Why We Didn’t Create A Wedding Budget

A month or so ago, I wrote about the best day of my life…my wedding day.  I wouldn’t have changed a thing!  Towards the end of the article, I mentioned that I was going to write a few more articles down the road about a few things about our experiences during the year and a half leading up to the big day and some things we learned along the way.   There is so much that is involved in a wedding, it is insane!  So hopefully some of you will be able to learn from our experiences or conversely, share your experiences in the comment section so future readers can benefit from things you may have done differently than we did!  So here it is, the first installment of my post wedding article series.  Today, I wanted to share with you why my wife and I did not create a wedding budget while planning our wedding!

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I know what you are all thinking, that is probably the last thing you were expecting to hear out of a CPAs mouth.  I’m sure you all were thinking that I had some sort of intense spreadsheet breaking down the costs to a granular level.  Cost per guest, cost per napkin, cost per coffee stirrer…you get the gist of it!  My very first exposure to this was one of my co-workers a few years ago.  I stopped by to ask him a question and he was taking a break entering a couple of expenses into his wedding budget excel spreadsheet.  Line by line he listed out every expense, every commitment, and every dollar that was being spent on the wedding.  Unlike him, I never once opened a new excel spreadsheet and saved anything on my desktop titled “Wedding Budget” or “Wedding Costs.”  This was shaped by our money situation and a decision we made early on about how we wanted to selected vendors and locations for our wedding.

I’ll start with the first part of the sentence above, our money situation.  This is the part where each person’s wedding planning experience is different.  This article may not apply to certain readers nor interest them if their financial situation was different that ours.  Some couples will have a situation where family helps support 100% of the wedding, some are responsible for the entire cost of the wedding, and many (like us) will fall somewhere in between.   There is no way around it, you are going to have to spend money when you get married and put on a reception for your guests.  But knowing how much money you have to work with, how much support you are getting from others, and how much of your money you are willing to spend on the evening will drive EVERY SINGLE DECISION going forward.   We were pretty fortunate and our families offered to provide a nice sum of money to help cover the costs of the wedding.  It was so generous of them and allowed us  to help have the wedding of our dreams.   The amount didn’t cover the entire amount of the wedding though, so this is where we faced our first big decision.   Do we work within just the funds provided to us or are we willing to contribute some of our savings? 

Luckily for us, we both are pretty frugal livers.  We could be better of course (hence I still have cable and enjoy a few other luxuries), but saving a large percentage of our income and subscribing to Lanny’s “Every Dollar Counts” mentality has helped build up our savings accounts over the years.  Because of this, we were definitely willing to use our savings to help us compliment what our parents were contributing to the wedding to make the night everything we wanted it to be.  We answered the call needed in our first decision and once we established we were willing to contribute what was needed, we moved on to the next important decision to make.  How much were we willing to contribute? A set dollar amount?  What would help make this decision…a wedding budget?  Oh wait, how do you think this article got this title?  That’s right, we decided there wouldn’t be a set dollar amount.

Before I proceed on our decision not to have a wedding budget, I want to set the record straight on one thing.  We had a benchmark for the typical amount spent for a wedding with as many guests as we were anticipating.  My sister was married several years before us and luckily for me, my mom kept every single receipt from my sister’s wedding.  We both are accountants, but I am not nearly as organized or detail oriented as she is (go figure)!  She compiled the costs for my sister and showed us the dollar per guest for my sister’s wedding.  Going forward, we would use this as a benchmark (not a final budget) to help guide us to see if we were overspending on X or being too cheap on Y.   So we weren’t blindly going into this, having no concept of how much things cost, or a concept of how much we should be spending for a wedding.  Having this was huge and you know what, this is a great segue to the final decision point.

WIth our decision to spend what was needed made and having a reliable benchmark to base future decisions on in hand, we were pretty darn comfortable throwing the idea of having a firm wedding budget out the window.   This meant accepting that it is okay to spend more money on the areas and aspects of the wedding that you want to be the most memorable.  If one venue is $59/person, one is $70/person, and one is a flat fee but requires X, Y, and Z, we weren’t going to let the overall dollar amount be the final decision point.  Cost would be considered because remember, we are both frugal and didn’t want to spend outside of our means, but it would be the third or fourth factor versus the only decider.  I’ll show you an example of where this applied, when selecting our wedding venue.

My sisters final dollar per guest at her wedding venue was in the $70s/guest.   So that was the benchmark we were working with.   The first place we visited was a former country club converted into a city park/reception hall that could be rented.  Beautiful space and the cost was $72/guest (all prices are pre-service fees and include the cost of catering/alcohol).  Definitely worth considering because the place was beautiful.  The second option was an old mall in downtown Cleveland with a ton of character that we both loved.   However, the beginning package was $85/person.  While we were comfortable spending the money, we knew that spending there would force us to cut here and we would be afraid to spend on the extra details that make your wedding unique and special.  We didn’t want that fear to spend elsewhere in the back of our mind so we dropped it from the final list.  The third place was the budget venue of $59/person budget.  But honestly, it was a little bland to us.  It would have been a nice place for a wedding, but not THE place.  So we slotted this as the back up option if the former country club turned city park was available. Then, at the last second like it was meant to be, we stumbled on the place we selected for our wedding.  This venue was an old factory converted to a wedding venue with beautiful views of the Cleveland skyline and Lake Erie.   I walked in, fell in love with the place, and luckily for me, so did my wife!   The cost structure was different though.  Instead of lumping all costs into a single price per guest amount like the others, we paid a flat fee for the venue and were required to buy the alcohol through their vendor.  When it came to catering and all other services, we were on our own.  That being said, we knew that if we could save on the outsourced caterer, we could bring the cost per dollar in the same ballpark as the other venues considered.  It would still be more than the other options; however, we were willing to spend the extra amount.

This was a mentality that persisted as we booked each successive vendor.  We researched, weighed the pros and cons, read the reviews, and considered the cost compared to the quality of service we would receive.  Deciding to not have a formal wedding budget was probably the best decision we made and it allowed us the freedom to increase our allocation to X line item when needed or decrease our allocation from Y line item there.  If we had a strict budget for each line item and expense, we would have missed out on our venue, photographer, videographer, and DJ because we paid a little more for quality.   Not focusing exclusively on price allowed us to focus on booking the best vendor, and I would like to think it showed to our guests.  Not having a wedding budget may not work for everyone, but it definitely worked for us.

Did you have a strict wedding budget?  What was your mentality as you planned your wedding?  If you didn’t have a wedding budget, do you regret that decision?

Bert

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18 thoughts on “Why We Didn’t Create A Wedding Budget

  1. We did our wedding “budget” (or lack of) much the same way, I have always been a hunter for the best value, I also don’t really understand how you can have a true budget for a wedding without knowing what certain things cost – if you can’t hire a photographer for $200, then it doesn’t matter if you’ve budgeted $200.

    This line you said ” We researched, weighed the pros and cons, read the reviews, and considered the cost compared to the quality of service we would receive.” is exactly what we did throughout the process. We also had fewer guests (preferred intimate smaller setting) and didn’t provide alcohol (but people could buy their own, we aren’t big drinkers and didn’t drink on the day at all) both of these things saved us a lot of money but they were not choices we made for “saving money” reasons, they were choices we made because that was the style/feel/whatever that we wanted for our wedding, they just happened to be cheaper.

    I have an article currently in the works about the choices/frugality we had for our wedding, so your article was a nice read for me, solidifying the fact that, we too, didn’t have a budget.

    Jasmin

    • Jasmin,

      I’m glad to hear that you had a similar mentality during your wedding. Research was key and without it, we probably would have accepted the status quo and ended up spending thousands more. It was the extra ten minutes a night, the one extra google search when you think you are worn down, that ultimately finds the perfect vendor with the perfect product for the perfect price. I agree with your comment about understanding the true cost of things for a wedding. I wish photography did cost $200, but I also want to have quality pictures that I am going to remember forever. It sucks, but you are just going to have to expect that you are going to need to spend money on the event. I’m excited to see and read your article about the wedding as well and see how much we had in common for the experiences.

      It is cool that you made the decisions that you wanted for the wedding, despite what the popular consensus by the attendees would have been. It is your day, not theirs. So if you didn’t want to have money, then don’t have it at the wedding (whether it costs $0 or $5000). It was a fun experience and there was soooo much to plan. In the end, all that matters is that the day was everything you wanted it to be and just a little bit more.

      Thank you so much for your comment and stopping by!

      Bert

  2. Have not reached this stage in my life but I suspect I will be going into this whole process with a similar mindset. There are certain things in life that are worth spending a little bit more to make the special day the day you want instead of the day your budget wants.

    • Stefan,

      After getting to know you in this community, I guarantee you will have a similar mindset throughout this experience haha To exho what you said, there is a time and a place to not spend, but a day like that isn’t one of them.

      Bert

  3. I think that’s a great way to do it if you have some self control and don’t go for the high end stuff for everything. Not having a wedding budget for naturally frugal people is totally fine, for spenders, probably not so good of an idea.

    I like the idea of calculating cost per guest. Does give you a rough ballpark on the venue cost. We didn’t have a hard budget for our wedding but since Mrs. T is from Denmark, we knew we had to do a reception over there too. We ended up having 3 weddings (the real wedding, 2 receptions). We DIY the heck out of our weddings… Mrs. T made her own wedding dress, our own bouquets, and wedding cakes. Being a part time wedding photographer myself, I also did some of the photography myself (for our 3rd wedding).

    We ended up spending $8,812 for the 3 weddings. Pretty good I think given the average wedding costs $15k. I wrote more about our experience here – http://www.tawcan.com/getting-married-3-times-for-cheap-part-3/ (shameless self promotion. :D)

    • WOW Tawcan. That is pretty freaking impressive. That’s not shameless promotion, that is well earned and well deserved bragging haha You blew our wedding cost out of the water and you had THREE!

      Self control is key to the process. It is so easy to swipe a card for full price for the convenience of making a decision and moving on to the next expense. But you need to price things out and make sure you are getting the best value and quality, without trading of the quality piece. It is awesome that Mrs. T was able to wedding hack all of those items. Those are huge expenses and the cost of flowers can add up quickly. Did you take up your photography with saving money on your wedding pictures on your mind haha

      Also, has Mrs. T considered opening up a shop online where she can sell some of these items? I’m sure there would be many other brides/grooms in the future that would love to have someone like here help keep the costs down while making their day amazing. Just a quick thought haha

      Thanks so much for the comment. Still can’t believe you kept 3 weddings under $10k….

      Bert

  4. I feel that creating a wedding budget would be hard unless it’s the 2nd or 3rd wedding (hopefully not!) that gave you the wedding planning experience experience before hand. I would have no idea if I am paying the right amount for something, I mean there are comparable analysis you could do but it just may not feel right.

    It’s great that you were able to have a fantastic wedding without going through all of the stress of budgeting. I don’t think I’ll be getting married anytime soon but when I do, I think I will create a budget!

    • FS,

      So sorry on the delay for the comment here. Creating a wedding budget is very hard and I agree, especially if it is the first one you are going through. It is more of a wedding outline if you are constrained by a certain dollar amount. The best way to make sure you are paying the right amount is by reaching out to a ton of companies and seeing what the market value is in your area. If you talk to only one or two companies, you are bound to get screwed over and pay too much for poor quality. Paying a lot is okay at times, but you need to do the research to make sure the quality matches the dollar amount they are asking.

      Thanks for taking the time to read the comment and I appreciate the kind words!

      Bert

  5. My wife and I may have anti-social tendencies, but neither of us could see the value in hosting a great big wedding party. More so than trying to be cheap and cut costs though, the kind of attention it brings wasn’t for us.

    An afternoon at the courthouse and a fancy dinner to celebrate between us brought the total to around $200 or so, perhaps a record. A couple of my friends have gone all out on weddings and while I’m sure it was the happiest day in their lives, they’ve all admitted it was quite stressful beforehand!

    • John,

      I love it. If the wedding thing isn’t for you, then screw it. Why would you want to spend all the time planning and the money on something neither you or your wife want. After all, it is YOUR day and you should remember it the way you want to. And I echo what your friends said…it was extremely stressful leading up to it. But for us, I wouldn’t have done it any way.

      So glad to hear that you and your wife had the day you wanted and loved it. Thanks for stopping by!

      Bert

  6. That venue sounds wonderful. My girlfriend has not married me yet (she’s rude that way), but I know we won’t have family support. We’ll have a budget because we have large families and we’ll need to keep costs down. Not looking forward to navigating this.

    • haha she has some nerve! kidding, kidding. They are tough waters to navigate for sure. Just at the end of it all, remember the day is for you two and no one else. Family will always want to chime in, but stick to your guns and make sure you do it in your fashion.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Bert

  7. My wife and I had a loose wedding budget of $10,000 that we had saved up over the course of a year. We are both fairly frugal and figured we could easily manage the costs. We decided that whatever money was left over, we would use that money to go on our honeymoon.

    Our wedding ended up costing us roughly $6000 and we spent the last $4000 on a fantastic honeymoon to Cuba.

    Our 10th anniversary is coming up in Aug and we are going back to the same resort that we visited on our honeymoon.

    • Steve,

      Sounds like you did it right! 40% under budget and you had an amazing honeymoon…perfect and very jealous! Congrats in advance on the 10 year mark. My wife and I just finished our honeymoon and were talking about returning there for our 10 year anniversary as well.

      Bert

  8. I like the thought of having a wedding “ballpark” figure as opposed to having strict numbers. Given the average cost of weddings, it’d be easy to be a complete control freak about the expenses. But (ideally) you’ll only have one wedding day, and while spending thousands on fancy cutlery probably isn’t the best investment, it might be worth going a little over budget to make sure the day is memorable. Great post!

    • Thanks Paul! That’s the mentality we had. It sucks seeing the bills add up and your bank account decrease, but as you said, it is the only time we are having this wedding. We found out which areas to spend on and which areas we were comfortable spending less on (and cutlery fell into the later half haha).

      Bert

  9. I haven’t quite reached this point in my life yet, and hope to save money before the engagement. It would be nice to have an overall budget to track what we’ve paid against a figure we decided on together, but wouldn’t be a stickler on it.

    If there is one day in my life that I will be enjoying life more than thinking about money it will definitely be my wedding day lol! How did you and your wife decide on an amount per guest without looking at budget? Was it mostly based off of the sum from your fam?

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