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Creating Your Wedding Budget

Deciding on your wedding budget is no easy task. Your wedding will possibly be the most important party you've ever hosted — and the most expensive. Approximately half of the couples pay the entire amount themselves, while an additional 25 percent pay for at least part of it. One in three couples goes over their budget! Make sure you're not one of them by establishing a sensible wedding budget.

To make a budget, you'll need to add up your savings, keep a comprehensive spreadsheet, so you don't go over during the planning process, prepare for unforeseen costs, as well as make essential cuts if you do exceed your total budget.

Track Your Costs

Generate a spreadsheet with three columns: Estimated, Modified, and Actual. The Estimated column will be for the research of costs in your area. The Modified column will be for the vendors' estimates that you have chosen. The final amount you pay them will go in the Actual column.

Plan for Surprises

Add a line item on your spreadsheet called Extras of around 15 percent of your entire budget for things you are apt to forget (invitation postage, transportation, cake cutting, plating fees). Do not use this money upfront; you'll need it during the planning process as incidentals arise.

Before you sign the vendor contracts, read the fine print, because expenses that seem small could add up fast. Venues sometimes charge an additional fee for set-up and breakdown. When comparing all venue and vendor estimates, make sure you are comparing them according to what each estimate includes. At times the one that looks as if it is less expensive isn't because of what they cover. If you have to add on extras, it may come out to be the most costly.

Use Credit Cards Responsibly

No matter how motivated you are to increase your cash flow with credit cards, don't overdo it. Never charge anything that you can't pay off in 30 days unless you qualify for a card with a zero-percent purchase APR, which lets you skirt interest payments as long as you pay your entire balance within a specific time frame (usually 12 to 15 months). Personal Finance expert, Farnoosh Torabi, advises mapping out a plan for what you intend to do before swiping the plastic. If you do use a credit card, choose one with a generous cash-back program. You can use the rewards earned during that zero-percent-APR period toward the honeymoon or pay off any remaining wedding expenses. Try to avoid signing up for more than one card, which can hurt your credit score.

Find Ways to Save

  • The venue: Raw spaces like barns and lofts seem like a deal, but you could spend a lot getting them wedding-ready. If you have to rent tables, chairs, china, glassware, silverware, and AC or heat, it may be more costly than a wedding venue that includes all the basics.

  • The guest list: Each guest costs more than his or her meal when you consider the invitation, postage, welcome bag, slice of cake, and favor. "Never have a B-list, and be ruthless with your A-list," says Clark. For the average 135-person reception, narrowing the guest list by 15 people saves you approximately $1,300.

  • The wedding times: Choosing a Friday or Sunday can save you a substantial amount of many on the venue you choose. Or instead of hosting a four-course, wine-paired dinner, celebrate at brunch with mimosas.

  • Use one venue: Having the ceremony and reception at the same venue could save as much as $4,000 on transportation for the wedding party and guests. Plus, you will not be spending money on two venue locations.

  • Use a DJ: A band can cost three times as much that a DJ would cost. Plus, with a DJ, they can offer a wide variety of music and provide a fabulous time as well.

  • Do your Paper Items: This involves ordering or designing your wedding invitations and proper inserts yourself. You can also design and print your programs, table numbers, place cards and other things, too. Technology has made it simple to do this on your own at home. If you choose to order printed materials through a stationer, be sure to do the creating, ordering, and assembling yourself.

  • Address your invitations: Paying for calligraphy can be expensive. If you must have calligraphy on your invites, contemplate buying a calligraphy pen and practicing until you get it right. It's not that difficult.

  • Say no to the extras at the venue: Another critical approach for how to budget for a wedding is saying no to additional upgrades. Take what comes with the package, or the least expensive option. Couples sometimes add thousands of dollars to their budgets because they don't like the design of the white-on-white tablecloths, or they don't like the chairs provided for the ceremony. Nobody will be looking closely at the linens because they'll have beautiful table decor with your centerpieces and china, silver, and glasses. Post-wedding, no couple has ever said: "We wish we'd spent the additional $1,000 on more elegant chairs."

  • Use fewer vendors: If your DJ also offers lighting services for your venue or the baker also offers edible wedding favors, contemplate using that vendor to provide more than one service for your wedding. You'll always get a more favorable price if you're getting more from one vendor, plus you won't be paying multiple setups or delivery fees, the way you would be if you had hired separate vendors for each job.

Put your time and resources into the things that mean the most to you as a couple and then make the most straightforward decisions you can for the rest.

Your wedding day will seem to fly by. Take a minute to slow down and take it all because no matter how much money you spent or what hoops you jumped through, it will be the best day of your life.


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