How to Create a Realistic Bridal Budget

By Laura Jacobi

Does your dream wedding include the designer princess gown you dog-eared in a high-end magazine or a gaggle of doves being released when you kiss? These are questions the bride and groom should answer before planning and budgeting for a wedding.

Katy Baker, a wedding planner with the Association of Bridal Professionals, asks her brides and grooms to make specific lists before planning their wedding budget. Each has to describe their dream wedding and promise each other to make at least three of those elements become reality. They then list all the aspects of the big day—such as the dress, flowers and food—prioritized by what they feel is most important.

Baker suggests indulging in what they feel is most important, and scaling back on the items at the bottom of their list.

The couple needs to be completely clear on who is paying for what, which isn’t always the easiest question to ask the parents or future in-laws. But it’s vital to the process. This will help the couple determine what they need to commit to and begin saving those dollars.

Even if hiring a wedding coordinator isn’t in the budget, most would advise couples to come in for a consultation. Aimee Wendell, of the Association of Bridal Professionals, said too many couples enter wedding planning blindly, having no idea what services cost. By sitting down with a wedding planner to develop a budget, couples can make more educated decisions. Planners can also refer couples to vendors who fit into their budget guidelines.

Once the couple has determined the budget, it’s time to start saving. Leslie Beck, of the Financial Planning Association. She advises grooms- and brides-to-be establish separate savings or money market accounts for their wedding fund. She said co-mingling funds before tying the knot could equal more hassles if they don’t make it down the aisle.

The bride and groom should determine how much each of them would need to save weekly until the wedding bills arrive. Once calculated, arrange for that amount to automatically be deducted from the paychecks and transferred into a wedding account.

And each time the couple saves with one of the following tips, put that savings into a wedding fund:

  • Pack a lunch a few days a week or skip the appetizers or alcohol at dinner and pocket that savings.
  • Make at least one or two date nights a month a “free date,” meaning everything has to be free (a night at the museum, a walk in the park, watch a DVD from your collection, etc.).
  • The engagement is the perfect time to sell the old stuff that shouldn’t follow a couple into marriage. Sell any household duplicates or jewelry given by old boyfriends/girlfriends. With the price of gold lately, some people will be surprised what they get for an old, gold heart necklace.

No matter how much is saved, financial advisors don‘t recommend blowing all the cash on the dream wedding. It might hurt them in the post-wedding reality called marriage, when adventures such as mortgages and child-care could arise.

There are numerous ways to cut the wedding budget here and there. But most wedding and financial planners agree the best way to create and keep on budget is to educate yourself on what you want and need and the cost, and then set a realistic plan how to get there.