Mar 5

{Steps to the Altar} The Budget

You’re engaged!  Let’s start planning – themes, venues, caterers, bridesmaids, dresses, flowers, colors, invitations, hotel rooms, hairstyles, cakes, bands, churches, officiants, coordinators, linens, photographers… and those are just the first few things that pop into your head!

Stop!  Take a deep breath.  Before you think about one more thing, the very first thing you MUST determine is your budget.  Your budget will define everything else about your wedding.

I know this is the day you’ve been dreaming about for most of your life.  Visions can get pretty elaborate.  By limiting how much money you have to spend on your wedding, you can narrow down options and avoid starting your future together in mountains of debt.  Know how much money you are able to afford.  Figure out how much your fiancé will contribute and if any contributions will be made by either of your parents.  Once you know how much you can spend, then you can start prioritizing.

If the photographer is the most important part of your wedding, start there.   Many couples find this the most important aspect of their wedding day, and rightfully so.  You’ll have these pictures for the rest of your life.  Make sure you not only love the photographer’s style, but their personality.  You need to feel at ease with your photographer, if you feel stiff and awkward around them, then your pictures will reflect that.

If the venue is the most important aspect to you, then find out how much your dream venue will cost, and see if its’ even a possibility on your budget.  But remember, venues also have rules regarding caterers and liquor and sometimes the other vendors that are allowed to provide services within their premises.  If these other vendors are going to drive your budget up, you might have to secure another venue.

Have an idea of how many people are on your guest list.  Most caterers price their meals per head; this will give you a better idea of how much the meal will actually cost, $20-50 a head might not sound like much until you multiply this by 200 guests.  One of the easiest ways to bring prices down is by condensing your guest list.  You are not obligated to invite everyone you know.  Nor are you required to ask people to come, simply because you attended theirs five years ago, when was the last time you even talked to them?  By keeping the affair smaller, not only will your budget be saved, but you will actually remember the people that were there and you can talk to every one of them.

A few facts to keep in mind:

  • The average wedding in the United States cost between $25,000-27,000.
  • Weddings in Kent County cost between $17,000-29,000, on average.  Click here for more details.
  • The average engagement ring cost $5,200
  • About 12% of couples spend more than $8,000 on the engagement ring
  • The average college graduate has about $20,000 debt
  • The average household income in Michigan is around $45,000
  • Financial problems are often cited as the #1 reason for divorce

Somehow the numbers don’t all add up for me…

So here’s a really old fashioned, crazy idea.  Once you’ve had that conversation with all parties paying for the wedding, and the budget established, and set in stone – use cash to pay for your wedding!  If you do not have the cash to pay for something, then don’t buy it, simple.

Weddings are a time of celebration.  Anyone with any amount of money can get married.  The key is not to burden yourself, piling on the debt before you even say “I do.”  Remember your plans for the future, plans that last a lot longer than one night.


Photo by Shannon Scott Photography {Smug Shots}



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