Planning a Wedding Without Breaking the Bank

August 25, 2008

Chances are, the first thing you will want to do when you find out you are going to be married is to start planning!

Whether you’re dreaming of having a large traditional wedding, or an intimate gathering of close family and friends, it can be easy to go overboard in the planning stages.

There are so many things to consider; the location, the dress and tuxedos, the reception – all the way down to the favors you will give your guests and the time of day you want to get married. With that in mind, here are some realistic strategies for planning your wedding without breaking the bank!

Do It Yourself:

Planning everything yourself can be time consuming, strenuous, and more than a little intimidating – but it doesn’t have to be. There are some excellent tools available to help you organize your wedding plans, and help you bring everything together seamlessly so that you can have the wedding you’ve always dreamed about.

Wedding Planning Software:

You can use inexpensive wedding planning software to automate many of the time consuming tasks that planning a wedding involves:

  • Keep track of your wedding budget
  • Maintain a calendar of appointments for fittings, food tastings, meetings and photography
  • Have an accurate and up to date guest list
  • Design the perfect seating arrangement for your reception guests
  • Track bridal shower and wedding gifts
  • Keep an address list for thank you notes

There are dozens of software programs out there for you to use when you plan your wedding, but a few stand head and shoulders above the rest.

  • Smart Wedding for $34.99 you get all of the necessary planning functions, as well as the ability to print both the inner and outer envelopes for your wedding invitations.
  • EZ Wedding Planner This is a free planner that also comes with several guides including music and registry suggestions, and a quick guide for the bride and groom. It also features checklists for your photographer, and an etiquette guide that explains who is supposed to pay for what.
  • My Wedding Companion This software has a free 30 day trial and uses a “fill in the blanks” budget option that takes most of the guesswork out of planning your wedding. You can simply eliminate expenses that you don’t want, and add in anything that is not featured.

If you choose not to use software to plan your wedding, you will want to make sure that you are very organized. Otherwise, you might find some of the smaller details slipping through the cracks. After all, the last thing you want to do is to forget your rings on the big day, or forget to tell your photographer that certain family members need to be photographed.

In addition to using software, and keeping a folder designed specifically to keep track of your details, you will probably want to enlist the aid of a close friend or parent. Have this person help you run errands, oversee the seating arrangements, check to see that the cake is delivered and set up correctly, and anything else you think they might be willing to do to help out.

In fact, if you can get three or four volunteers, it will reduce your stress considerably. This is your big day! Do whatever you can to spend it thinking about walking down that aisle (or seeing your bride walk down that aisle!) instead of worrying about whether or not Aunt Mae was seated next to her ex-husband, or if you contracted the caterer to serve enough food. Plan beforehand, get help, and then let it go and relax. Weddings rarely come off without a hitch or two, so if you have covered the details well enough, then no matter what happens, you will still have the wedding you dreamed of.

But what if that’s not enough? Hiring a professional:

Sometimes there is just no way around it – you need help, and you want someone else to handle the small details so that you can focus on the best parts. That is where a professional wedding planner comes in. The truth is, no matter how diligent you are, how many hours you spent planning, or how much money you spent, things will go wrong. You can’t be expected to handle every issue that comes up on your wedding day – You’ll be busy! That is where either a very good friend, or a wedding planner steps in.

What does a wedding planner do?

Hiring a wedding planner offers you several unique benefits:

  • They’ve done all this before – what is new to you is old hat to them. They expect the emergencies, and the good ones are there with bobby pens, duct tape, face powder and even a sewing kit to take care of whatever you need on your big day.
  • They have a Rolodex full of connections – They already know the best florists, photographers and bakeries in the area, and they know where to go to get you exactly what you want.
  • An experienced wedding planner can help you stick to your budget. They will know where you can cut corners, and they will work with the staff at your wedding and reception sites to clear up any problems before you even notice them.
  • No matter how well you plan, you can’t be everywhere at once. Having someone there on your wedding day, someone that you are paying to be there and take care of things, can give you enormous peace of mind. If something needs to be done, re-done or dealt with, they will do it, not you, and most likely, you will never know that your wedding was anything but perfect.

You might be thinking “Well, sure, that sounds great, but I can’t afford to hire a wedding planner!

Remember that you can always negotiate the fee with your wedding coordinator. Ask if they can lower their rates if you take on some of the responsibility yourself, or have family members agree to oversee those parts instead. Shop around, and don’t automatically accept the first reasonably priced person who comes along. Check their references, talk to their past clients, and evaluate them well first.

Be sure that you are hiring a wedding planner that you can trust. If you do, then their fee will seem well worth it in the end because you will wake up the morning of you wedding excited, happy, and a whole lot less worried about what will happen if something goes wrong.

There are a few other ways to outsource parts of your wedding to help you focus on the main event:

As you plan your wedding, you are probably going to consider hiring a photographer, a videographer, a florist, a caterer, possibly a band, or entertainment of some sort to play at your reception.

Draw up a list of every professional you may need to hire, and work them into your wedding budget so that you know what you can afford before you sit down with them. Otherwise, you could end up spending way, way more than you planned to!

You should also make up a list of questions that you want to ask each professional. Do not forget to ask for discounts either! Most places offer them, but it’s just like anything else – they aren’t going to lower that bill for you unless you specifically ask them to!

One last word of advice: Study any contracts you sign very carefully. My husband and I needed to change the date of our wedding twice before we finally got a date that worked for us as well as our guests. Unfortunately, we lost money on our first reception booking because we did not give them enough notice. You need to understand exactly what the limitations of those contracts are, when the payments are due, and what, if anything you will get back if you need to cancel with them, or change your dates.

This is one of the most special, amazing days of your whole life. Don’t let the planning of it stress you out. Set your wedding date far enough in advance that you have room to make any necessary changes. Accept all the help you can get – whether it’s professional, or family.

As you plan, please try to remember that this day is all about you and your sweetheart. In ten years, the fact that your ring-bearer sneezed all over the altar, or that your cake was slightly lopsided – well, none of that will matter. Only the emotions and memories of that day will matter, as will the life and love that you will share together from that day on.

If you’re going to be planning a destination wedding, check out the article on how to save money on a destination wedding.

These tips for planning a wedding on a budget are part of the Marriage Money Guide.

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10 Responses to Planning a Wedding Without Breaking the Bank

  • Nicola

    Make sure you negotiate on all items as well. There’s plenty of room for manoeuver so don’t be affraid to ask!

  • Connie Brooks

    To LC: Way to plan! Way to work with your future spouse too. I understand totally about the open bar being a budget breaker. We ended up compromising on that. We had the bar, and certain things were free, with the option to pay and buy other things. It helped save us some money anyway.

    I’d be really excited to read about your experiences once your wedding is over. I hope you guys have a happy day to remember.

  • LC

    I’m currently planning my wedding and my budget went from $10K to $25K in the course of a year. My budgeting mistakes included not being realistic about the prices of the specific level of service I wanted (ex: I could get a photographer for $500 but the pictures would be worthless), assuming that DIY on certain items would be less expensive than just contracting out (ex: there are so many vendors on internet, specifically eBay that can do it for cheaper or just slightly more expensive than DIY and it’ll save you time), and lastly, not actually creating a vision of exactly what I wanted and what was important to me and my fiance before divvying out the wedding budget. Turns out a Saturday wedding with an open bar was momentously important to my fiance and a huge budget breaker.

    I’ll probably do a series after the wedding on all of my wedding budget do-s and don’t-s. Luckily, my fiance and I won’t go into debt for the wedding, we saved up enough to cover the expenses all on our own without help from our parents. Any monetary gifts or assistance will be going towards a home purchase after the wedding.


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