Budget. It’s a word that often connotes limits. But, for wedding planning, a budget should be seen as a valuable, rather than restrictive, tool.
Couples planning to celebrate their unions among family and friends will need to think about cost at almost every turn. But considering it on a broad scale, at the beginning of the process, can help couples focus on the meaning, rather than the money, of a wedding.
Creating a wedding budget involves first assessing both partners’ financial situations and determining how much can be saved each day — by everything from squirreling away bits of each paycheck to foregoing Starbucks in favor of homemade coffee — until the event. Once the scale of the wedding is determined, marrying that with the figure you can spend is a careful dance, relying on creativity and research.
First, figure out what you want to spend the most on. Most couples spend the most on their venue, followed by photographers and then florists — but the order of importance is unique to each couple’s interests. Do you want a large, upscale venue? Or would you rather have a simple setting and top-notch photography? Once your priorities are situated, you can begin fitting together each aspect of the wedding like puzzle pieces into your budget.
Getting the right price for each of your wedding needs requires doing your homework. Scour websites like TheKnot.com (and its LGBT pages), RainbowWeddingNetwork.com or EquallyWed.com to compile full lists of potential vendors, many of whom may offer price points on their websites. Once you begin meeting with businesses, as my fiancé and I found, many vendors may start off by asking how much you want to spend on their particular service; keep in mind the adage that the first to name a figure may lose. We found it best to keep our spending goals a bit vague until we got closer to booking.
And when it comes to that step, don’t be afraid to negotiate. These vendors want your business, just as much as you want their expertise, so don’t be afraid to make sure you get what you want for all you want to spend. To cut costs, ask vendors if they can make slight modifications to their standard packages — cut out an appetizer stand at your reception, reduce your open bar from four hours to three-and-a-half or ask for more digital, and fewer print, photos from your photographer. And make sure to document all of your quotes so you can ask vendors to price match.
Another cost-saving method is to think outside the traditional wedding box — which is easier to do for same-sex weddings, which often deviate from the common church-wedding format. Instead of paying a small fortune for fresh flowers, why not make your own out of materials like origami or tissue paper? There are heaps of online how-to guides that walk even the most artistically challenged person through crafting a sea of different paper flowers that look just as, and in some cases even more, beautiful than the real thing. While you lose out on the fragrance of real stems, going DIY puts a more personal touch on the event — and can make for some humorous memories as you and your betrothed exercise your artfulness.
Also easy to DIY are ceremony and reception decorations. For traditional weddings, flower-focused centerpieces can run hundreds of dollars each. Candle-centered pieces, picture collages or other items fitting with a theme (pumpkin arrangements in the fall or weathered books for a vintage look) all are alternatives to the pricey, and sometimes overdone, floral centerpieces — and can often be pieced together by the couple. For an added cost-cutting bonus, try to tie together several decorative elements into one: My fiancé and I found a way to use our placecards as part of our favors — cutting cost and finding a multi-faceted function for as much as we can.
Another big cost is often stationery, like save-the-dates and invitations. While it’s not a viable option for everyone, some couples are trending toward evites as opposed to snail-mail cards. The pro is the low (or no) cost, but not all guests may be Internet-savvy, and others may prefer to keep a paper reminder on their fridge. Another option is a paper invite with an online RSVP (done easily through sites like TheKnot.com, where couples can set up their own free and customized wedding page, to which guests can RSVP).
Perhaps one of the biggest cost-saving tools is relying on your own network. Family or friends (or friends of friends of friends) may be looking to give their DJ, floral or photography company a leg up in the wedding industry and may be willing to knock their prices down to do so. Just as friendraising is often as important as fundraising in the nonprofit world, reach out to people you know (and those who know people) to enlist their help. Working with people you know can come with its own obstacles, but looking for wedding expertise among your own circle of contacts is another way to maximize your budget.