How I Went Over My Wedding Budget by 100%

This year I have a split personality: I am both a Financial Planner and a Bride-to-Be. As you can only imagine, I feel constantly torn. In one role I protect and save money; in the other, I hemorrhage it.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I went over my wedding budget by 100%.

Originally, I started with a budget of $15,000 for my 170-person wedding in Cincinnati, Ohio. After touring wedding venues and testing caterers, I quickly found that $15,000 simply wouldn’t cut it. I had to double my wedding budget to $30,000. *Gasp*

Perhaps I should have been less ignorant to the financial demands of wedding planning. Blame it on Disney, Pinterest, or Instagram. Here are three tips for avoiding my mistakes:

1. Start with a budget

Start budgeting as early as possible for your special day. I’d recommend spending the bulk of your time estimating the expenses related to the three most expensive categories: venue, food, and bar. Since those expenses will likely encompass roughly 75% of your budget, be sure to get those right before filling in the other expenses.

Next to each expense category, I recommend tracking three numbers: ‘best guess’ at the cost, ‘final contract’ cost, and ‘spent so far.’ Whenever you sign a contract or make a payment to a vendor, be sure to update the relevant columns. It’s so important to stay organized and keep a record of your payments to prevent yourself from getting overwhelmed.

2. Focus on priorities

What do you care most about on your big day?

My fiancé and I decided that we cared most about bringing all our favorite people together to show them love and appreciation. So, when looking at our budget, we prioritized expenses related to food and fun at the reception and deprioritized decorations, dress, and invitations

While I tried on STUNNING $2,000 dresses with my bridesmaids, I opted for a $500 dress from David’s Bridal that fit like a glove without alterations. While I drooled over gorgeous $1,000 paper invitations, we opted for $200 electronic invites from Green Envelope. I elected not to get flowers or spend money on centerpieces so I’d have more to spend on the DJ and open bar.

3. Save over time

Once you have a best guess at your budget, create a realistic plan for saving. Often people can fund their wedding through monthly savings and one-time inflows like bonuses or vesting equity awards. In addition to creating a savings plan, be smart about the type of account that you save into. For a wedding that’s two years or less away, I recommend saving into a high yield savings account like my favorite one at Ally Bank.

There’s a great quote from one of the funniest wedding-related movies in the past decade, Bridesmaids. Officer Rhodes, the love interest of Kristen Wiig’s character, offers the following observation:

Running a wedding should be fun! If I ever had a wedding, I’d want everybody to be stress free.

Of course, with any big life events and celebrations, there is bound to be some level of stress. But having a wedding budget and priorities should help alleviate some of that stress to make it a fun experience for all.

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