Monday, April 23, 2012

The Budget

The budget is probably, to most people, one of the least exciting elements of wedding planning. I think that applies to everyday life, too (but this blog is just for weddings so I’ll leave off the life lecture).

Mr Cake and I are not “most people,” so our approach to budgeting may be more involved than is strictly necessary. Even so, I’d like to think we can offer some advice – the wedding budget seems to be an area of contention for many people. Even if someone else is paying or helping to pay for your wedding, my opinion is that you should spend carefully, and that does mean you need to do a bit of paperwork.

These are the steps I think are important to ensure you spend sensibly.  

Get an idea of what you want
Not too detailed – but a general, big picture view. Discuss with your betrothed the things that are important to you, and remember you can’t have everything (unless you are much wealthier than I!). Do you want a formal dinner, or something more casual? Is location important? Big or small?

Start a spreadsheet
You don’t even have to start from scratch! Google Docs have templates, and most wedding planning websites will have some kind of budget tool. Find something that suits you or create your own.

Do some preliminary research
Get an idea of what is available at what cost in your area, and use your guest list to make rough estimates. Just vague, finger in the air estimates – if costs are unknown try to get an idea, enter them in your spreadsheet, and add in heaps of buffer money (trust me!). 

Set a limit
This part is really important. We did this at the start, but had to reassess after a bit of research as our number wasn’t realistic for what we wanted, and as we had room to move our limit we did. If you only have a certain amount to spend, set a hard budget early so you adjust your expectations accordingly as you research. If you are a little more flexible I recommend doing the preliminary research first, then setting your budget and sticking to it.

To work out what the limit is, you need to look at what you can reasonably spend, or what parents (or other benefactors) are happy to contribute. If the wedding is a wee way off you might be able to save to put toward it – but remember it is only one day, and sure, it will be an awesome day and you’ll only do it once, but there’s other stuff you do infrequently (like buying houses) that the money might be more useful for. Consider what you value. Which is not to say you shouldn’t spend lots, if you can afford it and it makes sense to both of you. Mr Cake and I will be spending more than many people would want to – but we love really good food and entertaining people, and I get heaps of enjoyment out of party planning (and he, hopefully, gets enjoyment out of the party!).

Follow it!
Now you’ve got a budget (hopefully that wasn’t as hard as you thought!) you need to stick to it. For us, that means tracking every purchase, because since we’re spending quite a lot to start with we think it’s extra important to stay within that amount. I do really recommend tracking, even if it just means you pay all wedding expenses from one particular bank account, or stuff your receipts somewhere and tally them up every so often - it's easy for little things to add up. 

If you prefer not to put every purchase in the spreadsheet, at least make sure you have the big costs covered (things like catering and photography should be fairly straightforward), and remember to add things to the spreadsheet as you add them to the wedding. What this will mean is that as you run out of money you’ll work out what is most important – “you mean if I have the crystal goblets instead of plain wine glasses I can’t have the amazing cake I want? Nooooo, take the goblets away, I need cake!” Having it all there in front of you makes the opportunity cost of each purchase quite clear. We have a few things which we’ll surrender if extra things crop up - but we're fully informed about where the money is going and make the decisions based on what we most want. 

What are your experiences with wedding budgets? Difficult to stick to, or not too challenging? 


  1. We just did a rough estimate at first, but we ended up spending about a third or almost double than we had expected. Our wedding is very simple and we didn't want to spend an extravagant amount, but it was surprising how all the small things slowly added up. So I totally agree about factoring in some 'buffer' money. Thankfully we had started with a small amount to begin with, so the final total wasn't too scary.
    We didn't really keep track of all the expenditure, but we were reasonably frugal with purchases, though I can see how it could be tempting to go overboard. I think it helps having a clear vision for it and not buying things on a whim or out of emotion.
    So in the end while it was a bit of a headache, it wasn't too challenging.

  2. Oh, so true about not buying out of emotion! I definitely made a couple of those purchases early on. Fortunately only on relatively small things, but totally easy to get carried away. :-)