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Oct 10, 2009

Set a Realistic Wedding Budget

Setting a budget for a wedding can save you a lot of disagreement and heartache if discussed early, openly and honestly.

1. Set aside some time to review your own opinion on how you should split the wedding expenses - then discuss that with your fiancee. Do you want to go traditional (parents of bride pay & bride)? Do you want to be more modern (pay for it yourself)? Do you want to be progressive (and share the wedding expenses with your fiancee)? Keep in mind that the tradition of having the bride's family pay for the wedding was established in days when a father would effectively pay a family to take his daughter off of his hands, as she wasn't seen as contributing to the family economy. Consider whether that's a tradition you wish to be a part of.
2. Since today is not the 1950s and most brides are working full time and plan to continue working full-time,advise asking your fiancee to share the expenses of the wedding. Traditionally the groom's family only pays for the rehearsal dinner, and possibly part of the honeymoon. The bulk of the expense is really the wedding (the flowers, the cake, the gown, the food, the music, etc.).
3. Research the vendors and get price quotes before setting the budget. This is really critical. You may think flowers would cost $500, but really they can cost $2,400 easily. Many vendors have minimums - get this information up front.
4. Write a detailed list with vendor name and projected cost and tally everything up. It may be good to use software like Excel to easily update this and make cost comparisons between different vendors for the same thing (like different flower shops).
5. Once you have an idea of what your wedding may cost in your area (with vendors that you like), discuss the finances with your fiancee. How? Asking questions about his views would be a good place to start. Sharing the list of potential costs with him would be wise. Better yet, look into venues and costs together - reviewing purchases and setting budgets based on one another's needs is something you'll be doing for the rest of your lives!
6. At this stage, start formulating a guest list, because many budget items are proportional to the size of the wedding you host. Keep in mind that if your families are paying for all or part of the wedding that they may feel entitled to add to this guest list. Be up front with them about this.
7. Come to agreement with your fiancee about how you would like to pay for the wedding. Will you pay for it yourself or ask your parents for assistance? Do you both feel right even asking your parents for financial assistance?
8. Meet with your respective parents to speak honestly and openly how much they are willing to contribute to the "wedding fund." Special note: money from family has strings attached, so be careful about setting expectations that this is YOUR wedding and that you appreciate their financial contributions.
9. Create a spreadsheet using Excel or OpenOffice to write down and track your budget. The top line should have the total amount you are willing to spend and the end of the sheet should have a running total of projected and actual wedding related expenses.
10. Try to enjoy the busy and stressful wedding planning process, knowing that you have made one of the first and important financial decisions with your fiancee!

Open Office and Star Office are low cost alternatives to Microsoft's excel and let you calculate your budget easily. Pen and paper also work fine. Ask your close friends who are married for suggestions on how to budget for your wedding.Ask local married friends suggestions on affordable but quality vendors (cheap is a bad word when planning a wedding).Be sure to start the planning process as early as possible. The more time you have the better chance you have in getting what you want.Think about purchasing wedding insurance to protect your big investment. Don't forget to read the fine print! Build some flexibility into your budget - plan for things to end up costing about 10% more than you estimated. Make your budget as detailed as possible to avoid surprise costs. There are lots of wedding planning/expense lists out there on the internet - look at a few to see what you might be forgetting about. Work with your fiance to prioritize your spending - you may be able to reduce or eliminate some costs in order to get the dress/flowers/band/DJ etc. that you really want. Just because *everyone else* has a certain something at their wedding doesn't mean you have to!

Keep in mind that some of your wedding choices - the rings, the photographs, the video, & memories the DJ creates will be with you long after the guest have gone home. If your budget is tight, consider prioritizing these items. Think about you and your fiance's long term financial goals, and make sure that your wedding budget is not interfering with them. If you need to use credit to pay for your wedding, consider carefully whether taking on debt is something that fits with your long-term plans. Ask around to see if a relative or a friend knows someone who does flowers, photography, etc. and can get you a deal. But remember you get what you pay for - so if its too good to be true then go with your gut.

Planning a wedding can unfortunately bring out the worst in the extended family and even cause contention between you and your fiancee. Remember why you are planning this - to celebrate your choice.Add the cost of pre-marital counseling to your budget. I would strongly recommend pre-marital counseling especially if talking about finances has been a problem between you and your partner.Please know that not talking about the financial side of the wedding and pending marriage can only lead to greater heartache and misunderstanding. Be courageous - it'll pay off for both you and your life