A lot happens between “Yes” and “I do”, and much of it costs money. A lot of money. The average US wedding costs $29,000. But with some smart wedding budget planning, you can prevent your wedding from becoming an unaffordable event…and get some early practice on making solid financial decisions as a couple. Start off your new life together without a debt hangover…and having practiced a team approach to personal finance management!
Once you’ve agreed on the rough date, location and size of your wedding, you can start creating a budget that you can use throughout your wedding planning process. Follow these five simple, yet elegant steps to a budget that you two will both find realistic, and can cover the things you care most about for the Big Day:
1. Take that First Look
Most weddings are paid for by more than one person, and all of them involve multiple decision-makers. It’s smart to involve those “interested parties” early in the wedding planning to set realistic expectations and avoid misunderstandings later.
If you don’t routinely discuss personal finance management with your fiancé, parents, or in-laws, try bringing up the topic by explaining that you would like to look into creating a budget for the wedding to keep you from overspending. This should open the lines of communication.
Your goal from this step is to gain an understanding of the total budget you’ll have to spend.
2. Look for Chemistry
With your total budget in mind, use a comprehensive wedding budgeting checklist to guide a heartfelt discussion of each of your priorities for your wedding. Of all the items and services you could pay for (The Knot has a comprehensive list) which are most important to you?
3. Forsaking all Others
Now you’re ready to start estimating costs…and getting creative. Get information on what others have paid, in your city, for the items you’ve decided are critical to your Big Day.
If you’ve found that you’re already over your budget (and most of you will), it’s time to prioritize again. Some couples find it helpful to work from a sample budget. Here is the breakdown by category:
- Ceremony 3%
- Reception 48%
- Attire 10%
- Rings 3%
- Flowers 8%
- Music 8%
- Photography 12%
- Transportation 2%
- Stationery 3%
- Gifts 3%
Mint Tip: In our next blog post on smart wedding budgeting, we’ll cover some smart and unexpected ways to cut costs. You can save $100’s by taking a fresh approach to wedding attire, décor, entertainment and details.
Armed with your (now) very short list of key expenses, you’re ready to get estimates of the approximate costs of each. Search Engines, recent brides and grooms and community websites are great sources for vendor suggestions. Contact those that meet your requirements, detail your needs and get their quotes. Assign the prices you find to the items on your list. Allow for some extras: tips, taxes, and a buffer for unexpected items. Total these up to determine how close or far you are from your overall budget. Still have a gap? Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you’re comfortably within your limits.
Once you have your preliminary budget, good personal finance management dictates that you continue to use it as your working plan. Record each expense as you incur it. If you go over your budget in a given category, be sure to subtract the same amount from another category. If you come in under budget in any category, we recommend that you bank that savings against any future surprises. If those surprises don’t come, you’ll have some seed money for your first savings or investment account as a couple.
Mint Tip: You have several options for creating and monitoring a wedding budget in Mint. All of them free you from tedious tracking of receipts.
Some couples like to open and fund a separate account just for wedding expenses. Open a new Mint account just for that “wedding expenses” account and you’ll be able to budget by category for all of your expenses. Then sign up for Mint alerts to get email or text messages when you approach or exceed your specified budget for any category.
If you prefer to spend from an existing account, you can Label your wedding expenses and use Mint’s Search function to create a separate list of all your wedding costs.
More tips on how to use Mint.com for wedding budgeting in our third post, coming soon.
Mint Asks: Are you already using Mint to manage your wedding budget? Any tips to pass along? A pair of Mint t-shirts to anyone sending us wedding pictures from their Mint-managed nuptials!
Related Mint Tips:
Online Budget Management
Online Personal Finance Management
Free Budget Online