Essential Steps in Preparing Your Budget
It's Spring... like officially Spring today... Equinox with a Full Moon... which means we're half-way to summer, and peak wedding season in Northern Cali. So first and foremost, Happy Spring!
In my most recent consultations these last few weeks, it seems all of my couples are wrapping their heads around their budgets... and many of them are not quite sure where to begin. The financial aspect of a wedding is different for everyone. Some couples would rather avoid this detail altogether... its overwhelming and daunting. Others choose to simply see what things cost before determining whether or not that line item fits into their budget. And still, others have each detail of their wedding accounted for in their budget with a definitive out-the-door value for the whole sha-bang. Let me begin by saying that just like the overall planning, there is absolutely no one way to go about your budget; furthermore your budget is a work in progress throughout the duration of your planning (and won't be complete until the last wedding task has been completed). That said, I like to approach it this way...
So far, in my blog, I've shared my "Unexpected First Step to Planning a Wedding," and the "ABC's of Crafting a Clear Vision." Both are great places to start before considering your budget. Once you've completed these two steps, you're ready to approach your budget.
1. Name your price. Consider your ideal ceiling price tag for your wedding. If you're not quite sure how to come up with that figure, start with any number... I like to aim high ($100,000) and observe the initial reaction to that number. You'll know right away by your reaction whether or not you're within the ballpark of what's reasonable for your wedding... or if you've completely missed the mark. Were you calm when I listed six figures? Or did you recoil at the thought of so many zeroes?! Play this game with your partner adjusting the value until you reach a number that you can realistically imagine spending on your special day... you'll know when you get there.
2. Consider your funding streams. Once you've settled on your ideal price tag, begin to assess how you'll be financing your wedding. Consider savings, family and friend contributions, lines of credit, trades, etc. While traditionally weddings were backed primarily by the bride's family, today we are seeing many couples shoulder their weddings all on their own, or fund them with a variety of contributions, or creative means. In any case, its crucial to have a clear understanding of how your wedding will be financed before you get started. Adjust your overall price tag accordingly (wa-hooo! that unexpected contribution from grandma just increased your budget!!!).
3. Line item your wedding (-in no particular order - venues, flowers, planner, officiant, entertainment, rentals, stationery, attire, food, favors, transportation, gifts, lodging, etc. - just to name a few). Be sure to imagine every detail of your day, including gratuities, unexpected expenses/miscellaneous, etc. There are some really fantastic online resources available to cross-reference in order to ensure you've accounted for every detailed expense.
4. Rank your line items in order of priority. The first priority is obvious... location, location, location. But after that, priorities vary from couple to couple... so spend time deciding the order of priority for each line item in your budget.
5. Divvy up your budget, prioritizing your top ranked line items. Now that you've assessed what is most important to you in your wedding, you will want to assign your expected values to each line item, allotting sums to your top-ranked line items first to ensure those items are covered first. You might be wondering, how you'll know the expected expenses of each line item. Research... this is where your trusted wedding planner can save you hours of time, effort, and energy... because we tend to be quite familiar with the general costs of weddings. If you've not hired a planner, you may be spending hours researching vendors fees to get started. Either way, its important to understand that the true costs may be challenging to pin down until contracts are signed... and remember... watch out for hidden fees. Also, many vendors do not automatically include gratuities in their quotes... so you'll want to account for those as you learn each vendor's fees.
Congratulations!!! You've prepared your preliminary wedding budget. Again... remember that your budget is a work in progress, and it will change as your plans are actualized. Make sure you give yourself some wiggle room for those unexpected expenses that have a tendency to pop up as the day draws near. I highly recommend checking out the FREE customizable budget calculators on TheKnot.com or WeddingWire.com. You're well on your way... happy planning!