Prioritize the Pennies

OK, so talking about the budget is the least exciting, least sexy and most stressful part of the entire wedding planning experience. But like a trip to the dentist, ya gotta do it as avoiding it will only make the inevitable more painful.

Over the years, I’ve seen couples blow their budget on various aspects of the wedding and then try to cut corners wherever they could on the rest of the wedding, with varying results. The problem with this panic approach is that things that really make a difference to the day end up being sacrificed on the alter of poor planning. A few real life examples from past clients…

* coughing up $12,000 on an engagement ring and complaining about spending $800 on the photographer

* hiring an expensive photographer but then cutting back on all the flowers and decor so there is very little other than people to shoot

* spending $7,000 on a Vera Wang dress and then having a cash bar

* hiring a band, having fireworks but not wanting to spend the extra $2.50 for covers for the dirty plastic chairs

*spending $10,000 on photographers but not providing vans to shuttle their guests from the ceremony to the reception site to save $80

Small things, like providing transportation for your guests, can set the tone and make or break the atmosphere you’ve spent so much money on setting. For instance, if guests have to wait almost an hour to be shuttled to the cocktail location because you only wanted to spend the money on one vehicle rather than four, they are NOT going to be happy campers as no one wants to wait around, especially when there are yummy drinks awaiting. And no one wants unhappy guests.

It’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of the wedding, spending big bucks for a few items only to realize you don’t have a money tree in your front lawn. Rather than painting yourself into a financial corner (no, peanut butter sandwiches are not main course options), take a realistic look at your budget and what you can afford. Choose three ‘luxury’ items that you’ll spend a bit more on (such as your dress, the photographer, the flowers – whatever is most important to the two of you). But keep it realistic. If you have a $20,000 budget for the entire wedding, spending half of it on photography and another $5,000 on the dress is not a smart decision.

Use a budget planner so you have everything in black and white BEFORE you sign any contract, swipe any credit card or pull out the checkbook. There are lots on the web and this one at has a number of features to make even the laziest bride’s job easier.

Enlist a ‘third party’ (someone not financially contributing to the wedding such as a bridesmaid) who can give you an objective opinion anytime you’ve fallen in love with something and are about to spend more money than you’d intended. A sobering voice of reason may just save you from making a financial flub.

Ask yourself these questions before you show the money:

* how will this make my wedding day better?
* how does having this make me feel?
* is there a more affordable option I can live with?
* if I buy/hire ‘X’, what will I have to sacrifice or scale back to keep on track with my budget? And by doing so, how will it affect the overall wedding?

And if you do end up blowing the budget, it gets to a point where spending the extra $200 or so on something intrinsic is a drop in the proverbial bucket. If you’re faced with sacrificing something that is ultimately going to impact the day, better to bite the bullet and spend the extra dollars rather than skimp and have the rest of the event ‘dragged down’.

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