By Courtney Starheim :: C Star Events


Determining a wedding budget is often the most difficult and intimidating part of wedding planning. It can be a laborious and even an awkward task, but setting a budget early on in the planning process will help guide decisions and maximize the money spent while also preventing budget-related disagreements along the way.


Before your Pinterest vision board takes on a life of its own, it is important to take time to determine the total amount of money that you and your future spouse are prepared to spend on the big day. Mortgage payments, car payments, children, future travel plans, or student debt may significantly influence your budget and should be taken into consideration when mapping out your wedding-related finances.


At this time it is also important to consider any financial assistance that you may be gifted from family members. If you are fortunate to have the financial support from parents or grandparents, you’ll want to have conversations with them early on to ensure all parties are on the same page. Mom and dad may want to cover a specific element of the wedding (for example, the cost of the flowers or the wine served at dinner) or they may prefer to contribute a lump sum.


Your wedding day is a celebration of the vows you’ve exchanged with one another and the families you have united. After the wedding your heart should be full of happy memories, not anxiety over missed payments. Simply put, we could all learn something from Carrie Bradshaw: don’t let the wedding get bigger than Big (or your budget, for that matter).


Once that final number has been reached, then comes the next – and equally as challenging – task of budget allocation.

Many wedding magazines, websites, and blogs recommend you allocate a certain percentage for photography, a certain percentage for the meal, and the percentages continue. This approach tends to complicate things by giving a false sense of being “under-budget” or the inclination to pass on an amazing vendor because they are “over-budget.” In reality, neither statement may be true for the wedding you want.


As early along in the planning process as possible, I suggest you collaborate with your fiancé to create a prioritized list of must haves. A wedding blueprint, if you will. For example: is an amazing meal paired with VQA wine at the top of your list? Are you looking to wow your guests with the flowers and décor? Do you absolutely have to have a collection of editorial-style photos to document your memories?  Is the 6-piece band that was playing at the bar the night you met an essential element of your special day? The answers to these types of question will assist in determining where to splurge and where you should save. Furthermore, it will leave you with a prioritized list of the types of vendors you may want to hire and a starting point to begin researching them.


Now, back to budget allocation. Think of your wedding budget as a pie chart where the whole is your total budget and the parts are the various categories (photographer, venue, food and drink, etc.). As you research your options and obtain quotes for services, play around with various combinations that total 100%. From here, you’ll have a more accurate depiction of your budget per vendor and you’ll still have wiggle room to add and remove from these categories.


Remaining true to your wedding blueprint is imperative; you must understand that if you’re going to spurge in one or two areas, you’ll need to save in others. Unfortunately, this means you may not end up with every “must have” on your list. That being said, if you’re lucky enough to work with creative and experienced vendors, they will do everything in their powers to help make your vision a reality within your budget. If you’re prepared to modify, re-evaluate, and evolve your original vision, you can accomplish something beautiful and personal, even on the smallest budget. Taking the time to research local vendors will pay off, tenfold. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the vendors themselves, to see samples of their work, or, in some cases, to meet with them. Assembling a team of vendors whom you trust with your vision will result in a wedding that is uniquely you. Furthermore, paying professionals to execute the important elements of your day will allow you and your guests to relax and enjoy the experience when the big day comes.


Wedding planning as it exists today is exciting. Couples are thinking outside the box to host a day that is unique and unforgettable. Traditional Saturday night buffets are being replaced by Sunday afternoon cocktail hours; ballroom receptions are being replaced with outdoor dance floors under the moonlight. It’s increasingly apparent that a wedding with a budget does not equal a budget wedding.


Only after the budget has been set and all relevant parties are on board can the real fun start. Brainstorming ideas, gathering inspiration, and conceptualizing the overall look and feel of the wedding is a process. Your budget should act as a guide when considering options: Is this in or out of budget? If it’s out of budget are you prepared to sacrifice another aspect of your budget to make it work? Be prepared to fall in love with things, change your mind, and go a completely different route. Be prepared to end up where you started. Even though the budgeting process may not be entirely fun, the rest of the planning process should be. Get the budget talks out of the way early so you can enjoy the planning process.