Before you start picking out your colors, flowers, cake and first-dance song, you and your fiance need to talk about the most important detail of planning your wedding: the budget. The word alone might be making your stress level rise.
“Budgeting for a wedding can come with plenty of emotionally charged decisions,” said LaTisha Styles, creator of personal finance blog Young Finances. It can be especially difficult if you or your fiance have been planning the day since childhood, she said. But you can ease tensions and avoid disputes if you approach your wedding as you would any other budget. “Instead of making the decisions with these emotions, we asked objective questions of ourselves,” said Styles of her own wedding budget, which was just $5,000 for her March 2015 ceremony.
By asking the right financial questions about your wedding, you’ll avoid overspending and start your marriage off on solid financial ground. Here are five key questions you should be asking as you plan your wedding budget.
1. What are our financial goals for the future?
More than half of engaged couples argue about whether a wedding is the best way to spend their money, according to a survey by XO Group, which owns wedding-planning sites such as TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com. So before you start figuring out how much you want to spend on a wedding, you need to discuss your financial goals for your marriage and how the amount you spend on your wedding will affect those goals, Styles said.
She and her then-fiance (now, husband) Romeo Jeremiah agreed that saving their money for the future was important, which meant keeping wedding costs low. Perhaps if owning a home is important to you, you might decide that your money would be better saved for a down payment on a house than spent on a lavish wedding. The key is to have this conversation early so you can agree upon long-term financial goals and keep them in mind as you plan your wedding budget.
2. How much are we willing to spend on a wedding?
The average cost of a wedding was a whopping $31,213 in 2014, according to TheKnot.com. It’s understandable that you want your wedding to be special. But it’s important to keep your expectations in line with your own budget — not some “average” that doesn’t reflect the reality of your situation or your financial goals for the future.
Styles said that she and Jeremiah knew that they didn’t want to borrow money to pay for their wedding, so they agreed to keep costs below $5,000. They discussed every aspect of the wedding and how much they were willing to spend on each item, using a spreadsheet to record the amounts.
“We had our total amount and we figured, just like you would with a regular budget, the areas where you can save some money and the areas where you’re going to spend more money,” Styles said.
3. How are we going to pay for the wedding?
If the amount you want to spend on your wedding requires going into debt or asking parents to chip in, you might want to revisit your budget. Here’s why: According to Debt.org, a debt help organization, 30 percent of couples rely on credit cards to pay for some or all of their wedding costs. But starting a marriage with debt can cause money stress that can strain a relationship, and might mean putting off starting a family, or buying a car or home.
Asking parents to chip in might help you avoid going into debt to pay for a ceremony, but it could also lead to disputes. The XO Group survey found that among couples where family politics caused issues, 22 percent fought because their parents thought they had a license to help them plan their wedding because they had given them money.
4. Where will the wedding be?
The venue is typically the most expensive aspect of a wedding, making up nearly half of the entire cost, according to TheKnot.com’s survey of wedding costs. So where you decide to get married will have a big impact on your wedding’s overall cost.
Styles chose a location — a historic home — that allowed her to have her ceremony and reception in one place and offered an all-inclusive option that covered the food, tables, table settings and more in the total cost. Not only did this help her save money, she said, but also it made planning her wedding easier. All the couple had to do was answer a few questions on a checklist that the venue gave them and the rest was handled for them.
If your heart is set on a particular venue but it’s out of your price range, you might get a better deal by planning your wedding during the off-season. The most popular months to get married are June and October, according to TheKnot.com. As you compare prices at venues, ask if their rates vary throughout the year.
5. What compromises are we willing to make?
With everything Styles and Jeremiah wanted for their wedding, they asked whether it was worth cost, whether their guests would notice if they went with a cheaper option or even if that element was missing altogether. By compromising on things that weren’t essential to the type of wedding they wanted, they had more room in their budget for things that were important to them.
For example, Styles said she wanted to spend more on a dress, so she was willing to cut the cost of flowers by buying some at Costco and using those to create bouquets and boutonnieres on her own. The couple also saved money on invitations by making their own and asking guests to RSVP on their wedding site. They also kept the guest list small — inviting only close friends and family — to keep costs down.