Wedding budgets are such a difficult, but important part of wedding planning. To begin with you need to be completely honest with what you both feel comfortable spending on your big day. Do some research on what is important for you - if you need some ideas on how to do this read my blog post - Setting Your Budget. I like to spend a few hours with my clients just talking about money and budgeting at the very beginning of the planning process - I need to know how they imagine their big day and the financial impact they are comfortable with this special day having on their lives. I never like to see my couples beginning their newly married life with loads of credit cards and loans just from their wedding so upfront planning is vital. Using a wedding planner makes budgeting really easy, we know what things are likely to cost you and clever ways of making your budget go further. Having a wedding planner involved at this stage of your planning will set your wedding planning experience up to be as stress-free as possible as you will have a clear idea of expenditure. There are so many pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that need to come together in a wedding, having an expert's input at the early stages can be significantly helpful - I worked with one couple and they had unfortunately booked and committed to a couple of suppliers before I came on board, with a quick calculation I worked out they were spending over £2000 more than they needed to! Quite a scary figure! Today I am giving you some top tips on Wedding Budgets - what should you be splashing the cash on and areas where you can realistically make savings without harming your overall wedding.
- FLOWERS - Make a Saving. Make your flowers multi-purpose, by that I mean move them around depending on where your guests are. Ask your florist to design you arrangements which are transportable just so you can get the maximum usage from them. For example, milk churns are great for framing ceremony locations or having at churches and then moving them to become welcoming arrangements at your reception. PRO TIP: use your bridal bouquet and bridesmaid's bouquets to dress part of your venue after the ceremony. They look great lined up on the top table or displayed in crystal vases round the cake.
- DRINKS - Make a Saving. I often get asked by my clients about the etiquette of providing drinks for your guests. In my opinion guests are completely happy (and often expect) to pay for their own drinks in the evening part of the wedding so have a pay bar. I would also recommend researching the bar hire company you use to make sure they either have a small minimum spend for the evening or no minimum spend at all just to make sure you don't get any nasty surprises with an invoice after the wedding.This also gives you the flexibility later in the planning process to add in a portion of free drinks if you find you have some budget spare. PRO TIP - check phone coverage where you are siting the bar - if you are in Norfolk then you will know that phone reception is patchy and many pay bars take card payments by linking up to the phone networks - if this is the case remind your guests to bring cash and let the bar team know.
- PHOTOGRAPHER - Splash the Cash. So many people ask friends to take their wedding photos - trust me this is one area you NEED a pro to take care of for you!! By all means have a friend as a second shooter but not as your one and only record keeper of your special day. There are so many reasons which have been well documented by numerous photographers but it doesn't need to cost you the earth. If you only have £200 for a photographer and you are on a tight budget then there are pros out there who will help. You certainly do get what you pay for so if you can afford more then I would strongly advise you spend as much as you can. Your wedding photos cannot be replaced so having a professional get the right composition, lighting and quality to your images will be worth it, I promise! PRO TIP: if you feel you are tight on budget only pay for a photographer to photo the most important parts of the day for you eg just the ceremony or just the first dance.
- STATIONERY - Make a Saving. I have seen so many brides and groom successfully DIY their own stationery but be warned, it can take time, especially if you are a perfectionist so be prepared for sleepless nights! A few bits of beautifully crafted stationery are much better than a massive quantity that looks scruffy and is not necessary so budget wisely and consider where stationery will enhance your day and your guest's experience, for example is an elegant menu more use than a welcome sign? Do you need RSVP cards included with your invitations? PRO TIP: there are lots of companies that offer free wedding websites which are a great way of sharing information about your day with your guests, you can tailor them to be as formal or fun as you like.
- BRIDESMAIDS & GROOMSMEN - Make a Saving. Ok, so this might be slightly controversial but it could save you hundreds! Firstly, think about the number of bridesmaids/groomsmen you would like to have. If money is no object then have as many as you want! Consider asking your bridesmaids if they could buy their dresses themselves. There was one wedding I planned a few years ago where the bride just asked her best ladies to buy a knee length patterned dress of their own choice to wear and white shoes - the brief was as loose as that. I have to say they looked really pretty on the day and by saving on the outfits she was able to pay for them each to have their hair professionally done. Also consider all the accessories they need, perhaps jewellery could double up as their thank you gift, ask them to wear shoes they already have in a certain colour etc. Do they need their hair and make up doing professionally or would they be happy to pay for this themselves? PRO TIP: if you are planning in advance make the most of the January Sales and buy your bridesmaid dresses then - you could also consider selling them on eBay after the wedding to recoup a bit of cash.
- VISUAL IMPACT - Splash the Cash. You want your guests to remember your wedding day for all the right reasons so make it memorable. Think about your venue, how your guests will move through the venue and how your day will run. I think every wedding should have one 'wow' factor which is personal to the bride and groom. This could be arriving to your venue in a classic sports car or having the most amazing cake but one thing that really stands out, makes it memorable and unique. It should be something that is impactful, it is no use investing budget in small details if you are strapped for cash, instead think about creating one area that has the 'wow' rather than diluting your budget on lots of different things. PRO TIP: if you are planning a marquee wedding then only concentrate on creating a visual impact that is at your eye level or above.
- FOOD - Splash the Cash. Having hungry guests is something to avoid at all costs and good quality food where guests are well looked after will leave a lasting impression of how good your wedding day was for your guests. I am not saying it needs to be Michelin star quality - you need to feed your guests based on what your budget constraints are. PRO TIP: There are also ways of using your budget in a creative way to make your food budget go further, for example, think about having a substantial canape reception and foregoing a starter or use your wedding cake as part of your dessert or evening food.
- MAKE-UP - Splash the Cash. Similar to my point about photographers, having a professional apply your make up for your wedding is a wise investment of budget for several reasons. Stress firstly, having a professional apply your make up means that all you need to do is sit back and sip champagne and leave the worrying about how straight your eyeliner is to them! A make up artist is adept at knowing how much time to take so will plan her timings to the minute meaning your getting ready experience will be calm and under control. Secondly, your make up will be applied in the morning, before your wedding and will have to last all through to the small hours, being picture perfect throughout. This is a tall order and a professional will know the trick of the trade to ensure your make up stays in place. Thirdly, a professional will get the balance right of your make up to ensure you look at your best on any photographs. Photos can bleed you of colour and you need to have your make up applied in a way that your natural features are defined and show up in your photos whilst still looking like you (and not an orange Barbie version of you!). Recently I saw some amazing wedding photos of a stunning bride but her lipstick colour was so wrong for the lighting conditions that she actually looked like she didn't have any lips on the photos - this is something that can't be undone and a pro would have prevented this. PRO TIP: have a make up trial! Make sure you get your ideal wedding look nailed before your big day to help keep your bridal preparations as calm as possible.
- FAVOURS - Make a Saving. There is a tradition to offering your guests wedding favours but if you are feeling slightly unconventional then skip favours all together. Otherwise, think about your favours doubling up for your guests as an extra snack or drink. I always think a little handmade cookie or homemade liqueur are thoughtful, as well as useful favour ideas. At the end of the day, many favours get left behind by your guests and they can clutter your beautiful place settings so think carefully about whether you want to spend any budget on them at all. PRO TIP: If you do decide to have favours consider DIY'ing them to save some money.
- CAKE - Make a Saving. Cutting the wedding cake is often a significant point in the wedding day, marking the beginning of the dancing and the time to really let your hair down and party! Consider ways of saving money on the cake if this is something that you are not overly bothered about. For example, think about portion size, although a large cake is showstopping, you will be left with way too much cake to eat which is just an expensive waste. Think about incorporating your cake into a dessert bar for the evening - it could then be a smaller, cake just for ceremonial cutting but you would still be offering your guests a sweet selection of treats to pick from. How about a cheese cake make of different cheeses - this is perfect to then transform into a cheese buffet for your evening food. This is also one area where, if you have a baker in the family, it can be cost effective to call in a favour. PRO TIP: Many supermarkets offer a budget-friendly wedding cake range - consider this for your wedding cake but then spend a bit of money on the decorating of it to make it look truly amazing.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of ideas and each couple has their own ideas of what is important to spend money on so I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to begin with a well thought through budget BEFORE you begin your wedding planning! Happy Planning!