Planning your wedding is exciting. But it can also be daunting and overwhelming. Like many aspects of adult life, planning a wedding can take you by surprise. Who knew that the floral displays you found on pinterest would cost you a whole months wage? Who knew that cake would cost you more than what you earn in a week? Wedding planning can definitely be a shock to the system. Especially when it comes to budgeting. If planning our wedding taught us anything, it’s that knowing how to budget for your wedding is half the battle. I’m going to share how we approached it within this post in the hope that the somewhat unorthodox approach may help you too.

How to budget for your wedding: A disclaimer

Before we start, I just want to make it clear that I am in no way shape or form a financial expert. I have no professional training when it comes to budgeting, managing finances or even with planning weddings. What I do have is 8 years of experience working in the wedding industry. I know it really well and I’ve got to know hundreds of couples and other wedding professionals really well too. I’ve also read hundreds, if not thousands of articles from blogs, magazines, news papers, wedding directories and so on, about budgeting. And do you know what? Not a single one of them resonated with us when we were planning our wedding. None of them worked for us and each seemed to be massively flawed.

The problem with traditional budgeting advice

The problem with traditional budgeting advice is that it’s flawed. There seems to be one schools of thought when it comes to how to budget for your wedding. It says: Work out how much you can afford to spend in total and then allocate a % of that spend to each area. This approach then typically gives you % guidelines to work with. For example 10% for photography, 10% for a florist, 5% for a wedding dress etc.

What’s the problem with that? Well in theory, nothing, providing it meets your needs and expectations, but it does assume an awful lot. It assumes, for example what your priorities are. What if photography is really, really important to you but you actually aren’t very interested in flowers? Should you be spending the same amount on both? No, of course not. Common sense tells you that. Budgeting in this way however encourages you to over invest in areas that may not be very important to you and potentially under invest in areas that are. Only you know what’s important to you as a couple or family.

Having realistic expectations

This way of budgeting also gives the impression that 10% of your budget will be sufficient to get you what you want, without taking into account what your budget actually is. If you have £30,000 to spend in total, then yes, you probably can get a fabulous florist for 10% of that total budget. If however, you are working with a smaller budget (for argument’s sake, £5k) you will more than likely struggle to find a good wedding photographer for just £500.

Budgeting in this way can easily encourage you to overspend too. Do you actually want £3000 worth of flowers, or a £3000 photographer, or are you just adding those little extras because you’re still “within your budget”? Couples tend to treat budgets as most of us do speed limits. Ie. we aim to meet them rather than seeing them as a limit. You are far more likely to splurge on unnecessary extras that you may not have otherwise even considered if you’re working with an arbitrary % that tells you how much you “should” be spending. 

What’s the alternative?

The way that we decided to budget for our wedding went a little against the traditional advice. How could we be expected to accurately budget for something when we had no idea what it costs? Of course you can work on percentages but as discussed above, this is flawed. Having been in the wedding industry for as long as we have, we know how often couples go over budget. We also know how often we’re contacted by couples with unrealistic expectations about what their budget will get them. This story is a familiar one across the industry and it’s what happens when you pluck figures from thin air.

Because of this we were also wary of going in blind when it came to budgeting. We didn’t want to upset or offend anyone by inadvertently undervaluing their service. As wedding photographers ourselves, we’re used to people making the assumption that all we do is run around pressing a button for several hours. We didn’t want to make equally inaccurate assumptions about anyone else’s business.

Taking a common sense approach

So what do you usually do when you don’t know how much something will cost? You ask.

Although we had a vague understanding of many areas of the wedding industry, we’d never actually planned a wedding before. We’d rarely, if ever talked numbers with many of our colleagues. Guesstimating therefore was the best we were ever going to be able to manage on the budgeting front- we decided to scrap that idea. Instead of budgeting from the outset, we researched all of the products and services we were interested in first. When we found something we liked the look of, we made contact with the supplier and asked how much it’d cost. Gathering several prices from suppliers in the same field gave us a realistic idea of what we’d be looking at cost wise for what we wanted. We knew for example that the flowers we liked would cost us between £300-£500. We knew that the photographers we liked cost at least £1500 (keep in mind that we originally started planning our wedding in 2012, so these figures are well out of date.)

Not only did this give us a good idea of our spend per item, it also allowed up to tally up what our over all spend would be if we booked everything we’d initially looked into. If we recoiled in horror at the quote, we either scrapped the idea entirely or we looked for other ways to make things work. DIYing for example.

Prioritising

Prioritising meant that we did not have to compromise at all on the things we saw the most value in. It meant we got everything we wanted and didn’t have to settle for second or third best on anything. For example, as much as we enjoy cake, personally, we didn’t see the value in having a bespoke piece. For us, it just wasn’t important- so we scrapped it. Money saved there then went towards other things that we felt were important to us.

We approached the whole budgeting thing a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. The biggest and most important pieces were put down first, with the others fitting in somewhere along the way. The total and complete piece was our wedding, our budget.

We know it’s hardly revolutionary and we know we will not be the first, or last to plan our wedding in this way. We did feel it was worth sharing however, as the same articles with the same % type advice pop up everywhere at this time of year and it just doesn’t work for everyone.

Hopefully a few of you will have found this useful and it has given some food for thought.

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