First things first. If you are the bride to be then....... CONGRATULATIONS on your recent engagement!
Now let's get down to business. Weddings differ as much as people do. It is an event that most women have dreamed of since being a child playing dress up. However like anything else, the dream can be very different from the reality. Every bride wants the best but unless their day job is bridal event planner, they don't necessarily know what that is. There is a distinct difference between what is best and what's best for you. The "best" location may be St. Patrick's Cathedral however the best for you may be the church you've been a member of since childhood. That's just one example. The "best" cake decorator may be someone who is featured in all the magazines and on television but the best for you may be a local small business owner who is creative as well as professional and punctual. Before you make any snap judgments, take a moment and really think through what is most important to you about this event. What matters to you the most? You may be surprised at what your own answer is.
I strongly suggest you get a notebook and begin to write out the answers to some of the following questions:
1. What kind of wedding is going to make me and my groom the most satisfied and fulfilled?
You may think you want to get married in a big church with every person you've ever met looking on but if making that happen makes you and your groom stressed out and snippy toward each other until the day of the wedding, is it worth it?
2. Do we want a honeymoon? If so what kind and where?
Different couples have different priorities. Those couples that want to go all out on their honeymoon accommodations need to plan for that when budgeting for the wedding. If a honeymoon is not that important to you and your fiance, then that could be money put toward your wedding budget or a savings account for after you are married.
3. Where do we want to get married?
Location. Location. Location. Justice of the Peace. A local church. A wedding hall. The options are endless. Think about what you want your location to do for you. Will it serve as the reception hall as well or is that going to be at another location? Really think strategically about how your location is going to fit into your vision.
4. How many people do we as a couple want to attend our wedding?
The more people you have at your wedding the higher the bill is going to be. Ask yourself this question. Is everyone on my guest list someone that I would want to call up and invite to a casual dinner? If the answer is no then I want you to ask yourself why you would invite someone to one of the most important events of your life if on a normal day you wouldn't want to be in their company. Somewhat harsh, but worth thinking about.
5. How much can we afford to spend?
Finally we arrive at the million dollar question. The answer however is going to be different for everyone reading this. The key is to look know where not to look for money to fund your wedding. Don't look at the account that has the bill money because that money is already assigned. Don't look at any money in your savings account that already has a purpose (for example house down payment). Here's where you should look. Take a look at all of the places in your budget where there is wasteful spending, that's first. Then sit down with your fiance and decide on how much incoming money can be dedicated to this upcoming wedding project. Once the two of you decide on an amount to contribute on a regular basis look back at the previous four questions and see if the amount you have decided to save is going to cover those ad the other items on your list. If the money won't cover it, you have to do one of four things:
A. Edit your dream. See what you can must have and what you can live without.
B. Edit your budget. If you decide it is worth it and it won't hurt your household's regular bills increase between you and your fiance how much each of you will contribute to the wedding budget pot.
C. Choose your vendors wisely. Don't sacrifice quality but find better, smarter vendors who are willing to negotiate by doing your due diligence.
D. Do a little of all of the above. The key to compromise is moderation. You need to be happy with your event when you finally see it all come together.
I might have placed your # 5 first because your finances will dictate the type of wedding you can have and plan for.
Another thing to warm potential brides about is that they do not want to go into debt just to have their dream wedding. They can still have their dream wedding without incurring additional debt by using the barter system or making a list of friends and family who have talents that can be used to help bring the best to the wedding.
Many brides forget that the wedding itself is not the most important part of the day, but becoming united with that special person as one with to create a new life that both can be comfortable with. Starting life off as a couple debt free can lead to a more stress-free environment and happier nights as couple.
I love the idea of a barter system and partnering with your friends and family to make this important event happen with a reasonable final price tag.
Just to clarify, the reason I place "How much can we afford to spend?" in the 5th position instead of the 1st is because of one of my teaching principles is that you should always begin with the vision. Most people start with their budget and work outward toward their desire. I recommend that we begin with the vision and work our way out to the money. Most of us never really stop and ask ourselves what we really want and what is really important to us. If we started there we would realize that happiness is not only within our reach but also our budget because God always provides the provision for His vision. I will actually be writing an article about this very very soon. So stay tuned!