Wedding Budget Blow-outs : How to avoid them

by Jennifer Cram Brisbane Marriage Celebrant © (21/07/2019)
Categories: | Wedding Budget |
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Broken Piggy BankBy far the most significant cause of wedding stress is money. Aligning your wedding day dreams with what you can afford is not an easy task. Creating a budget and sticking to it takes time, concentration, and commitment when there is so much choice of ways to spend on your wedding, and so many unintended and unexpected ways in which your budget can blow out.

However, a little bit of forward planning, prioritising your wants and needs before you decide what your bottom line is will go a long way to make the process less painful, and doing your research about actual costs, will do a great deal to make sure that your budget is both realistic and within your means.

Before you start, bear in mind that the quickest way to blow the budget is to increase the number of guests, and that most couples overspend by at least 20% - largely because they did not budget enough for must-haves, or they did not include a wide range of expenses that might not have been apparent when doing their initial research.

Build your Wedding Budget from the Bottom Up

The best way to make sure that you spend only what you can afford but still have the wedding of your dreams, is to build your wedding budget from the bottom up, a process that will go a long way to clarifying your priorities. NB you need to do this as a couple. Not only are two heads, two perspectives, better than one, but this is the most efficient way of making sure that you both have nothing to regret about the day.

This is how it works:
  1. Stop thinking about how much money you have, and start thinking of your wedding budget as $0.00, an amount you want to go over as little as possible.  You may have a dollar amount in your head, but definitely don't tell anyone else what that is because that number usually becomes the minimum amount rather than the maximum amount.
  2. Using this template as a guide, list all those things you want and need:
Budget Building
  1. Once you have listed everything you can think of, put them in priority order
  2. Now start costing each item. This will require some actual research for real costs in your area. Your variable costs will usually be quoted on a per person basis.  Make sure you note both the per-person and the total for each item on your budget sheet. On a per guest basis, the more guests you have the higher the variable costs. Your fixed costs will always be quoted as total cost per item (for example the total cost of the dress). For a reality check, where appropriate, divide each of the fixed costs by the number of guests, such as the wedding decorations, ceremony venue hire, etc.
  3. Draw a line when you get to the amount you would feel comfortable spending.
  4. Everything above the line now fits into your actual budget, but your work isn't done, because it is time to look closely at your list again ... and make sure that you haven't missed the very things that will blow your budget in a heartbeat.

Unplanned for costs

One of the biggest causes of budget blow-outs are things you didn't plan for. These unplanned for costs fall into five categories
1.    Things that were overlooked in your original budget
2.    Things that you did not budget enough for
3.    Things that you later decided to upgrade to a more luxe version
4.    Hidden costs
5.    Genuine emergencies

Things that were overlooked in your original budget
There is a wide range of expenses that are typically overlooked in the intial budget planning:
  • Postage
    Mailing costs for Save the Dates, Invitations, and Thank You Notes is often overlooked.
  • Plan B expenses
    If you’re having an outdoor ceremony and/or reception you will need to have a Plan B in place in case o bad weather. Even although these plans may be on an as-needed basis, you may well have to pay a holding fee of some sort.
  • Additional hair and makeup trials
    Your initial research should identify costs attached to trials for hair and makeup, but it would be wise to double that amount to allow for your first choice not working out.
  • Tools needed for DIY projects
  • Vendor meals
    Your photographer, videographer, DJ/Band and MC will all be working for considerable number of hours on the day. Vendor meals are expected. You can't expect people to work for 6-12 hours straight (eg your photographer) without having a meal or two, and still be able to do their best work. These meals are generally simpler than those you feed your guests, but you will need to pay your venue to prepare and serve them.
  • Cutting and plating fees for your wedding cake
  • Rental item delivery and pickup fees
  • Transportation
    While most couples include some transportation in their budget, it is not unusual for some or all of the people needing to be transported to the ceremony, between the ceremony and the reception, or between the reception and where they are spending the night, to be left off the list.
  • Extra hours with your photographer and videographer and other late fees
    A delay in start time can mean you need your photographer or videographer to stay past their contracted finish time. This will cost. Delays in clearing away chairs and other ceremony decor from your ceremony site could attract a penalty fee, and so on.
  • Accommodation
    Rooms for the two of you for the night before the wedding, your room for the night of your wedding day, and possibly accommodation for  members of your bridal party.
  • Travel costs for wedding vendors
    When you have chosen a venue some distance away.

Things that you didn’t budget enough for
Using generic figures to set your budget, using out-of-date budget figures from published budget planners, using figures that are for a different geographic area, or not allowing realistic costs for what you choose to have, can very easily result in significant under-budgeting. Common areas where this happens are

  • Postage
    Add extra guests, or choose  Save the Dates, Invitations, or Thank You Notes that are not the standard size, and your postage costs can easily blow out quite significantly.
  •  Wedding vendor services
    It is not uncommon for celebrants, photographers, videographers etc to receive enquiries seeking a cheap service “because we are on a budget” and quoting a maximum fee that would mean the vendor would be operating at a loss. 
  • Printing, signs, wedding decor
    When your taste doesn’t align with the pricepoint you thought would meet your needs
  • Transportation
    When the distance to be travelled exceeds that originally planned, for example, when you chose a more distant venue than originally planned.

Things you decided to upgrade to a more luxe version
These commonly include the dress, the flowers, the décor, the venue, and the honeymoon

Hidden costs

I've yet to see a published wedding budget that lists all of the major sources of hidden costs, because they are the bits that you usually don't notice, even when you are starting to go over budget and wondering why it is blowing out.

Here are the four major sources of hidden costs that you need to be aware of, and budget for when planning your wedding.
  1. Expenses that are additional to the things in the contract
  2. Expenses you incur because of the wedding
  3. Money you didn’t earn because you were busy doing wedding planning
  4. Interest on loans or credit

Expenses that are additional to the things in the contract.
Regardless of how carefully you’ve checked the contract, down the track you will discover that there are costs of doing business with your contracted suppliers that you haven't factored into your budget, including:

  • The cost of traveling to meet with each of your vendors. These can be considerable if you've chosen a wedding venue that isn't exactly round the corner from where you live or work. If you have to travel to meet with vendors local to your venue, the costs will add up. But it won't show up on your wedding budget unless you've calculated what these trips will cost and included them in the budget.
  • Postage costs for anything you have to send to these vendors or to your venue.

Expenses you incur because of the wedding.
While you might not resent this sort of spending, without the wedding, maybe you wouldn't have needed to buy someone a make-up gift because wedding stresses made you blow up at them, or all the rushing around (and dieting to fit into your dream wedding outfit) has made you drop a size or two, so you treat yourself to some new clothes. Or you decide to have some cosmetic dentistry so you can flash perfect pearly whites in the photos. And then there is the costs that pop up after the wedding, like professional dry-cleaning. It can all add up.

Money you didn't earn because you were busy doing wedding planning
A drop in your income over your wedding planning period might not show up straight away, but come tax time, if you haven't noticed before, you could get a bit of a shock, and a much smaller tax refund.
Reduction in your income can be because of:

  • less paid overtime
  • less unpaid overtime which reduced your annual bonus
  • unpaid leave to deal with wedding-related crises
  • deliberately restricting the amount of work you take on if running your own business

Interest on loans or credit
When you set your budget, did you envisage that some of the money would come from a loan, or did you plan to spread your expenditure by using a credit card? Either way, you will be paying interest.

The Good News - and a Contingency Fund

If you have carefully prioritised your wants and needs, and accurately costed them, every time an additional expense pops up you should be able to make some adjustments. Start thinking outside the box sooner or later, planning about how you will achieve some items for the least cost without compromising your priorities (thereby reducing your total cost), and earmark some of your “savings” as a contingency fund. 10% is a comfortable margin to ensure that you don’t go a single cent over budget.

Thanks for reading!

Jenny xxx Let's talk soon about how you
                      can have the best ceremony ever

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