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Planning Your Perfect Day on a Budget

The most popular season for weddings is just around the corner, so it seems like the right time to address planning and budgeting for your perfect wedding day. Maybe you have been planning for this moment since you first watched Cinderella at the age of 5 (guilty!) or maybe you started thinking about it after he popped the question and your mother, grandmother, a zillion aunts, cousins, and girlfriends descended upon you demanding to know color schemes, flower preferences and cake tasting appointment schedules. Either way, there are a few things to remember as you create the perfect day you’ve been dreaming about for years - or at least the last few weeks.

To Budget or not to Budget?

Whether or not you are on a tight budget, it’s important to set a limit to your spending, prioritize your wants and needs and stick to the plan.  Think through your special day, and make a list of what you will have to have. If you have Champagne taste and a Miller High Life budget, and regardless of whether you are paying for it or not, don’t let yourself be taken aback by surprise costs. Once you have decided how much you will spend, plan ahead. Think through the details. Your soon-to-be spouse and your future wallet will thank you. It’s hard to set a budget if you don’t know what’s out there. Research and shop around. Try to think outside the box. Did your cousin have the most gorgeous veil you have ever seen and is perhaps willing (and honored) to share it with you? Does a family member or soon to be family member have a keen eye for decorating or floral arrangements? Where are you planning on tying the knot? What time of day? Start at the beginning of your wedding experience and think it through to the end. Once you have thought through each event, sit down and have a conversation with your fiancée and discuss what is most important to you both. Ask yourselves “What will we remember 10 years from now?” Planning a wedding can be stressful, emotionally and financially. Eliminate the items that will add to those stresses. Plan your budget around your cash flow and be prepared to make deposits along the way. While there are services that only require payment once the everything is complete, most photographers, venues, DJ’s/bands, and caterers require a small deposit to save the date and their availability.


Everyone is different. Maybe you have a special place that you and your partner love to escape to far away from home, maybe you are members of a church, or maybe you want to get married at home. In any case, there are usually costs involved or at least people to reach out to. If there is a church you want to use that you are not a member of, chances are you probably know someone who does go to church there. Most churches require you to be “sponsored” by a member if you are not one, and possibly charge a small fee. Be sure to ask what their policy is on the officiant and work that into your budget, if need be. If you are tying the knot at a non-church venue, are you having the reception in the same location? Whether you are traveling to your reception venue or it’s a few steps away, ask for a complete list of services and fees. Do they have a suggested list of caterers or a required in-house chef? Do they have chairs, tables, linens? Do they provide tableware, ice? When can you arrive the day before and the day of the wedding to decorate and prepare any special items? Don’t forget to ask about who cleans up after and if there are fees associated with that too. You won’t be there, but someone you love will be!


Flowers can be one of the most expensive aspects to your day if you are not careful. But remember, your wedding is not the first for your local florist and generally they will work with you on figuring out exactly what you need, as well as design. Prepare for your meeting with your florist with a little research. Look for arrangements and color schemes that match your wedding party. This will help your florist help you stay within budget. In that vein, try to stay with what is in season. Maybe your favorite bloom isn’t in season, but something similar is. My sister wanted tulips so badly, but she got married at the end of May and the season had passed. She got her tulips, but she paid for them. If there is a particular bloom you just have to have, try to limit it to your own bouquet.  When it comes to the major arrangements, after the ceremony and pictures have ended, assign someone to grab them up and move them to the reception. You’ll save a few extra dollars and get to enjoy your flowers a little longer.


Speaking of pictures, if there is ever a place to splurge, this might be it. What will help you remember all the little details of your special day 10 years from now? Your wedding pictures. I cannot be the only one who pours over their parent’s wedding album. Start researching this budget line item now. Had any friends get married recently? Look through their photos, think about the style that appeals to your eye, and go from there. As you think about pricing, consider travel costs if the photographer is not local, what parts of the day do you want documented, how long do you need them to be present, etc. Most photographers are willing to sit down with you before you sign a contract to make sure you are on the same page and good fit with one another. Your photographer will be with you all day, you want to make sure that you are spending the day with someone you can enjoy.


Once you have decided how much to spend on your dress and set out to “say yes”, ask the attendant working with you to only bring you dresses in your budget. If the opportunity isn’t presented, you won’t have the temptation to go over budget. And it is, oh so, easy to over spend in this area. Depending on where you go, you can probably find much of what you need to complete your outfit. Pro Tip: Resist the urge. You’ll save money and possibly find a better selection if you look for your shoes, garter, and even veil elsewhere. Don’t be afraid to ask family members and close friends for that “something borrowed” item. Not only will you save on your budget, but you will probably make someone’s day including them in such a special way.

Extras! Extras!

Along the way, you will find lots of little extras. Again, detailed planning (and a little delegation) can help to eliminate some of the surprises.

One of the extras will most likely be your Thank You gifts to your wedding party. Large or small, it makes no difference. It’s the thought that counts. Perhaps you want to provide a pretty set of earrings for your bridesmaids to all wear on your big day, maybe something you can all wear as you are getting ready for the ceremony, or a “Wedding Day Survival Kit”. Again, it’s the thought that counts. Don’t break the bank. A little something with a handwritten note of thanks will be treasured forever. Don’t forget the groomsmen, flower girl, and ring bearer! Think thoughtful and something that will bring fond memories of the day to mind.

At some point, even with all the thought and all the attention to detail, something will fall through the cracks. It’s almost a rite of passage for something to not go as planned. Don’t let it stress you out. Consider yourself formally inducted into the Bridal Club and move to plan B. Remember, while it is the most important day of your life to date, it’s one day. The day will end and no matter what made the cut or didn’t, you’re married! Enjoy your happily ever after!