5 Smart Steps to Creating a Realistic Wedding Budget

According to Dictionary.com, budget is defined as "an estimate, often itemized, of expected income and expenses for a given period in the future". Shortly after your engagement, preparing a wedding budget is one of the very first things that you should do. The question is, how do you create a wedding budget? Where do you start?

Following are 5 smart steps to get you on your way:

1. Talk numbers and define expectations.

This is something you and your fiancé should do at the outset of the planning process. To begin with, identify the total number of guests you intend to have at your wedding (see step 2 for additional insight on this topic). If you are set on an intimate event (of, say, 40 guests), but your mom had always dreamed of a 250 guest wedding for her little girl, this is the time to discuss and settle upon a scenario in which everyone feels comfortable. While you may not have the funds for a big wedding, perhaps your parents are willing to chip in with some financial support. Money often comes with strings, so be prepared to accept compromise along with cash. Be grateful and make sure to involve your parents in some of the preparation in return for their generosity.

2. Create an "A" guest list.

You and your fiancé should create a list of must-invite people to your wedding. When doing so, consider the following questions: Have you spoken with this person in the last year? Do you spend time with them outside of work? Would you buy dinner/lunch for that person? Will they make your wedding more fun? Many couples either want or feel obligated to invite every family member, friend, colleague, etc. to their wedding. However, this is just not practical for most couples. Use the aforementioned questions to help you determine who will be with you on your big day. For additional help with this step, see the chart below.

3. Identify a top-line budget figure; consider current expenses and financial commitments.

Closely tied to step number 1, couples should have a specific budget – or, at the very least, budget ballpark – in mind. If you have settled upon the size of your wedding, the next step is to talk about how much you want or are able to spend on the event. Note: this is the point in which some couples find it necessary to make adjustments – either to the number of guests or the overall budget. If you are having trouble here, seek the assistance of a wedding planner! (see step 5 for more on this). When preparing your budget, consider your actual commitments, such as student loans, credit card debt, car payments, future housing plans, among others. Create a savings plan and consider eliminating little expenses that quickly add up (how about that daily latte on your way to work?). Give yourselves plenty of time to save - no need to rush!

4. Survey actual wedding costs in your area.

The website costofwedding.com is a great resource to help you do this. The site allows you to compare spending in several wedding categories: venues, dress, photographer, cake, wedding planner, etc. in your area. This is a good starting point for you to be able to see what you could be paying. You can use these numbers as a frame reference to estimate costs and savings on some items in case you end up being a DIY bride.

5. Find guidance by hiring a wedding planner.

As wedding planners, we know well-kept industry secrets and have ideas that can save you time and money. I am biased, but a good planner is worth every penny! Rely on a planner’s expertise and knowledge of the vendors in your area to help you hire the professionals who can meet your needs within your budget.

I hope you find these steps helpful! For more wedding budget ideas, please contact me.

Happy planning!

Esme Krahn

Bodamaestra, serving Northern Virginia, Washington DC and Maryland.

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