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Wedding Budget Advice


I have gone to a few wedding planning budget tools online and have been shocked at the results when I put in my ACTUAL wedding dollars spent for my ACTUAL number of wedding guests. These national wedding websites are great in many ways but when it comes to wedding budgets they leave a lot to be desired. My critique of most wedding budget advice and budget checklists include:

  • budgets don't reflect the costs in my city
  • budgets don't reflect my values on what is important to me (most of us have one or two REALLY important things)
  • budgets don't reflect my unique contributions to the wedding (in my case we ended up having the entire wedding and reception in my church which, as a member, was free (minus the $75 janitor fee.)
  • budgets don't tell you what you will get for the dollar amount (this is why a lot of weddings go over budget... your alloted 3% of the budget to invitations doesn't really tell you if you'll have to make invitations on your computer or can afford really attractive wedding invitations that reflect your theme or style


Wedding budgets are also difficult because, by their very nature, weddings are planned by couples who have never had a wedding (with obvious exceptions like second time marrieds but even then weddings tend to be smaller and one person may be entering their first marriage.) Then add in the fact that regional prices play a huge role in what money can buy you, a couples own quirks - family size, culture, and the emotional baggage everyone brings to the wedding planning table, and you're set up for a lot of stress!


Deprivation Model of Wedding Budgets


One important element of wedding budget advice I hate is what I call the DEPRIVATION model. The idea is that to be on a budget you must chose things that you wouldn't normally think of or want for your wedding. To "have the wedding of your dreams" on a budget , the typical advice goes:


  • you should really have a Friday or Sunday wedding
  • have an afternoon wedding or
  • spend a lot of time on "DIY" (do it yourself) wedding elements to save money


This advice can be quite unhelpful if there is no way you're going to make people take time off work to travel for a Friday wedding (or a Sunday wedding when they would have to travel on a Monday.) It also means you have to take more time off work yourself and in the case of DIY projects you could spend a lot more TIME then you have doing things that for a few dollars take no time. And if weddings to you are a big dancing party you would not likely get the same feel at a 2pm afternoon wedding as you would an evening wedding!


So we will walk you through our recommendations on setting a wedding budget and then give you some creative ways to think about weddings that do NOT INVOLVE DEPRIVING YOURSELF of this big "Cinderella day."



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Elizabeth Doherty Thomas, is a co-founder of The First Dance, along with Marriage and Family therapist father Bill Doherty. The First Dance is a 2007 Modern Bride Trendsetter award winner for taking on the complex family dynamics of wedding planning. See what engaged couples and wedding professionals are saying about our book Take Back Your wedding. Our entire website is dedicated to offering advice on working through the people stresses of wedding planning as a couple, with your families, and how to strengthen your upcoming marriage through this enormous first task of married life.