Consultation with your Wedding FloristYou’re planning your wedding, the day you’ve dreamed about for as long as you can remember. As you’re starting to plan the details, reality hits. How on earth will you pay for it? Remember, the ultimate goal of your wedding plan centers on hosting a well-orchestrated event that is memorable to you and your families, and enjoyable for your guests. Careful planning, attention to detail and disciplined prioritizing can help you to achieve this goal — even on a tight budget. Here are eight tips to help maximize your wedding budget.

1. Set a budget

Before shopping wedding sites and services, determine the amount you can afford to spend. Speak honestly with those who will contribute to covering the costs, such as bride and groom or parents. Determine together who will pay for what and decide on an amount that all agree not to exceed. Divide this amount equally into the categories of expense.  

For example:

  • Ceremony: facility, dress, flowers, etc.
  • Reception: food, flowers, linens, etc.
  • Services: director, photographer,  etc.

A wedding spreadsheet is great way to list projected expense and itemize costs. As you make purchases, write down every expenditure to keep an accurate accounting of costs.

2. Prioritize expense

Focus first on the areas of expense that are most important to you. Consider which items will be most noticeable to guests, such as flowers and food. Which items will be captured in the wedding photography, such as flowers and fashion, etc. Create a list of secondary items that you would like to include, but do so only if you have the funds left over. When working with a tight budget, every expense must be itemized and prioritized.

3. Keep all areas in balance

The key to a unified and harmonious look for your wedding is keeping the presentation of all areas of expense in balance. This is especially important when working within a tight budget, as the differences can be more noticeable.

Outdoor Wedding Reception — Photo by Sharon McGukin, AAF, AIFD, PFCIOnce you have potential expense projections, write out your budget. Divide your funds between all areas equally. Recognize that if you overspend in one area you will have to subtract from another. Spending too much money in one category and not enough in another will visually produce a non-harmonious effect. Decide first on the degree of formality, then plan for a careful balance of food, flowers, facilities and festivities that complement one another. No one area of expense should overwhelm the others.

4. Consider cost effective facilities

One of the first and most expensive decisions is your selection of ceremony and reception facilities. To decide your facility needs, consider the number of guests you expect a site to accommodate. Anticipate the amount of food, flowers and other décor that will be required for balance at that site. Ask major questions relating to costs, such as:

  • Are there less expensive food options?
  • Will the facility provide chairs, tables and linens?
  • Can you provide your own alcohol?

Outline your needs and ask for an estimate in your initial inquiry. A site that is too large for a small gathering or a site that is too small for a large crowd can lead to additional headaches and greater expense. Do your homework in advance and choose a setting that fits the size of your guest list and keeps the budget in line.

Wedding Reception Centerpiece — Photo by Sharon McGukin, AAF, AIFD, PFCI5. Keep attendant list small

Key to keeping the numbers down is to select a small number of attendants. The number of attendants you choose for your wedding party will ultimately influence the amount of flowers, food, beverage and space required for your event. Typically, each addition of an attendant requires that you include additional friends and family that share that person’s relationship with you. To hold costs down invite a lesser number of participants, and therefore guests, to your wedding.

6. Use your creativity

Being cautious financially doesn’t necessarily limit the ambiance of your event. In fact, diligently working within a budget can inspire you to compensate in ultra creative ways. Explore ideas that use the combined talents of your friends and family to create an interesting event, even on a shoestring. If you have a special talent, explore bartering your services in advance for professional services on the day of your wedding. For example, if you are a graphic designer, offer to create a new logo and design for a vendor’s business cards and stationery as payment instead of cash.

7.         Adopt cost-cutting measures

Choose to use heirloom items from family weddings of the past such as borrowing mom’s dress (altered professionally to fit you), using a sister or friend’s veil, repurposing a niece’s flower girl basket, etc. Suggest that male participants wear suits instead of tuxes. Cut food costs by scheduling the ceremony so that the reception is positioned in a time slot when a formal meal is not expected, such as the middle of the afternoon. Choose a color for the bridesmaids’ dresses, then allow them to wear one they already own or buy one off the rack in a price they can afford — with your approval, of course.

8.         Create a “help needed” registry

If you don’t need another toaster, and the expense of giving a wedding gift is a problem for some guests, develop a “help needed” list of chores that family and friends can help with in organizing your wedding or getting you established in your new life. Cash-strapped loved ones might appreciate the opportunity to volunteer an afternoon of painting in your new home or offer a couple of hours of their professional advice to you for free. A written “I owe you” for help moving furniture or setting up a new computer in place can be most valuable. For some people who are experiencing a cash crunch, this frugal gift of assistance, fun and fellowship can fit the bill as the perfect wedding gift. Post your list online as a registry so volunteers can sign up. Be sure to show your appreciation (i.e. … hand-write a thank-you note!) for this gift of time and effort just as you would a purchased gift.

What cost-saving ideas can you suggest for working within a tight wedding budget?

Sharon McGukin is the author of “Flowers of the Heart: A Bride’s Guide to Choosing Flowers for her Wedding.