Creating a Realistic Wedding Budget

Creating a realistic wedding budget is so easy. It definitely won’t feel about as enjoyable as stubbing your toe while suffering gastro, and having to listen to Jingle Bells on repeat. Nope.

Here’s a plan to help you create a realistic wedding budget that’ll make your planning journey free from awkward whisper shouting matches with your beloved feat. phrases like, “DO WE EVEN NEED THIS?”, “MY GOD, DID THEY ADD AN EXTRA ZERO?”, and “MONEY DOESN’T GROW ON TREES SHARON!”

Strap in Marry-ers!

Step 1: Get engaged to your dream human. Be super excited. Kiss and intercourse lots. Instagram the shit out of your news. Start a Pinterest board for your radical wedding.

Step 2: Go out to celebrate numerous times. Chat excitedly with your beloved over celebration booze. What sort of wedding do they want? What do you want? Should you get a live band and a DJ? Hold up, what about two DJs who can battle each other, because remember you met at that gig! What should your budget be? Let’s cartwheel down the aisle together! And so forth.

Step 3: After you’ve consumed 1.75 bottles of upper mid-range sparkling (because it’s a celebration, we’re engaged FFS!), decide your budget is £12,000. That’s heaps, you agree. People who spend £50,000 are ding dongs, you giggle together. We’ve got this, insert high fives and a semi-inappropriate public pash.

Step 4: The next day, open a god forsaken spreadsheet. Spend 3.5 hours colour coding the columns and rows. We’re non-traditional you know, we MUST have a colourful spreadsheet.

Step 5: Start adding wedding budget line items to the rows – you know the ones; dress, suit, reception, cars etc.

Step 6: Add monetary values to next to each wedding line item, by wildly guessing a) what you think they’re worth/ you are willing to pay, and b) what your work friend Susan paid for her wedding in 2003. What could possibly go wrong? Remember, it’s gotta add up to your magical £12k that you made up after drinking 1.75 bottles of upper mid-range sparkling.

Step 7: At the bottom of column B, impress yourself by doing a SUM equation in your spready, and total up the cost of ALL. THOSE. LINE. ITEMS.

Step 8: Freak the fuck out, start shouting things like, “THAT’S KARDASHIAN MONEY!”, “OVER MY DEAD BODY!”, and “NO YOU CALM DOWN!”, to your fiancé. Throw yourself dramatically onto your bed, convinced you’ll never be able to marry your boo, unless you can work out how to become a ‘Nigerian prince’ in your own personal internet scam, because everyone knows it’s pointless trying to rob a bank these days.

Step 9: Don’t talk about the wedding for 13.8 days due to extreme cost-related forlorn-ery (it’s def a word and a thing). Meanwhile, secretly Pinterest the shit out of cool stuff for that rad wedding, while wondering if you have the chutzpah and criminal connections to run a successful internet scam. How hard is it anyways, to ask strangers via email if they can mind your £7.4 million for you (a prince/astronaut/petroleum company exec)?

I’ve got news for you, friend, you went about making a wedding budget ALL WRONG.

“What are you talking about? I made a flipping spreadsheet, which included a goddamn formula!” you shout back enraged, spit flying.

Me in hushed, soothing tones; “Spreadsheets usually ARE the answer to everything, but in this case, you need to shut down Excel and back away from those line items.”

Here’s how to set a realistic wedding budget. And it doesn’t start with pound signs…

You’ve gotta start with PRIORITIES

Ask yourselves:
💖 What’s important for your wedding?
💖 How you want the wedding to look? What’s your vibe?
💖 How do you want to feel, and what do you want your guests to experience?

These are the things you need to start with, not arbitrary numbers shoved into a spreadsheet. Here’s a riveting example; we bought a warehouse for our glorious vintage furniture and decided to build a second floor for an office and workshops.

Following the same basic process in the steps above (but with £5 sparkling, due to the enormous cost of warehouses these days #amirite), we got excited, talked about what we wanted to do, then set a budget, BOOM! We made a spreadsheet. We shoved figures in that added up to the amount we decided it was worth. Had we ever done major construction in a warehouse before? No. Did we let that bother us when making a budget, of course not!

And so began the painful process of getting quotes back for two, three, FOUR times what we’d planned. One eve, I bemoaned this to my Dad saying that the electrician’s quote came in at £6k when I thought it’d cost about £1.5k.

He asked where the original number from, and I realised, it was simply what I WANTED it to cost, so it fit into my budget. Actually, for the amount of work to be done, by two skilled tradespeople, £6k was what the job was worth.

MAJOR LESSON LEARNED: Things don’t cost what I think they should. They cost what they cost. And the reason I’ve used a trade example is so you can see this is true across the board. It’s not the dreaded (and in my opinion, fictitious) ‘wedding tax’. It’s just what things cost.

So, BACK to priorities

You can opt not to have a wedding cake, but in the above riveting warehouse example, I could hardly say ‘Yeah, nah’ to having power. Running 47 extension cords upstairs and creating an ugly, spark-riddled office power board farm is foolishness, and deeply unsafe. Choosing not to have cake at your wedding is 100% OK. Maybe neither of you really get a boner for cake. Maybe you’re cheese people. It’s about what’s most important to you and thus, focusing your dollaroonies there.

Use your priorities to set a realistic budget

Decide on your top four priorities. If you can’t whittle it down to four, imagine you could ONLY have four things total at your wedding, and see where you end up.

Here’s mine for wedding #3 (be careful current husbo! JK, I couldn’t be bothered again):

  1. Killer outfits; rainbow ballerina dress for starters.
  2. Rad celebrant; scene setters + the only non-negotiable in the getting of the married!
  3. Baked potato bar where you make your own creations. There’s a cheese fountain people. A cheese fountain.
  4. Styling budget! I cannot do simple. I will not do simple. It’s unthinkable.

Now you’ve got your priorities. Great job dude/ette! Research those priority areas, looking at products, services and suppliers who provide them.

Instagram, Pinterest, Google (if you’re feeling game or have niche search terms; srsly, do not search broad terms like ‘wedding shoes’ unless you want to be eyeholes deep in ivory court shoes and cream pumps that either cost 12p or £9,800, and all of them are a fucking disgrace), locate some rad wedding mags (like Rock n Roll Bride obvs!), and blogs (as well as, um, this one, we also like Green Wedding Shoes, Way Out Wedding, Bespoke Bride, Whimsical Wonderland Weddings and Bespoke Bride) and see what appeals to you.

Once you’ve found suppliers you dig, enquire about pricing to see what it costs to have the things you’re gravitating towards. With ballpark figures in your hot little brain, pop those priorities into spreadsheet V2; the version that won’t make you come down with a life-threatening case of forlorn-ery.

What do they add up to? What’s left for other things you need for your wedding? What do you not give two shits about that can go straight in the bin? Be ruthless. Only include stuff that mean something to you, rather than Pinterest crazes, or anything that people tell you is a must have. It’s their must have, not yours.

Build your budget based on what’s most important to you, along with what things actually cost. Your work friend who got married 15 years ago doesn’t know shit about current wedding costs. STFU, Susan.

Your budget needs to be an amount you can afford, and a figure that sits well with you. For some, spending £3k is huge, while others are happy to allocate a year’s wages. It really does come down to what you value (there’s those priorities again!). No matter what size your budget is, you’re still open to stress and sticker shock, if you don’t work out those priorities.

There ain’t nothing romantic about unsecured debt, so avoid loans and credit card debt if at all possible. Also be aware that contributions from parents often come with strings (I MUST invite my whole racquetball team/you can’t possibly wear/have/do that and other annoying shizzle), so consider whether you’re down with that.

If your research shows your priorities are not affordable, look for new, cheaper, creative ways to achieve them:

💖 You want a kick-arse party vibe (priorities; rad venue, amazing DJ, open bar, delish food), but it’ll leave no money for anything else? Cut people from your guest list, find a cheaper venue and have a restricted bar so that you can still have a killer party wedding, but one that fits into your budget.

💖 The dress you love is wayyyyy out of your budget? Try second hand, there are a BUNCH of wedding dress marketplaces to snag a bargain, or hunt out independent designers online who can create you something one-of-a-kind for often a fraction of the cost of a designer frock.

I can’t recommend enough having a budget created in reality. It’s a big stressor for couples when they constantly feel blindsided by what things cost and are sliding into debt. Y’all, that is NOT how you want to feel at such a special time.

Use this advice to set yourselves up to have a fun, excellent, awesome time planning your wedding. Use your priorities to keep on track, lest you slip into adding things you really don’t need. Weddings are bloody awesome, but in the end it’s about you two joining together, and it really should be a lovely experience, free of dumb stress and enjoyment levels akin to repeated dick punches. Go forth and prioritise because prioritising is so Rock n Roll.

ABOUT KATE FORSYTH

Co-founder and creative director of Melbourne vintage furniture hire and event styling legends, Good Day Club, Kate Forsyth is an expert at stacking unstackable vintage chairs and designing the raddest, most non-traditional and fun weddings known to wo/man. Outside of running her business with husbo Dave, she parents small human Remy, plays the drums and just painted her house every colour of the rainbow.

This article originally appeared in the now sold out Sept/Oct 2019 issue of Rock n Roll Bride magazine. The current issue is now available on the high street or to purchase via our website. Photos are from Stevie-Rae and Sammy’s wedding which was also published in the same issue.

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