It has been 2 years since I got married, and one thing I have noticed is that the average cost of a wedding has increased drastically since then. I wrote a blog post about the budget right after getting married, but I feel like things have changed a bit since that point.
Always Think With Less:
If your budget is $30,000, always tell your vendors (and yourself) that your budget is $25,000. There are a lot of unforeseen expenses as well as things you'll want to splurge on, this mentality will keep you in check throughout the planning process. Most couples go over budget so giving yourself a buffer will enable you to go over budget without spending more than you originally wanted.
Don't Be Afraid To Negotiate:
I hear a lot of talk from vendors about how much they hate brides negotiating with them. But here is the thing. If they don't have set pricing and packages on their website for you to think with, you have no idea what you should expect to pay. The concept is to fall in love with a vendor, find out their pricing and be willing to pay it. This is such a twisted way of doing business. I don't walk into the store, fall in love with a dress then find out the price tag and say ok. Instead I know the price tag and know if I should fall in love with the dress. If it was the other way around you better believe I'd be in Nordstrom negotiating pricing.
A lot of vendors are willing to work with your budget. For example, your expenses with a florist will vary greatly depending on the amount as well as the types of flowers you want. Vendors are small businesses and they have things they will and won't negotiate, but it never hurts to ask. Of course you don't want to insult them, and never ask for just a discount, but be willing to work with the services they offer. If you don't need something, let them know. They might be willing to take it out of their proposal. In the end, you may or may not get any discounts but you never get what you don't ask for. So politely try to work with them to see if there is anything they can do.
Figure Out Your Splurges In The Beginning:
No two budget will be the same. Some brides want a great venue and are willing to give up things like transportation. Some brides don't care as much about the venue but won't budge on getting a Vera Wang dress. Figure out where your splurge moments will be right off the bat (and it can't be everything!) What is important to you? What do you want your guests to walk away remembering? What do you want to remember in 30 years? Then figure out what things you don't care about. For me it was transportation. Some might be ok with buying a cheaper dress, or not having flowers in the ceremony. Whatever it is, figure out what you don't care about and leave those things out.
Create The Best Guest Experience:
In terms of design, you can do a lot. But think about the things that will enhance the guest experience vs. things that won't be noticed. For example, if your venue provides tables and chairs, figure out ways to dress those up before opting to spend several thousand on rentals. Small details at each place setting will add to the overall look and feel of the table without adding too many elements on your tablescape. Nix a huge paper lantern display and go for something a little more original. Have a really fun photo-booth (you can DIY that one) to give guests something to spend their time doing. Chances are guests are going to notice a custom bar you had custom made, but they will care about the drinks. Cut the things that won't lend themselves to drastically enhancing the overall look. That doesn't mean cheaping out on everything, but pick those spots that people will actually notice and forget the rest.
Pay Off Your Wedding As Quickly As Possible:
While planning my wedding I would pay off vendors every time I had a new chunk of money. This allowed me to keep an incredibly accurate count on how much I had and how much was still outstanding. My vendors were paid off months before they were supposed to be and I was free to spend money I had in new areas without losing count of my overall budget. I realize there is a concern that the vendor could just not show up on your wedding day and take your money, but hopefully you have hired a team of complete professionals where this wouldn't even be a concern. (I had a videographer from craigslist who I paid the day of......because you better believe I didn't feel right about giving him the money up front.)
Keep a spreadsheet for your budget. In the beginning it was filled with a lot of estimated costs for things. As I started booking more and more vendors it turned into tracking expenses, balances paid and those that were outstanding, etc. This was such a lifesaver when I was getting married and something I referred to all the time.
The budget is probably the least fun part of planning a wedding, but it is the most critical. Hopefully these tips will help you stay somewhat on track. As always, if you have more questions or need some extra help, I'm here to answer any questions. I have recently created some budget tracking sheets that I can send to you as well. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send those over.
Want more awesome information like this? I'm hosting a wedding planning workshop for brides who don't want to hire a planner but need help making sense of it all. Check out all the details!