How to Avoid Wedding Budget Creep

Determine Wedding Budget Advice Calculator: Maine Coastal Wedding Venue French's Point: Nothing Bakes Like a Parrott | Maine Photo Company

In French’s Point’s Wedding Budget Series, I’ve spent some time discussing how important it is for couples to discuss their finances as they relate to their wedding early in the planning process and about their priorities for the celebration and the amount of money they have to make it all happen. This is all critical to creating a realistic budget and one you can stick to throughout the process. Few things in life are as emotionally charged as a wedding. But, making money decisions from an emotional place without a plan can result in surprises and disappointment. Here are a few tips to help you stick to your wedding budget:

#1 Put Your Heads (and Hearts) Together

Take the time to sit down early in the planning and define very clearly to one another your list of priorities for your wedding. What’s worth splurging on and what’s not so worth a splurge? Most brides and grooms find they have similar lists, but there is often variation in where each element is placed on the list. The bride, for example, might think food and beverage service is number one in importance, while the groom might think food and beverage is third and the venue is number one. Whatever the similarities or differences, come together on how to order your top three. And then gather up the remaining categories and organize them in order of importance (You’ll probably find these fall into place fairly quickly after the top three are agreed upon.)

#2 Yours, Mine, Ours

Now that you know where your priorities lie and what your joint vision is, determine what sources of money will be available to cover the expenses for the wedding. Sometimes couples are funding their wedding themselves. Other times, other family members or special folks are chipping in on specific items or toward a part of the whole cost. You need to have the conversations with these people if you can to identify the total pool of resources available to you.

#3 Ideal Versus Actual

Now, I suggest you devise two budget numbers — how much you’d like to spend and how much if push came to shove you could afford to spend. The latter figure should be avoided as much as possible – the preference budget should be what you stick to. But it’s also good to have that absolute cap figure in your planning should you start to rationalize higher prices for perks you come across that you really like. What you don’t want to do is shop around first, fall in love with services that don’t fit within your budget, and then try and figure out how to afford it all. That’s letting your emotions take charge of your wallet, which any money manager will tell you spells trouble.

#4 Hire a Wedding Planner

One of the many skills a wedding planner offers is the ability to help you create and manage a wedding budget. This is an invaluable tool and the cost of the wedding planner is money wisely spent. Once you have completed steps 1-3, its time to bring in the professional to really answer your questions and set a plan into place. Wedding Planners know the cost of services for the vendors which they recommend or can obtain that information for you.

Maine Wedding Money Series II: How to talk honestly about the budget
Maine Wedding Money Series I: How to stretch your money in Maine

Let’s Talk About Money: Wedding Budgeting

Let's Talk About Money: Wedding Budgeting | Photo by Alejandro Escamilla

When planning a wedding, money matters. So, let’s talk about money.

I tell all of my clients that before they begin planning their dream wedding, they need to have a common vision of their wedding and a common understanding of their budget. Most couples need to sit down, first and foremost, and talk about how they imagine the celebration down to the details both large and small.

The Reality Inside the Dream

Once you have the reality inside the dream sorted out, you can create a list sorted by priority of the elements and ideas you want to include on wedding day. For some couples, their priority is catering and the wedding venue, for others its entertainment and photography, and still others may prioritize the rentals and florals. It’s totally up to you, but it’s really important to discuss this with your sweetie because you may have different opinions. In fact, you most likely will have different priorities, so it’s a good idea to talk it through and decide together on what matters most to you. Be prepared to compromise!

You can then use this list as you tinker with your budget. I always suggest this list because people are so emotionally inspired when they imagine their dream wedding that it’s sometimes hard to get past that emotion to the nitty-gritty of what you can actually afford. The priorities list allows you to honor your emotions and dreams but also be practical about scale. As you plan your wedding, you can rely heavily on this list to address each item in priority-order and within the budget.

Regarding the Size of the Budget

Regarding the size of the budget, you’ll need to know quite early on who is contributing money to the wedding. Is it all being paid for by you? Or are you getting money from, for example, parents and grandparents? To figure this out, I suggest you sit down with family members over dinner to celebrate the engagement and also to talk about their overall vision and what the family members see as their role in the wedding. Usually from this conversation comes clarity on the relatives’ ability to contribute or not. Now is actually a great time to have that conversation because families are convening for the holidays.

Avoid Budget Sprawl

Finally, to avoid budget sprawl, you should work with worst-case-scenario figures. That means the highest possible cost of the preferred vendor, the highest possible guest count — basically the most everything you are pursuing could cost you. It’s much nicer to have money left over at the end, because then you can apply it towards your honeymoon or put it in a bank to purchase a house.

The Wedding You Love and Can Afford

Your budget will ultimately be determined by your priorities, who’s chipping in, and the vision of your wedding celebration. The best advice I can give is to plan the wedding celebration that you will love and can afford!

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.

Maine Wedding Money Series I : How to stretch your money in Maine

Looking to squeeze as much as you can out of your budget? Plenty of couples want to get married in Maine because of the gorgeous scenery. But it’s important to note that Vacationland can also be a great deal.

First of all, vendors and venues here tend to be more affordable. In fact, in my experience, a wedding in Maine compared with a similar bash in New York City, Cape Cod, or Nantucket can cost 25-50% less.

On top of the savings from a lower cost of living here, Maine is easy to get to from points along the East Coast and beyond, with direct flights to the Portland International Jetport from a handful of major cities. It’s also a relatively short drive from Boston (two hours) and New York City (six hours). So you get an exotic escape from everyday life without the steep travel expenses of more far-flung destinations. That’s a savings the bride and groom and all of their guests can enjoy.

Here at French’s Point, we have long-time vendors who are able to perform multiple tasks at a wedding, which can also save money. Like the associate that we absolutely adore named Captain Barnes. Captain Barnes is an officiate and a talented bagpiper. So couples hire Captain Barnes to play their ceremony music and then conduct the ceremony.

Speaking of music, another way to stretch your money here in Maine is to use the same musician for different parts of the event. It is nice to have a transition from one kind of music to the other as the event evolves, but that doesn’t mean you have to hire more than one band. If you have a five or eight-piece band providing the music their guitarist could play the cocktail hour, their pianist might accompany dinner, and the whole ensemble could play the dance reception.

Finally, another great way some of clients maximize their dollar is to offer individual desserts at the reception rather than one grand cake. One of our favorite mini alternatives is the whoopie pie, palm-sized chocolate cakes sandwiched around cream. Whoopie pies can be personalized, they’re often affordable and, best of all, they’re a nod to local culture. Last year, our state legislature officially crowned the whoopie pie Maine’s official state treat even though, technically, it was invented in Pennsylvania. Mainers aren’t known for being sticklers when it comes to good dessert.

Maine Wedding Money Series II: How to talk honestly about the budget
Maine Wedding Money Series III: How to avoid budget creep

Jessika Brooks Brewer