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Through planning our wedding and helping hundreds of other brides with theirs, I’ve worked out the most effective and foolproof way to prioritise your wedding budget.
Full disclosure: I didn’t prioritise properly.
Why do you need to Prioritise your Wedding Budget?
If you’ve just started wedding planning, you may already have heard people talking about setting your “priorities” – that is nominating a few elements of your wedding on which you are prepared to spend that little bit extra on.
Your wedding planning priorities will be those which are most important to you, the Big Ticket items of your wedding budget, perhaps even those which you have a little #yolo moment and totally splurge on.
If you read how I blew our wedding budget you’ll know that the wedding dress was a priority, and that though I nominated it as such early on, I didn’t allocate my spending properly, and ended up going way over budget to pay for it in the end.
Set and Forget? Why you can’t just “Set” your Priorities
I’m going to help you allocate and organise your wedding priorities while sticking to your wedding budget. What you really need to be aware of is that you can’t just choose what your priorities are going to be, and get carried away with everything else in the meantime. By doing that, you put yourself at risk of a budget deficit before you’ve actually organised those all-important elements, and having to make the difficult decision of blowing your wedding budget or being disappointed.
You not only need to set your priorities, you have to prioritise them in terms of time. If the dress is the priority, and the dress is going to cost $10,000, you need to know that before you lock in all the little things that aren’t quite so important. Otherwise, you risk organising the rest and pay for those things, before realising how much your priority is going to cost when it’s way too late.
When it comes to spending, pick your priorities, then actually make the purchase, the booking, finalise the cost, really early on. Splurge on what’s important to you, get those deposits out of the way, and only then, go ahead and figure out how the rest is going to fit into the budget.
Wedding Budget Priorities: From the Beginning
The time to allocate your priorities is ideally once you start your wedding budget. If you haven’t done that yet, head into that article to get started, working out who, if anyone else, is contributing to your wedding, how much of your savings you’re happy to spend, or how long you have to save up.
While many couples are fortunate enough to have their parents contribute to their wedding budget, this can lead to potential friction, especially if the priorities you allocate are not in line with the way your parents envisage you spending the money.
If parents are financially supporting your wedding, they may also feel a sense of ownership over it, whether that’s in terms of the guest list, maybe even the choice of catering, or the wording on the invitations. Secondly, you have the issue of pay parity between two sets of parents, or four individual parents, who want to contribute, but may not be able to do so equally. Third, remembering that not everyone decides to get married, you don’t want a parent’s generous gift to you leading to a perceived imbalance to your siblings.
My suggestions to combat these, and to also enable you to have complete choice over how to spend your wedding budget is that instead of having lump sum contributions, ask your parents to pay for something in particular – such as the catering, the music or the photographers. This minimises their opportunity to take ownership, there is no need for any talk between parents of exact monetary figures, and then you can spend your wedding budget as you like. For the sake of family relations, establish right away whether it’s a loan, an advance on inheritance or a gift. For further help, read starting your wedding budget.
If you don’t have time for an in-depth article on your wedding budget, a quick overview:
Step 1: Work out who’s contributing, and how much you can set aside. This figure will also tie into your date, because you can work out how long you’ll be saving, and whether you want to save money with an off-peak wedding.
Step 2: Prioritise and get spending on those elements. Take that money out of the equation before you spend it elsewhere, i.e. Use it or Lose it!
Step 3: Following setting and spending on your priorities, it’s going to come down to looking at everything else and seeing what, when and how it can possibly all fit together. I designed the little white book’s budget pages to help with this really simply, with columns for initial estimates, then actual, with deposits paid, amount payable and due date – because your wedding budget is not static, and as I said at the beginning, things can change, a wedding budget is not just a number.