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Calculating wedding spend

How to stick to your wedding budget — for real though

Ollie Rozdarz, Co-Founder of Hitchd
Ollie from Hitchd
Updated Dec 20, 20218 min read

As any engaged couple will tell you, it's easy to get caught up in the throws of wedding planning. Though you may have started thinking you'll keep costs down and in check, it's harder to do when sampling cakes and touring venues.

It's not enough just to have a wedding budget (though that's the important first step). You and your partner need to be committed to sticking to the wedding budget once you determine what it is. Like every other decision in your marriage, this should be a joint effort.

But sticking to your budget, once you decide on it, won't always be easy. Some expenses may be more than you originally budgeted for or you might end up paying more for a DJ because the more affordable options are already booked.

Nothing will spoil the memory of your wedding more than the monthly credit card bill with ongoing wedding charges that arrives on the second anniversary of your big day. Here's how to stick to your wedding budget and have a beautiful wedding everyone enjoys.

Do the math first

Before you start touring venues or browsing dresses online, you and your partner need to do the math on your wedding budget first. Here's how to do it smartly.

Decide on a wedding budget

In order to stick to your budget, you need to clearly define what that budget is. If you only have a rough idea of how much you want to spend, then you're likely to blow past that budget. Sit down with your partner, go over your income and expenses and decide on a budget.

Now once you have that budget, lower it by about $5,000 to get your actual budget number. This is likely your first wedding, and since you've never planned one before, you probably don't know the real cost of hiring a venue or DJ. That's okay. Having this smaller budget will allow you to adjust if you had unrealistic expectations of costs or want to splurge on one important upgrade.

This lower number is your official budget now. Treat it as such moving forward.

Plan for a longer engagement

The more time you have to plan your wedding, the better off your wedding budget — and credit card bill — will be. If there's no need to rush, plan for a wedding 18 months after you two first get engaged. If that seems too long, try at least a year.

Part of what drives couples over their budget is the rush to finish everything on a tight deadline. Some brides wait until the last minute for dress alterations, and they end up paying more to ensure the tailor gets the work done on time. When you wait until the last minute for flowers, you may be stuck with whatever's available, and those flowers might be more expensive than what your budget would ordinarily allow.

If you plan for a longer engagement, then you can tackle those expenses one at a time. Focus on finding a venue and caterer first. Those are usually the most expensive parts of any wedding budget. Because you're so far out from the date you want, you'll have a better chance of finding a venue and caterer in your budget that isn't booked on the day you want.

This will also help you keep better track of your expenses. When you have just a few items hitting your credit card, it's much easier to monitor where each charge comes from and what part of your wedding budget will cover it.

Remember, don't plan to pay for your wedding using every penny in your savings account. You or your partner could lose a job or experience a medical emergency, and if you've spent all your money on your wedding, then you'll be in serious trouble. By having a longer engagement and spacing out expenses, you can factor in wedding costs into your monthly expenses so you're not pulling all the money out of your savings account.

Divide up your budget

You may have one number in mind for your wedding budget, but to keep better track of spending and costs, it's best to break down that budget into categories, such as venue, caterer/food, alcohol (if you're serving it), dress, decor, flowers and officiant (if you're having a non-religious ceremony). Now assign mini budgets to each category.

When you break down your budget, you'll have an easier time keeping costs under control as you compare service providers. It will help you rule out providers that are simply out of your budget, and it will stop you from letting your excitement overrule your judgment when viewing flowers or dresses in person.

You can always adjust your budget and give more money to one category as bills start coming in. Maybe the venue provides its own decor, so you only need to buy the flowers. Perhaps the dress was found at a sample sale and needs just a few small alterations, so now you can spend a little more on flowers or dessert. Or you could just pocket the savings and leave it at that.

On the flip side, you can always take money out from other budgets if one category goes a little over its budget.

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Find a budgeting method that works for you

Everyone has their own way of managing their budget. Some people use spreadsheets while others prefer a budgeting app.

The key is to find a budgeting method that works best for you and your partner, one that you will stick to and one that makes understanding your expenses easy. Whenever you have a wedding expense, add it to your tracker within the appropriate budget. Choose a method that also allows you to adjust budgets for categories as you finish up purchases. For example, if your decor comes in under budget, make sure you have an easy way to re-allocate the remaining budget to another category, such as the dress or venue.

When looking for a budgeting method, find one that:

  • Allows you to track expenses on the go from anywhere. This will help you rule out vendors that are out of budget before you get too attached.
  • Is accessible to both you and your partner. Budgeting is a two-person job, and you both need to be on the same page about your finances.
  • Has plenty of room for itemizing. The caterer category will include the cost of food, but it also needs to account for table linens, dinnerware and even extra chairs. Some of these costs could be shared with the venue, so make sure you ask questions of your service providers so you know how much your spending and what is not covered.

Without a budgeting plan, you'll be more likely to miss expenses and blow past budgets — something you might not notice until those final big payments need to be made.The last thing you want is to find that you cannot pay for services right before the big day.

Find ways to save on your wedding budget

Now that you've done the math and determined your budget, it's time to start looking at ways to make your budget stretch a little farther. Weddings may be notoriously expensive, but there are ways to bring those costs down and have the beautiful wedding you've always wanted. Here's how to save on your wedding budget.

Choose a winter wedding

Most wedding planners, caterers and venues consider mid-spring to mid-fall to be wedding season. This is their busiest time of the year when they charge a higher price for services because there is such a big demand.

To save some money, plan to have a winter wedding. The trees and flowers might not be in bloom, but a little snow on the ground can create a beautiful backdrop to your big day. You may also find that venues, photographers and caterers have more flexibility around this time of year since there's less of a demand.

Research your wedding or honeymoon registries

Traditional wedding registries offer great options for couples — if you're trying to fill a house. But many couples live together before getting married or even wait until they're older to tie the knot. As a result, they've already acquired many of those wedding registry staples, such as nice sheets and towels and a stand mixer.

More and more couples are instead looking to honeymoon or cash registries to help raise money for their dream romantic trip or a specific cause, such as a down payment on a house. Sites like Hitchd help couples build registries made up of honeymoon-related expenses, such as tours, excursions and even airfare and hotels. When you're focused on paying for your wedding, it's easy for honeymoon planning to fall by the wayside. A honeymoon registry raises money and helps guests give the gifts you and your partner really want.

Honeymoon registries do charge for their services, but they don't always charge in the same way. That's why it's so important for couples to research honeymoon registries before signing up with one. Most sites offer one of two payment plans:

  • Per-transaction fees: A fee is charged each time a guest purchases a gift on your registry.
  • One-time fee: The couple who use Hitchd pay one fee to launch the site and then have full access to their money when it arrives and all the tools needed to build a great honeymoon registry.

Both plans have their pros and cons, but payment plans aren't the only potential charges. Some honeymoon registries will charge you if you try to access your money before your wedding while others will make you pay to remove ads from your honeymoon registry website.

If you sign up with the first “free” registry that you find, then you might end up paying much more than you thought you would. Think about your guest list and how many gifts you expect to receive and do your research before choosing a honeymoon registry.

Look for Black Friday deals on decor

If you plan to do DIY centerpieces or other decor, wait until Black Friday near the holiday season and look for deals on craft supplies or even decor. You could save a little on items you already planned to buy.

Before the sales hit, plan out your decor and load up your cart with all the necessary supplies. This will stop you from buying items you don't need just because they're not on sale. If all goes well, you might be able to save 10% or even 20% off your supplies, and that's a big win for your budget.

Find local florists that grow native flowers

Part of what drives up the cost of flowers comes from importing non-native or out-of-season flowers. If you want sunflowers in your bouquet for example, then you'd better be planning a fall wedding — or else the florist will need to import the flowers.

Once you set a date, meet with florists and ask about which flowers will be in season around the time of your wedding. They can design your arrangements using available flowers. Not only is this easier on your checkbook, but it's also better for the environment.

Center your focus

When you, your partner and your friends and family members look back on your wedding day, what will they remember most? Probably the wedding vows, the moment of “I do” and how much they cried. They might remember all the fun they had dancing and maybe even a particularly good toast from the maid of honor.

These are the memories that count. They're what makes a wedding so meaningful and memorable to guests. What they probably won't remember are the tangible items — flowers, decor, wedding favors and invitations. Before spending time learning to write calligraphy or buying expensive wedding favors, decide on what will truly be memorable for you and your guests and which details will be quickly forgotten.

Doing this will help you rethink those upgrades that seem essential but aren't necessary.

Sticking to a wedding budget may seem like a daunting, impossible task, but with some effort and attention to detail, you can keep your expenses in check while still throwing a beautiful, memorable wedding that your guests will be talking about for years.

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Fund memories, not things.

The modern registry where guests fund your dream honeymoon. It's simple and beautiful. Start your registry