This entry is from our guest post series
Everybody has a dream wedding in mind — whether it’s on the white sand beaches of an exotic island, a lovely garden celebration, or even a simple courthouse ceremony. Whatever it is, all engaged couples have at least one or two ideas on how they want to officially tie the knot. The first logical step towards this goal (after the proposal, of course) is one that can either go extremely well or horribly wrong: financial planning.
In fact, CNBC reports that around 60% of couples underestimate wedding costs and end up paying thousands of dollars more than they anticipated. That’s equivalent to three out of five married couples that you know. And if you’d like to avoid that scenario, then the following tips should help you out:
1. Determine how much you’re willing to pay for the wedding
A good way to start planning your wedding’s finances is to figure out how much you can actually afford. The Knot’s Real Weddings study reveals that weddings cost $33,391 on average, so that should give you a ballpark figure of how much to set aside. Compare that with your monthly income, as well as your future spouse’s, and then determine what percentage of those you’re willing to allocate. If you’re not in a rush to walk down the aisle, it’s best to allow yourselves several months — or even over a year — to save for the wedding of your dreams.
Aside from your earnings as a couple, factor in the financial support you’re expecting to receive, if any. There are some very lucky couples whose families offer to finance the wedding, either in part or in full, which should be taken into account when planning for the big day.
2. Create a realistic budget
Once you’ve settled on a final number, the next crucial step is to create a budget. More than just another task to tick off towards your dream wedding, budgeting is one of the most crucial steps you need to take to help guide the rest of the process. A post by Marcus on the benefits of budgeting explains that budgets serve the important function of providing insight — and giving you full control — of your finances. Being able to iron out all the details into a budget can help you plan a worry-free wedding (if there’s even such a thing).
Determining a budget entails doing your research on the specific costs of a wedding. With our very own ‘Just Engaged: Wedding Planning to Do List’, you can use it as a jump-off point for establishing a realistic budget. Look at the rates of possible venues, catering services, officiant, photographers, and so on. Then, create a spreadsheet detailing each expense down to the smallest item. Write down the estimated costs based on your research, and then actual costs based on your negotiations with different vendors. Don’t be afraid to ask around for rates and quotations — you never know if the best vendor for you is right around the corner.
Here’s an example of what that spreadsheet might look like:
3. Track your spending and prepare for emergencies
Another column to add to your spreadsheet is the money you actually end up spending. This will help you manage your finances better. Remember that a budget only serves as a guide, and should have room for adjustments. Just because you’ve laid everything down on a spreadsheet doesn’t mean that there won’t be surprises along the way. In order to avoid headaches over sudden expenses, it’s best to prepare a contingency fund big enough to cover such things as additional guests and a change in venue.
Don’t forget to write everything down, as even the smallest expenses can easily add up in the end. Use your existing spreadsheet or expense tracking apps. In this regard, the budgeting app Mint comes highly recommended by finance experts as it automatically categorizes and updates transactions, giving you a better view of how much you’re actually forking out for your wedding.
Keep these tips in mind as you plan your big day. Weddings are supposed to be one of the happiest days of your lives as a couple, and starting your married life financially healthy is probably a great sign of the good times ahead.
Piece specially submitted by: JBegley