Though the happiest part of saying ‘I do’ is getting to spend forever with your one-and-only, making it to the altar requires compromise and careful budgeting. Determining how much you can spend, what you should cut back on to make room for extra cash and finding ways to meet in the middle may not be the sexiest exercise—but it’s one that will save on arguments during this special time.
The best way to make wedding planning finances digestible and effective is to create a monthly budget. This allows you to determine how much you need to muster up over the next year. Rather than requiring a large sum instantly, breaking it down over time makes it easier.
Here, a guide from financial professionals on setting a monthly budget to help save for your wedding.
First, get the lay of your financial land.
Before you can figure out your savings goal, you need to have an accurate picture of your financial landscape—not only as a couple but as individuals, too. As the vice president of Young Investors for Fidelity Investments, Kelly Lannan explains, when we think about planning for any big goal, getting our financial house in order is step one. She suggests taking inventory of your expenses including bills and subscriptions, as well as loan payments and rent. Then, gather all data on income coming in—whether from full-time jobs, side hustles or both.
In an ideal world, Lannan says following the 50/15/5 monthly budget is the most effective strategy. This means 50 percent of your income should cover essentials, like rent, utilities and groceries. Then, 15 percent is what you should aim to save toward retirement. Lastly, 5 percent goes toward short-term savings. “The remaining 30 percent can be spent as you see fit, whether that be opportunities to treat yourself, or putting more money toward a special savings goal—like your wedding,” she adds.
Determine how much you are willing to spend.
With your financial scope top-of-mind, CPA and founder of the accounting firm Gauvreau & Associates, Robert Gauvreau says it’s time to pull up your sleeves and figure out how much you’re willing to shell out for your big day. Everyone values the various elements of a wedding differently. While some duos only want to serve the best, top-shelf liquor, others care about the overall decor and theme heavily. This is where you’ll need to learn to talk openly and candidly about what matters to you, and apply working number figures to each category. Gauvreau suggests breaking it out into sections: photography, gifts for the wedding party and family, food and beverage, venue, flowers and decor, attire, and so on. With a ballpark in mind, you can start to realize your overall spend—and your limitations.
“Once you establish the costs, you can determine if your specific costs fit within your total budget. If not, you will need to make concessions to some items that you may not feel strongly have to be part of the wedding. Or, you can come up with alternative arrangements to reduce the cost,” he explains. As an example, you may want to have your wedding at a fancy ballroom, however, when determining costs, you feel that having the wedding ceremony at a smaller venue may be a better fit for the pocket book.
Have the tough conversations so you’re on the same page.
Your partner is happy to pay $100 a bottle for the best champagne available. You, on the other hand, want to air on the conservative side and put that extra dough toward a house. So what’s the middle ground? One champagne toast with the good stuff—and prosecco for the rest. Lannan says there are many difficult discussions to navigate when figuring out the financial side of wedding planning. “When you’re single, you’re generally making your own decisions about how you prioritize saving and spending. But as part of a couple, it’s important that you’re open about how you think about money, what your financial obligations are, and what your goals are for the future to ensure you’re on the same page,” she explains.
Consider talking about who will pay for what too: Are you comfortable having your partner’s family pay for most of the wedding? What about the honeymoon? Setting your boundaries together will ensure you’re on the same page throughout the year-long process.
Cut back on day-to-day spending.
Since you have a total wedding budget range in mind—remembering that the average cost of a wedding hovers somewhere around $30,000—you can begin finding areas to cut back. To do this, you should go through each expense and determine if it’s ‘fixed’ or ‘flexible’, according to the vice president and general manager of The Balance, Lauren Silbert. Your mortgage/rent, health insurance, electric bill and so on are fixed—meaning you have to pay them. But Netflix? Hulu? Your twice-a-month mani/pedi? Those are flexible since they aren’t exactly necessary. Together, you can both make sacrifices to give you a little extra wiggle room in your wedding budget. Want that slightly more expensive wine pairing? Consider what you can give up for 12 months so you can afford it. “Could you sacrifice some going out during the year so you can snag the photo booth vendor you want?,” Silbert challenges. “Make the adjustments to your monthly budget with a clear head and you’ll be happy with your map for the rest of the year.”
Strategize your savings account.
Like saving for any goal, Lannan says the earlier you start and the longer you have to save, the better! If you have a wedding date in mind for 2021, you have plenty of time to open a high-yield savings account or money market fund that will earn a bit of interest—but also allow you to access it when you need it, penalty-free. For a wedding that’s a few years down the line—say 2022 or 2023—you could go an alternate route that could make more money. “If your dream wedding is further into the future, you may want to consider investing some of your savings to take advantage of the power of compounding and potential earnings from investments,” she explains.
Break it out in a way you can manage.
If a monthly budget doesn’t work for you, figure out what does! Everyone thinks about money through various lenses, and for some, touch-points throughout the month are necessary. Gauvreau suggests figuring out your strategy as a team. “Once you determine the amount you need to save, you can divide that total by the number of weeks remaining until your wedding date, and determine if it is possible to save those types of funds on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis,” he recommends. “Once you have your costs and required savings in place, now all you need to do is execute on the plans and savings, and look forward to celebrating one of the most memorable events of your lifetime.”