Congratulations — you’re engaged!
While the media might lead you to believe that wedding planning is stressful, overwhelming, and expensive, it certainly doesn’t have to be. In this article, you’ll find the best tips and tactics for planning a wedding on a budget you can afford– all without the stress and overwhelm!
There are more resources than ever out there to help you plan a wedding. There are so many books, websites, and apps to check out that you may feel inundated by the abundance of information and unsure where to start. This is before you even start to consider the unsolicited wedding advice from family and friends!
How do you sift through the sea of wedding resources to find the best stress-free wedding planning secrets?
To help you get started along your wedding planning journey, follow the list of tips below. This simple 6 step process will ensure you get from engagement to the altar clearly and organized while also sticking to your budget!
First thing’s first, you’ll want to get yourself organized. This is likely the first time you’ve planned such a big event, so having a handy wedding planning guide book is key to tackling everything on the to-do list. Make sure to pick up a good wedding planner book to keep yourself on track.
The best wedding planners and organizers typically include a wedding planning timeline and checklist, an outline of tasks to be completed, or questions to ask vendors. This is especially important because they often incorporate a task list that you need to tackle month-by-month throughout your engagement. Knowing what you need to do and half the battle when it comes to making a plan!
Try to find a book that has room enough to make notes, fill in worksheets, or record your findings. If you can’t find anything at the bookstore you love, consider making your own. You can easily create your own DIY wedding planning binder using a 3-ring binder that you can add to throughout the process. There are lots of great printable wedding planning templates online that you can download and use for free!
The important thing is to find a system that works for you! Your wedding organizer should be a place where you can keep all the various information associated with your wedding plans for easy and convenient access.
Defining Your Wedding Vision
After you’ve gotten started with your wedding organizational system, it’s time to figure out what type of wedding you want. Sit down with your partner and discuss the who, what, where, when, why, and how of weddings.
- Who: Discuss a potential guest list and try to come up with a rough figure of the number of people you’d like to attend.
- What: Discuss what type of wedding you want to have. Formal or casual? Rustic or modern?
- Where: Discuss the location of your ideal wedding. Would it be in the town where you currently live or a destination wedding? Or maybe you'd like to be married at a specific place that has special meaning to you? Would you prefer an indoor or outdoor event?
- When: Consider what might be the ideal time of year for you to get married. Do you have a favorite season? Is there a special date on which you’d like to plan to tie the knot?
- Why: Ask each other why throwing a wedding is important to you. Why are you going through the effort of planning an event to celebrate your marriage?
- How: Chat about how you want to feel on your wedding day. Excited and energetic with a large, raucous dance party? Or sentimental and romantic with a calm and intimate dinner party?
And then the final how: How are we going to pay for this thing?!
Calculate a Realistic Wedding Budget
Setting a wedding budget before you begin officially planning is key if you want to have a wedding you can actually afford. Though major media reports might share supposed average wedding costs throughout the country, don’t let those numbers sway you.
It’s important to calculate an appropriate wedding budget based on your personal financial situation. Focus on figuring out the amount that feels most comfortable, practical, and achievable for you and your partner, so you can plan an authentic wedding to who you are and what you value as a couple.
Consider all the different people who may be contributing, as well as what you can save to add to the wedding fund over the course of your engagement. Add in any personal savings you’re willing to donate to the cause. This should give you a good foundation for your total wedding budget as you begin to get quotes and make plans for the big day. If anything, you may want to determine a maximum figure that you’re absolutely unwilling to go over under any circumstances.
If, for some reason, your final figure doesn’t measure up to the type of wedding you want to have, then you may need to consider a longer engagement to save up. It’s all about determining what matters most to you and your partner, which leads to the next point.
Decide on Your Wedding Priorities
Once you’ve got a rough budget set, a great way to plan for allocating those funds is to outline your top priorities for the event. Consider what matters most to you and your partner, and distribute your budget accordingly.
Basically, you’ll likely spend more of your budget on the areas that matter most to you and less on the areas you find of less importance. It’s important to consider guest experience when outlining your priorities as well. While you may want your dream designer wedding dress, it’s a better idea to put those funds towards something that impacts your guests, such as a comfortable and enjoyable venue.
If you and your partner are foodies but don’t care for cake, you may opt to splurge on catering from one of your favorite restaurants and serve inexpensive doughnuts from Krispy Kreme instead of a tiered wedding cake. Or if you’re the party-all-night types, you may choose to spend a large portion of your budget on the wedding entertainment and less on the floral decor.
Each couple’s priorities are unique, so be sure to discuss it with your partner. An easy way to do this is to each decide your top 3 priorities and then compare them. Budgeting for your wedding is a great first exercise in marital compromise! See where you overlap, and be willing to negotiate on dividing the budget to satisfy both sides.
Book the Big Things First
Typically, you’ll end up booking high-priority items first, such as your wedding venue and the photographer. Other common early bookings include entertainment and catering. Each of these items contributes to the day's experience, so they should be higher up on the to-do list.
It’s also true that good quality vendors tend to book up well in advance. Save yourself from wedding disappointments and distress by booking your priority vendors early in the process. Knowing you’ve gotten your top choices secured in advance will give you a sense of peace and calm and allow you to tackle the lower priority items at a more leisurely pace.
Getting your bigger investments taken care of upfront will also allow you to get creative, do DIY projects, or seek out alternatives to keep the rest of your items in plan and on budget.
Get Creative to Cut Costs
One great way to cut costs for your wedding is to do some DIY (do-it-yourself) projects. Whether that’s going full-on Martha Stewart and DIYing your wedding flowers or just a simple project like creating your own reception playlist, taking these tasks on yourself will reduce the number of professionals you need to hire and pay for.
There are many ways to save money on your wedding beyond just DIY. From strategically choosing an off-peak wedding date to selecting in-season flowers for your bouquets and centerpieces, there are many money-saving wedding hacks to take advantage of even if you’re not the crafty type.
Another great way to save on wedding reception costs is to limit your bar choices to just wine and beer rather than hosting a full open bar. Finding a venue that will let you BYOB is also a huge help to the budget since you’ll have more control over your beverages' cost, quality, and quantities.
Some other creative cost-saving strategies are to consider renting items for your wedding vs. buying new. There’s also a growing trend of brides purchasing used wedding dresses online from former brides, which comes at a savings of over 50%!
No matter your priorities or your budget amount, you can find ways to cut back with the help of these small switches and substitutes. The great thing is that these low-priority items aren’t as important to you, so they’re definitely not worth stressing over!
Fail to Plan, or you Plan to Fail.
In closing, the best way to avoid wedding planning overwhelm and stress is to have a fully outlined plan. Get yourself organized, put a plan in place, and stick to the plan.
This plan works if you work it! Happy wedding planning!
Jessica Bishop is the founder of TheBudgetSavvyBride.com, the #1 online resource to help couples all across the world plan a beautiful wedding on a budget they can actually afford. Jessica is known as a Budget Wedding Expert and has shared her money-saving tips and tricks with outlets such as Good Morning America, BRIDES, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, Refinery 29, and more. She’s also appeared as David Tutera’s featured expert at Your Wedding Experience bridal shows. Jessica’s book, The Budget-Savvy Wedding Planner & Organizer, is a best-seller with over 150,000 copies sold.