress to the venue, planning a wedding usually means you’re constantly reaching for your pocketbook. The average cost of a wedding in the United States is just under $30,000.

If that price tag is giving you cold feet, know that your nuptials don’t need to break the bank. Planning a wedding that fits your budget is all about determining your priorities and creating a big day that’s both special and affordable.

Begin your partnership now

As a married couple, you’ll have to make a lot of big decisions with your spouse. Practice by building (and sticking to) your wedding budget together . Be open to each other’s input about what you envision for the celebration and how much it might cost.

To come up with a ballpark number, you should also consider who will be funding the wedding. Will it be you and your fiancé, either (or both) of your parents or a combination? Make sure you’re clear on expectations based on who is paying and how involved all parties will be in the planning process. For example, if your parents are contributing a large amount, they may feel they should have a say in the guest list. Keep the lines of communication open to stay ahead of potential misunderstandings.

Separate your must-haves from your maybes

No matter how lavish or laidback the affair, a wedding has a lot of moving parts. To streamline your budget, home in on the aspects that are most important to you and your future spouse. If you’re both foodies, catering may be an area where you’re prepared to splurge. Or maybe you’ve always dreamed of a live band. Whatever your essential items are, map them out before you start writing checks to ensure no priorities are left behind (and no budgets are busted).

Pick your strategic cuts

Just as important as picking your must-haves is identifying those aspects that are least important to you. Maybe there’s one or two items you’re willing to go completely bare bones on in order to dedicate more money to something more meaningful to you. For instance, you could have a friend take photos or build your own bouquet. Do you really have to have that couture gown, or could you find a copycat version at a more affordable price? Your wedding is all about you and your spouse, so don’t feel pressured to spend on anything that doesn’t resonate with you.

Set limits

After deciding on your priorities, assign a price range or upper limit for each major category of spending.

Image of Ally's wedding budget template

Your wedding is a special event, so it’s easy to get carried away. When emotions are running high, try not get swept up in the moment. Setting limits can help you rein in overspending before it begins. For example, say you set a limit of $1,500 for flowers, but you get a quote for $2,000. It may be tempting to spend the extra $500, but  that’s a 33% increase. If you use that mentality across several categories, you’ll end up way over budget. Know your limits and stick with them to keep your special day on track and on budget.

Do your “I do” diligence

Before you decide on any vendors or purchases, do your research so you can be sure you’re getting the best value for your money. You’ve likely never hired a photographer or DJ before, so gather a few quotes to gauge the market rate before you commit. This step is especially important if you and your sweetheart differ in your opinions on how much your wedding should cost. Doing your research will help you find middle ground and temper unrealistic expectations.

Make your wedding budget your first shared success

Your wedding is just the beginning of your life together. From here on out, you’ll be making financial decisions as a couple. With clear communication, compromise and proper planning, you can make a wedding budget that will set the tone for your shared financial future.

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