Thoughts on wedding planning part 1 – the cashPosted by in other news & updates
I was always a little hesitant to write too much about our wedding because I didn’t want this to space to be remotely wedding blog-ish…but I also think it’s hard to find real advice for planning a wedding from someone who isn’t heavily invested in the wedding industry or influenced by sponsors and advertisers. It’s also a great opportunity to share a few more photos and details from our day, so the plan is:
Part 1: the cash – setting a budget and how to make it work
Part 2: the overseas factor - planning a wedding from the other side of the world
Part 3: the DIY element - my thoughts on doing it yourself and what not to do yourself
Part 4: the personal stuff – getting emotional, stressing out and what to expect
Part 1: The Cash
Fun fact: when I did my business degree I majored in Accounting! (Actually, ‘fun’ and ‘accounting’ should probably not appear in the same sentence together). So, I’m going to start with what I think is one of the most important practical elements of planning the whole event and the most sensible place to start – setting a budget to pay for it…
Let’s assume you’ve set a budget already and you have an approximate number in mind. This should be based on any existing savings + how many months/years it is until your potential wedding day and how much you can expect to save in that time + any other contributions, if you’re fortunate enough to have others chipping in too.
So now there’s a number to work to, how to do you go about spending it and sticking to it?
How to decide what to spend your budget on
It really comes down to what you value as a couple. I remember reading a useful exercise in a wedding book that I highly recommend doing: without discussing it, both you and your fiance should prioritise from 1-10 the main list of things you’ll need to spend money on to pull a wedding together, here’s 10 to start with: a photographer, flowers, drinks, food, your wedding outfits, a venue, transport, stationery, entertainment, favours. This is the first thing you should do before you start planning anything else!
It was so important for us to be on the same page when it came to deciding where our wedding budget would go. For both of us, spending money on good food and wine in a great venue was top of the list and something we didn’t want to scrimp on. For me, good photography was also important and beautiful flowers were something I hoped we could afford.
So quite quickly, we made a decision to spend more on those things and completely cut out or cut down on elements that were way down the priority list for both of us, like hiring fancy wedding cars that no one would see (I *actually* suggested driving myself to the ceremony but in the end my Dad drove me in his Mazda). Even the wedding dress and suits were about mid-way down our priority list – my husband decided to hire his and his groomsmen’s suits and I was determined not to spend ludicrous sums on a dress I would only wear once (hah! More on that in a moment…)
Wedding magazines often run features about the average amount spent on different areas of a wedding, eg 20% on the venue, 5% on the photographer, etc, which can be quite useful as a starting point. Take all this with a grain of salt, but if you have a budget in mind, start dividing it out as per the averages to get a really rough idea as to what you could spend on different elements of the wedding. You can immediately cut out your no-priority options from the list above and reduce the amounts of lower-priority areas.
As I said, take these kind of guides you read as a really rough estimate. They’re great at the very initial stages if you really have no concept as to how much different things cost yet. You’ll get a better idea once you start researching venues, photographers and other suppliers, but remember to keep referring back to your master budget to make sure it’s still reasonable and to make sure you’re looking at services and suppliers within your means.
It’s a balancing act
Another important lesson I learned along the way – be flexible. A budget can be a moveable thing but there’s one (pretty common sense) rule: if you start overspending in one area you need to either add more cash to your budget – and realistically, where is that going to come from? – or start cutting down on another area of your budget.
I fell in love and eventually bought a dress that was significantly over what we had originally budgeted, despite my assertions that I didn’t want a ludicrously priced dress. I know, I know, I was only going to wear it once – but this dress was The One!
So how did we afford it? Instead of splashing on a dream pair of Louboutins I bought a £30 pair of strappy sandals that were comfortable, barely seen by anyone under my long dress and if I never wear them again I’ll still feel I got my money’s worth. Having no family jewellery heirlooms to borrow for the day, I bought my earrings and a bracelet from Etsy. And that’s how I purchased my beautiful custom-made dress without (too much!) guilt.
(No regrets after going with these £30 shoes instead)
(Earrings & bracelet from Etsy. Rosary beads were something to remember my Nana by & I wore my other Nana’s wedding ring)
Keep things in perspective
Once we actually had an idea of our budget and what we wanted to spend more on and what we wanted to scrimp on, it was important to keep perspective of the bigger picture – we were going to get married, nearly everyone we loved would be there and it would be an amazing party.
After deciding on the dream dress, I also surprised myself on deciding I wanted to wear a veil. I couldn’t believe how ridiculously expensive veils and other headpieces could be though! Beautiful, but expensive. Without an endless budget to splurge on everything, I knew I’d have to cut a few corners to afford The Dress. So, I hoped for the best and bought a bargain veil from a wholesale website (the wedding veil shop, if you’re interested), which turned out to be absolutely fine. Beautiful even. Keeping things in perspective, I knew it was something I would only wear for the ceremony and in some of the photos. Making sure we could afford the dress was my priority.
Another keeping-it-in-perspective moment for us? The cake. We both love cake, don’t get me wrong. But with a sit down three course meal already on the menu, we didn’t feel it was worth paying crazy money on a wedding cake that many of our guests would probably be too full or too busy dancing to eat…and honestly, my style leans towards a simpler look, so icing flowers, ribbons and cake-toppers didn’t feel right either.
We had no regrets going for a Chocolate Whiskey cake from Rocket Kitchen, a great caterer on Auckland’s Ponsonby Road. Three tiers of this bad boy was both amazingly delicious and a fraction of the cost compared to something the same size from a specialty wedding cake maker. A few fresh flowers on top (thanks to our florist) and it was exactly what we wanted at a reasonable price.
The lesson here? We didn’t need to go all out for every single element of our wedding, only the areas that really mattered. There are a lot of great alternatives out there available ‘outside’ the wedding industry exclusively that will do the job just as well (if not better).
The brief version
In short, the main lessons I learnt when it came to setting a managing a wedding budget were:
1. Calculate your approximate budget (savings + future savings pre-wedding + any contributions)
2. As a couple, agree on what the most important elements of the wedding are to you (eg a large venue & an amazing photographer!). Be prepared to cut back on the lower-priority elements so you can make the important parts happen.
3. Start researching how much all that ‘wedding stuff’ costs and you’ll get an idea of what percentage of your wedding budget needs to go where.
4. Be flexible enough to extend your budget in areas that are really important but ONLY if you cut back and under-spend on other areas. Be disciplined!
5. Keep your eye on the bigger picture and maintain perspective. What does your wedding day really mean to you and is wearing a pair of Louboutins or having a $1,000 cake going to help you get there? If your answer is yes, that’s cool too but you might have to DIY other elements, like your flowers for example, to make that happen.
All photos by our photographer, the lovely Kate Grewal