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How To Plan A Wedding On A Budget

You can have a memorable wedding on a budget. Here's how.

Originally Published Nov. 18, 2014

As my fiancee and I were planning our wedding, one recurring idea continued to undergird our wedding decision: “‘I do’ doesn’t have to mean ‘Go broke.'”

I know you may think the aforementioned is commonsense, but let me remind you that emotions tend to take over when it comes to matters of the heart.

Where is the money coming from to pay for modern-day weddings?Unlike what was experienced historically, where parents absorbed a large amount of the wedding expenses, today’s couples are having to bear responsibility for the entire cost of the wedding, reception and the honeymoon.

Do you have thousands set aside and allotted for your wedding? If not, all is not lost with being able to plan a classy, fun, and enjoyable wedding.

You just have to think creatively and be willing to develop a simple but comprehensive wedding budget. People tend to hate the “B” word, but it’s an absolute necessity to keep from going broke for your one-day celebration. As with most matters of the heart, you have to be willing to communicate and make decisions to help keep in alignment with your long-term goals. Don’t let “I do” cause you to “Go broke.”

Consider the following to manage the total expense of your wedding:

1. Wedding Venue

As you plan your wedding, you will learn very quickly that the word “wedding” automatically adds a premium to the normal cost of goods and services. There are non-traditional options that offer a nice ambiance for you and your guests. Consider outdoor locations like a park or other public location. Also, destination weddings are becoming more popular because they allow you to manage overall cost, while providing you and your guests with beautiful scenery.

2. Manage Your Guest List

As a general rule of thumb, people enjoy sharing in the marital celebration of a new couple. The question you need to ask yourself is, “Are we in a position to accommodate the expense of having business associates, old elementary school teachers and family we may not regularly interact with, etc.?” Don’t be afraid to reduce your guest list, because $30-$125 per plate can become costly.

3. Food

As mentioned above, the reception celebration has the ability to turn your budget upside down. A $20-$30 reception dinner becomes $30-$125 just because it’s associated with a “wedding.” As you plan your reception, consider options that allow you to select your own caterer instead of having to use the in-house provider. You can save hundreds or thousands of dollars by using an outside caterer.

4. Dress

Generally one of the most expensive line items on a wedding budget, the wedding dress focus can take you out of budget if you get caught-up on name brands and celebrity associations. Don’t be intimidated by boutiques, discount providers, and secondhand stores.

5. Photography/Videography/Music

You cannot afford to skimp on the photography investment. Pictures are the keepsake you retain for a lifetime. Photos allow you to remain connected to the special moments before, during and just after saying “I do!” Videography is an area that you may be able to live without if you are on a tight budget. Chances are you will only watch the wedding video a handful of times before it takes residence in your attic. Music is an area you can get creative with. You may be able to create the fun atmosphere you desire by using a playlist instead of hiring a DJ or live band. Choosing the playlist option may save you $500-$1,500 depending on the DJ or band selection.

6. Miscellaneous

There are a number of miscellaneous services and products you can become enamored with and overwhelmed by while planning your wedding. However, if it doesn’t fit within the budget, leave it out. Save the Date cards can be replaced by e-mail or website notifications. Wedding favors typically get tossed out by guests after the event, so don’t get too focused on having them as part of the celebration. The list goes on and on.

The above only represents a handful of the various components of wedding celebration. As you can see the costs add-up and can become overwhelming. Remember, there are couples who have opted for a courthouse ceremony and are still married today. Don’t allow the infatuation of “I do” cause you to “go broke” in the process. Make smart money decisions that will allow you to save for your long-term future instead of a 4-10-hour event.

Kenny Pugh is a strategist, coach, speaker, media personality, and a sought-after speaker on finances, singleness, relationships, and life.