How I blew our Wedding Budget (and How You can Avoid doing so)

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In the classic case of “Do as I say, not as I do” I’m hoping you can learn from my mistakes and avoid blowing your wedding budget.

The Wedding Planning / Budget Contradiction

Incase you haven’t seen this picture before, I feel like it perfectly encapsulates the contradiction that is planning and budgeting for your wedding.

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Planning your dream wedding on a budget can become somewhat of an oxymoron, so in a cautionary tale of what not to do, read about how I totally completely blew our wedding budget by not setting and budgeting for my prioritising properly.

Learn from my Wedding Budget Mistakes

When we began wedding planning, we started with the general idea that we’d have an “average” budget of $35,000 (Further important reading on “average” wedding budgets).

In fact, I think we even thought we’d spend less than the average/median couple, because we had our hearts set on an intimate wedding of just 75, and soon after getting engaged we booked our venue, a ‘dry hire’ venue, so thought we would save a lot of money on the alcohol too. Well… at the end of the day, before the honeymoon, we actually spent (eek) $55,000.

I didn’t prioritise properly, and therefore I overspent…

Case-in-point: Just by way of example… Blair brought me home a wedding magazine from LA. Though I’d tried on a few wedding dresses that were all okay, I fell head over heels for one on an ad within the first couple of pages of the magazine – for those of you familiar with advertising, alarm bells may be ringing already. For those of you familiar with fashion, the fact that it had ‘couture’ in the name may be another giveaway. I was desperate to get it, and called an LA stockist of the New York based company to arrange to come and try it on and hopefully buy it.

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I was informed that with it being ‘couture’ there would be no try-ons, it would be ordered to fit me and arrive in six months. Gobsmacked, but still totally in love, I asked how much it cost. $2,000 – okay, great, the US exchange rate looking alright too.

I ordered it. Shortly after, I got an email… it wasn’t $2,000, it was $5,187 USD plus tax, plus shipping from New York to LA – I would have to come and pick it up from there. I had to tell Blair, and I had no idea what he was going to say. Of course, he hadn’t even seen a picture, but knew how happy I was to have found the dress, so said to go ahead. However, I knew I’d already blown the budget. Six months later, and all ready to fly to LA and pick up my dress.

The trouble was, although I had organised my wedding dress, I hadn’t actually paid for it. In the preceding six months, I hadn’t actually allocated that money anywhere, and had continued along the expensive path of wedding planning, booking and spending, and the money I needed for the dress was just another deficit.

Of course, we had to come up with the money somehow – and as I’m searching for every last dollar between the cushions of the couch, I also discover that in six months, the exchange rate has shifted by 30% – from 1.3 to 1.6, and the dress is now going to cost $10,000 (September 2015 remains the highest exchange rate in 5 years). Well, there wasn’t a lot I could do, we paid the difference, I loved the dress, we blew the budget, and it was a good thing I could barely afford to eat because it was really tight!

This is a pretty exceptional situation, and not one that many people would find themselves in, but it’s one of many examples where things just didn’t go quite as planned.

The lesson: While the misquoted cost, and then subsequent currency fluctuations were out of my control, it was entirely my fault that I hadn’t actually allocated those funds, or ‘saved up’ for my dress, taking that money out of the wedding budget.

How You can Avoid blowing your Wedding Budget

It’s very common for couples to get themselves in a similar position, setting their priorities but not actually removing that money from the total budget.

  • When you first start wedding planning, decide on what the most important elements, but then actually spend/pay out/transfer the money, so that you absolutely cannot go ahead and fritter it away on anything else when you get a case of YOLO (or YOMO).
  • If you’re using the wedding budget spreadsheet as part of the planning pack or the bundle and you have inserted your total budget, and then the amount you’ve decided to spend (on your wedding dress, for example), it will automatically update.
  • If you’re using a manual budget, such as in the little white book then insert the total budget and the amount you’re putting towards your priorities first. From there, you will be able to see, and only spend, the remainder.
  • Don’t just ‘set’ priorities, actually make the booking and spend the money. Take away the temptation of overspending on anything/everything else and then later putting yourself in the difficult position of having to choose between blowing your wedding budget or reduce the spend on the things most important to you.
  • You don’t need to have everything. Beyond those elements you purposefully marked as your ‘priorities‘ give serious thought to what else you really need, and don’t feel pressured to giving in to just having everything.
  • If you have to blow your wedding budget, let it be only for something that’s really going to make your day! Don’t mindlessly splurge on every little thing that looks pretty, stick to your wedding budget as much as you can, to avoid beginning your lives as newlyweds with financial stress.

Make sure to check out the wedding planning index, and if you need some helpful tools to assist with sticking to your wedding budget, check out the wedding budget excel template. It’s part of the wedding planning pack which you can also get as part of a complete planning bundle.

P.S. Yes, the dress made my day!

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