(photo: Rylee Hitchner)
Though getting engaged made me stop biting my nails, for fear of accessorizing my ring with shredded fingers, I'm afraid planning this wedding is going to force me back into that habit. And if anything sends me into a nail-biting frenzy, it's budgeting for the wedding. As I know that there are a million budget guides out there, from The Knot's percentage/paid/budgeting calculators to the Real Simple wedding checklist that includes budget suggestions, I won't go into the gritty details of wedding spending. What I will do is make some recommendations to you based on my experience.
(photo: Blush Wedding Photography)
First things first - look at your finances and find out what you and your fiance can realistically spend. If it's $25,000 or $0, be sure to be honest with yourself. What if you have a health/pet/family emergency? Will your reserves be dry?
Second? Ask your family what they can realistically contribute if they are a) interested in contributing and b) you're interested in them contributing. Have your fiance do the same. I know it may go against (ancient) tradition, but in our modern world the majority of brides and grooms pay for their weddings on their own with some assistance from both sides of the family. Similarly, if a more distant relative wants to contribute something, be sure to be upfront about costs. If a grandmother wants to help with your flowers, she may have a different cost in mind than you and it's best to be clear initially rather than stressed at the end.
Third - take the sum of all of those commitments, and subtract about 15-20%. There's your budget! The extra 15% will come in handy when you realize you forgot dress alterations, favors, or extra postage. Be sure to budget yourself a cushion, however big or small, so that you avoid the opposite happening - scrambling for another 15% of your budget to cover the tips you neglected to work into the budget.
Now that you have the scary numbers all calculated, you may want to use the Knot or Real Simple's calculators to allot a budget to each tiny piece of the wedding. I personally used my own budgeting system in which I awarded the brunt of my budget to the most important pieces of our wedding (to us): an awesome location and beautiful photography. Because such a large portion of the budget was taken up by these two items, I skimped on: my dress/shoes/accessories, having a full and open bar, hiring a florist, hair and make-up, and a big guest list. Though those were our splurges versus saves, they'll be different to each couple. Some may want to spring for an amazing meal, some for amazing attire, some for a unique venue, and some for a giant guest list. It all depends on the piece of the wedding that stands out to you as most important.
(photo: Jose Villa Photography)
Some other tips?
If you're fantastic at something, consider DIY-ing that element of the wedding (like: graphic design or hand-lettering for invitations; floral design; sewing; crafting). However, if you're not awesome at something, don't try to learn it months before the wedding. It'll end up being expensive (perhaps more so than just hiring someone or buying the item) and extremely stressful during an already crazy time.
If you have a family member or good friend that's awesome at something? Ask them for their input and assistance, but be sure to offer to compensate them for their time and effort (and not get offended if they say no). Asking a guest to photograph your wedding without compensation revokes their guest status, puts them to work, and is quite rude. Always discuss it first and compensate them.
Keep in mind that your friends and family, if traveling to your wedding, will have limited budgets to spend on additional activities and attire. If you're requesting that your bridesmaids fly across the country, try not to pick an expensive bridesmaid dress that'll also need alterations. If you'd like them to all wear the same shoe, consider picking a shoe that can be worn again and is comfortable (a metallic flat or nude heel).
Look into used decor rentals or sales from wedding websites and blogs. There's someone else out there with mercury glass votives that bought them full price and would love to recoup half of their expenditure by selling them to you... half price! You can do the same with wedding dresses on sites like OnceWed. Think Jenny Packham dresses, once worn, for 1/2 off the original price.
Shy away from a full bar and opt for one or two signature cocktails, or serve your favorite beer and wine. I promise that as long as there are good drinks, no one will lament the lack of unlimited Tanqueray at your wedding. There's nothing worse than a wedding getting on in hours and seeing already-toasted family and friends order a top shelf drink and leave it sitting, untouched. That's like burning $14.
(photo: Eric Kelley)
Finally? Keep in mind that your wedding is one day. One fantastic day, but one day. If at the end of the day you're married to the love of your life, then all went well and it was all worth it. Your shoes can be thrifted, your dress used, your venue a sandy beach or parents' backyard, because if you're surrounded by friends and family sharing in your love, all has gone as planned.