Let's Talk Budgets

I know these posts aren't always the prettiest, and you would rather look at photos all day, but if there is anyone out there that wants a little advice on being smart with the budget so you can afford all that goodness you see in photos, here is my two cents. I can't say that I am an expert, so I am just going to tell my story. I have to start by saying two things so you understand the type of person I am. First, I realized a long time ago (probably when I was 19) that nothing in this world is worth being in debt. The whole concept of debt is absurd to me, if you don't have the money, don't spend it. I also know how much easier that is said than done. So I try my hardest to follow my own words and not promise to pay money I don't have at that time.

Second, I grew up fairly comfortably thanks to a set of extremely hard working parents. I have always been very conscious of money and always felt bad about my parents spending too much money on me. Maybe the bride's parents pay for the wedding in some cases, but I actually refused such an arrangement. I would never make them do that, no matter how much money they had.

So here we go. At the beginning of the budget planning the parents agreed on an amount each would give. This was a great start and left Ian and I with the rest. I had a wedding savings account for about a year before we got engaged which added a bit more to the plate. I set aside a certain amount every month without fail for this.

I set the budget around $20,000 at first. But told everyone I ever talked to about it, and even myself that it was $15,000. I really believed that and thought with $15K for as long as I could. It actually helped me a lot.

The first thing was the venue. Some of you may know about that story, but it was long, gruesome, and so not fun (more on that here, here and here). After about a year, I finally decided on Holman Ranch. I had been admiring Holman for ever and ever, but it was always just out of my price range. After the ultimate burn from my basically dream venue, I decided to call Holman anyway. First off Hunter, the girl in charge of events, was absolutely amazing. I was not used to people being so nice and helpful. She told me that there were options such as off season and a Friday. Both of these things cut the cost down by almost (not quite) half. Though it was more than I wanted to spend on just the venue, I knew that this was the place.

To make that possible though, I would have to get the catering at a very very low price and Holman let you bring in your own alcohol which was another extremely important element to me. I remember spending a day calling every catering company on Google asking them if they could fit my budget. I got about 1,000 no's, but I didn't care. I was not willing to budge because I just couldn't. Finally I got a phone call back from Paradise Catering saying they would work with me. I am so glad they did because they were beyond amazing to work with.  So professional, and I heard MANY people say that it was the best wedding food they ever had.

Without Paradise, I probably wouldn't have had my wedding at Holman Ranch. But the total cost for venue and food was actually LESS than I was planning to spend if I went with most other venues. Score.

With the venue and catering nailed down, I began on the search for vendors. Luckily my photographers are absolutely amazing, but not break the bank status. Photographers can be quite pricey, and I totally understand why, but I lucked out that I got great pricing and the amazing style of photography that I wanted. Jason + Anna Photography were the clear winners here without interviewing anyone else.

I worked closely with each vendor from there on out to get the best value for my dollar. The florals for example. I had a very tight budget, but I wanted wild flowers not some super expensive over the top flowers, and I only wanted a small amount. I worked with them to make it worth it while at the same time making sure the prices worked for me. I was lucky enough to have some amazingly helpful vendors would were willing to work with budgets and let me know what alternatives I had.

One thing I was not willing to budge on was my dress. I knew that my dress would have to be whatever I found and fell in love with no matter the price. Of course I had to fall in love with a Melissa Sweet, but the good news was I got in on sale at least. I planned to sell it after the wedding to help with the cost of it though.

Every time I received a chunk of money I would pay the vendors I already booked as opposed to paying for new things. Each vendor was paid in full months before they were supposed to which allowed me to keep a very accurate count on how much money I had and how much I still owed. I also set aside about $1,000 for last minute items which I didn't use until about a week before the wedding. But, I swear, no matter how much planning I did, I was hit with expense after expense in that last week, I felt like I was writing $1,000 worth of checks every day! So, I totally recommend buffers, because you will need them.

There are always comprises in a planning a wedding. Personal preference is really where the decision making process on this comes in. We decided not to do transportation services and save the $1,000 there. We didn't rent outside tables or Chivari chairs and saved several thousand there. I didn't worry about the videographer until about a week before the wedding. Then I had to decide what to do about that. At the time I made the decision I needed to make. I had no money left and I really didn't want to come back from the honeymoon with a several thousand dollar debt. It didn't seem like a good way to begin married life. I opted for the cheap videographer and I regret that every second. I regret that I didn't make it more of a priority in the beginning, or didn't plan for saving a few thousand extra. I have already watched the footage I do have so many times, and it just doesn't do the wedding justice. It is great to see the speeches, the ceremony and everything else, but it is so amazing what a well shot well edited video looks like.

So there you go. Everyone makes mistakes, but I am at least lucky to have what I do as far as the videography goes.

Overall I did really well and stuck to the budget I had set in the beginning. I DIYed a ton of stuff which I can now sell, I am selling my dress, I got some great deals, and with every decision from the beginning to the end, I made sure it was a good use of my budget. Some things weren't so much, but I am not perfect.

To sum up a few things, I would say to pay vendors in full, always know how much money you have exactly, walk away from things you NEED and decide a week later if you still really do need those things, and cut the things you think won't add any value to your wedding (like for me it was the chairs, tables and transportation.) If you have any other questions of me, or want to know what I did about certain things, feel free to e-mail me.