OMG! He (or she) just popped the magic question and you said yes! You’re feeling butterflies in the stomach and looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses. Soon, the excitement of looking at dresses, suits, ballrooms and whatnot fall back to one thing: money. And how much you have! Now there’s 2 ways you can forge ahead: with reckless abandon, or you need a budget; a wedding budget!
Many times I’ve heard stories of people blowing a huge hole in their finances for big bash weddings. There could be multiple factors that came into play but it always comes down to how you manage your money.
Why do you need a wedding budget?
A wedding is an event many see as “once-in-a-lifetime”. And as such, the urge to splurge for the best of everything is very hard to resist. So when you and your fiancé begin your planning process, first thing to do before buying those plane tickets to the Bahamas for a photoshoot is to decide what’s your budget ceiling. This is the maximum amount of your wedding budget that both of you are willing to spend!
Now, if you’ve already practiced budgeting personally, this will be a very easy concept to get into. Bonus points if you both have done it! So with a budget in place, you can spend and adjust! The freedom is still there only with a cap; a good tradeoff as you will see.
Wedding budget tips
Many girls dream of a fairytale wedding walking into the ballroom with a shimmering white dress and glass slippers. There are guys who also aspire to be the Prince Charming, manly and financially sound for all to see. Unfortunately, something straight out of a fairytale will come straight out of your bank account. Here are some tips to consider when budgeting!
1. Respect the budget
Sure, it’s once in a lifetime, but are you sure you need to go over budget by $10,000 for it? If that’s the point why make a budget to begin with? Sticking within the budget will allow you to prioritise and focus on what you really want.
2. What to include in the wedding budget?
Like accounting for your business, some things that can be used for day-to-day activities might seem like a separate expenditure. What we did mostly was: anything we’re using for our wedding, gets charged into this budget.
3. Plan ahead
We were quite kiasu (“scared to lose” in Hokkien) and started planning and bookings one year in advance. This way we could shop around and book the places and services we wanted. This also prevents last minute rushes which could cost you extra.
Best thing about planning ahead? The ability to save up, of course! Saving up money you need takes time and there’s no doubt this was what stopped my bank account from going into the red.
4. What do you want?
This is where the fun part was for us. Knowing what you want is the best way to allocate funds towards achieving it. Things to consider are:
i. Pre-wedding photoshoot
Where would be the ideal spot for you? Common choices are Paris, Maldives, Taiwan, etc. Do you like architecture or are you more of a nature buff?
Not only location, you need to consider the photo studio that’s going to do the shoot for you. Are you going for the local guys or bringing in your own? The latter option requires you to pay for travel, accommodation and food too.
Finding one plan that suits you will take a bit of time and research but it’ll be worth it both in quality and price.
Do you want a low-key dinner with close family and friends? Or do you want to invite the whole village for a 500 pax ballroom dinner?
What food are you going to serve? Also consider any entertainment you’d want to provide.
iii. Wedding photographers
Same story of do you want local or imported. More importantly you should check out their portfolio and see if they have experience in your wedding’s cultural aspect.
An example is we viewed a few photographers from Indonesia who did great productions but when we checked out their Chinese wedding shoots, it was lacklustre. This pushed us towards a Malaysian crew who made it an amazing experience.
Do you want to wow people with some professional decor or DIY would suit better? DIY is definitely cheap but at the cost of labour and time. Only you know which of the tradeoff is better!
Are you going for designer gowns or some simpler designed ones? Suits for the guys have a more prolonged use compared to wedding gowns which are usually only worn once.
vi. Wedding favours
Do you want to hand out goodie bags to your guests? Think about it in terms of if you received something like what you plan to give at someone else’s wedding. Would you like it or will it have a high chance of going in the bin?
vii. Wedding rings
Most people I see go for simple wedding bands and even then it will cost quite a bit. If you want to go for more bombastic brands like Cartier, it’ll cost you a whole lot more.
The holiday to look forward to as husband and wife! The choices are limitless depending on your choice of a vacation. Really, it’s just an excuse to go on a traveling holiday! Just make sure you know how much money is going in there!
I didn’t put this into my budget. But you could if you want to control how much is spent in the entirety.
5. How do you keep track?
Keeping track of the wedding budget is surprisingly easy. What I did was I simply created an Excel spreadsheet using one of the templates. Just fill in the required data and you’re solid! You could go a step further to add and remove stuff but that takes a bit of tinkering.
Every time you make a purchase or payment, update the spreadsheet. Easy! The template even comes with a countdown to your big day!
6. Who pays for what?
My wife and I agreed upon her settling for her needs (gown, shoes, makeup) and the pre-wedding photoshoot and myself settling my clothes and… well everything else. Having this agreement will stop potential bickering down the line.
Sometimes, parents would like to get involved and pay for things. For us, we settled everything mostly on our own; sort of a feat for the two of us.
7. How to split the ang pao?
This is an interesting matter. Ang pao is the red packet given in Chinese customs to signify prosperity and wishes but it’s basically equivalent to a cash gift. In Chinese and Malay culture we have this custom of giving some money to the newlyweds. Honestly speaking, these monetary gifts really take the bite out of paying for the wedding. So how do you split the… “profits”? Similarly, coming to an agreement beforehand will help a lot. Bear in mind, some parents who “helped out” want a cut too!
Most importantly, don’t budget around this prospective gifts. It’s not a sure thing and some people are cheapskates! Or they actually don’t have much to begin with.
8. Don’t be afraid to scale down
At the end of the day, people won’t really remember your big party, what colour the lights were or what shoes you wore. Heck, some people don’t even remember their own big day! Don’t sweat the small things because what matters is your day goes smoothly. And if you need to sacrifice Swarovski studded tableware for those “peasant” spoon and fork, then so be it!
9. Don’t take a loan
One of the biggest money sins you can commit is to spend money you don’t have. Taking out a loan for your wedding is a one way trip to Debt Town and the road back is very rocky. Like I mentioned before, planning ahead and saving up will help you achieve it.
You could ask your parents for assistance too but it’s up to them if they give. And remember: if they pay up, it might make them think they get a say in how your wedding goes!
10. Create memories
One thing I’m very happy with is we focused a lot of our wedding budget on creating and capturing memories. This was in photos and videos. We even got one of those instant photobooths for our guests to play and pose with. We get to keep a copy of their photos too so it worked out great!
These tangible items are much better than let’s say, how the table was set up or what songs you played. Those things are not memorable and you’ll be wasting your resources to focus on them too much. Also consider storage for items that might be one-use only. If you are not going to use it after your wedding, maybe there’s a better alternative?
A wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event for a lot of people. When planning for it, it’s best to not have to suffer for a prolonged period because we overspent. This is why a wedding budget will help in a lot of ways! The rule of thumb is to stick within the budget, learn to adjust and compromise and never, ever take a loan for it. With financial pressure out of the way, your sweet memories will not be bitter sweet!
And if you’re reading this and you’re getting wed soon, let me say Congratulations Lovebirds!
They say that love is more important than money, but have you ever tried to pay your bills with a hug?