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Don't Overspend on the Big Day.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 8:08 am EST
"Ultimately, remember that your wedding is really about starting your life with the one you love, not about throwing a party that people will still be talking about at your 20th anniversary"

Here comes the bride, saddled in debt. Wait. That’s not how the song is supposed to go. And it’s definitely not how you want to describe your own special wedding day. But the truth is, many couples get caught up in (over)spending whatever is necessary to make their nuptials perfect, leaving their original budget tattered and torn. After the cake has been cut and the confetti has been thrown, the newlyweds are not-so-blissfully left with a pile of bills.

Don’t panic. It doesn’t have to be this way, says Marcy Blum. If you plan ahead and stay reasonable, you’ll be able to enjoy—and pay for—your big day.

“I’ve been producing weddings for a long time, and yes, I know how to spend lots and lots of money to make a wedding very beautiful and exceptionally memorable,” says Blum, author of Wedding Planning For Dummies®, 3rd Edition, (Wiley, November 2012, ISBN: 978-1-1183-6035-4, $22.99). “I also know that you’ll have a life after your wedding, and it’s a good idea to keep that in mind before blowing your savings and possibly your credit.”

If you’re unsure about planning a budget and avoiding financial pitfalls, read on for ten of Blum’s tried-and-true tips. (Ignore them at your own risk!)

Do away with magical (money) thinking. Perhaps you and your fiancé(e), or your parents, or all of you together, have been smart enough to come up with a budget early on. But remember, just because you agree on a number doesn’t mean that everything you have in mind will actually fit in that number.

“Figure out what you really can afford (or what you really want to spend, which may be two different numbers) and then painstakingly map out what really works within that budget, not what you imagine should work,” advises Blum. “Weddings tend to be quite costly, and before you decide to take your 100 nearest and dearest friends to a Caribbean island to celebrate, get the real facts about what it’s going to cost.”

Don’t play cat and mouse with vendors. Everyone I’ve ever worked with had some sort of budget in mind, but not all of them wanted to share it upfront. This is risky business. Though letting vendors come up with ideas without any guidelines may seem clever, doing so is the opposite of smart for many reasons.

“Aside from the fact that it wastes everyone’s time, it also puts you in the position of being shown designs (dresses, flowers, food stations) that you can’t afford,” Blum points out. “Unfortunately, everything you see after that will likely pale in comparison. Better to share your budget from the start and let vendors come up with the best possible ideas for the money. My experience is that they’ll appreciate your candor and rise to the occasion.”

Track your spending. You can get a myriad of smartphone apps that will help you with budgeting. iWedding, for example, has a good budgeting component. But just like pen and paper, these apps don’t help if you don’t use them and keep using them.

“One of the big tricks to staying on budget is to consistently compare what you’ve budgeted with what you’ve spent and what you’re planning on spending,” Blum shares. “That way, if you go over budget in one category, you’ll immediately realize that you must cut back in another. This helps alleviate those horrendous after-wedding surprises.”

Do sweat the small stuff. Stamps, calligraphy, gratuities, vendor meals, and boutonnieres—each and every seemingly small expenditure is still part of the same budget.

“Keep tabs on these expenses the same way you keep on top of the biggest items,” Blum suggests. “They can add up to a surprisingly large amount if you aren’t careful.”

Work together: It takes two, Baby. Sorry to remind you again, but this is the beginning of your life as part of a pair. That means that if you pay for your bridesmaids’ dresses, your groom will likely want to pay for what his groomsmen wear as well.

“It’s the same pot of money, my dear—one budget—so this isn’t the time or place for unilateral decisions,” reminds Blum. “You both get a vote. Seek out your financé(e)’s opinions, and treat them with respect.”

Don’t be trendy. If all the wedding magazines and blogs are featuring brides changing three times during the wedding, or showcasing extravagant after-ceremony parties, don’t be bullied into buying in to that trend, especially if it isn’t what you originally wanted!

“Our job as professionals in the wedding industry is to excite, entice and inspire you with ideas for one of the most important days of your life,” Blum ways. “That doesn’t mean that each concept is right for you. Be a ruthless editor when deciding what to include in your big day, and remember that simple and elegant aren’t dirty words.”

Be flexible. If you’re absolutely set on a date, a band, or a specific photographer with no wiggle room, you have no negotiating power.

“Certainly keep in mind your first choices, but go into the process willing to consider other possibilities,” recommends Blum.

Be careful about overtime. When you schedule your wedding day, go through each portion and add up the hours. If the venue price includes a one-hour ceremony and a four-hour dinner dance, each minute over that will incur additional charges.

“Overtime fees can be pretty hefty, so it’s far better to figure them into your budget going in and stick to that schedule,” shares Blum.

Stop watching wedding TV! There’s no such thing as “reality television.” Let’s face it: the phrase is an oxymoron.

“So if you see me or any of my colleagues putting together a spectacular event on TV for what the host tells you is an absurdly low price, use your common sense,” instructs Blum. “Vendors donate their goods and services to be on these shows, and the prices that are quoted don’t have anything to do with a wedding in the real world—presumably where yours is taking place.”

Control yourself (no last-minute spending frenzies). As the weeks before your wedding dwindle, you’ll undoubtedly panic and begin thinking you just haven’t included enough stuff. That’s no reason, however, to start adding all the items that you originally decided not to spend money on.

“Realize that you’re in the throes of wedding hysteria and stay your course,” instructs Blum. “Resist the temptation to add that extra floral piece, spring for the caviar station (because you were just at a wedding that had one), or schedule an additional limo. If it didn’t fit into your budget before, it still doesn’t fit. Take a deep breath and walk away from your credit cards.”

“Ultimately, remember that your wedding is really about starting your life with the one you love, not about throwing a party that people will still be talking about at your 20th anniversary,” concludes Blum. “That said, if you’re smart with your budget from the beginning, you should still be able to plan an event that makes you feel like you’re living your own personal fairytale.”


Adrienne Fontaine, 201-748-5626

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