How much is it? What, thousand?! OK, what’s the next option down? That’s the cheapest?! Fuck me, I guess we’ll have to rethink the live band. How much did your parents say they’re giving us again? What, hundred?! Shit. Well apparently we have to get them, the planner said they bring the whole theme together. I don’t know what theme, she just said ‘theme’. Maybe we can lose the cocktail truck…”
The wedding industry is a dangerously seductive place. The delicate details, the wall-to-wall flowers, the spectacular venues. You press your face against the shop window, fogging up the glass and dreaming of the picture-perfect weddings inside. And before long, you’re not even thinking about what’ll make you happy. You’re just thinking about what you can afford.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Your budget will inevitably be the deciding factor in a lot of your decisions. That’s just how it is, that’s life. But it shouldn’t be the thing that shapes and defines your entire day. Live by these five golden rules, and you can have a wedding day you both truly love without making it all about the money.
Make friends with the unromantic, unsexy elephant in the room
There’s no way around it, budgets aren’t romantic. And between the proposal, the endless champagne, and all that ‘we’re getting married!’ afternoon sex, you don’t wanna kill the romance by talking about money. But weddings have a well-earned reputation for being insanely expensive. And pretending you’ve got limitless wealth is…how do I put this? It’s really fucking stupid.
So, before you start planning, have an honest conversation with each other about how much you’re willing to spend. And you’ll both be tempted to take the ‘fuck it’ approach in the name of love. But as someone with a seven-year-old wedding debt, let me give you a few golden pieces of advice:
♥ Choosing to have a smaller wedding doesn’t mean you love each other any less.
♥ Your wedding is as good as you make it, not as good as you can afford it to be.
♥ Any guest worth inviting wouldn’t want you to financially cripple yourselves on their behalf.
♥ Anything you spend on your wedding can’t be spent on your dream house, or a once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon.
Obviously, you want it to be special (I mean, it is your wedding day) but you can do that without financially crippling yourselves for a decade. Whatever you decide, you want to come out of the conversation as a united front. Having one carefree romantic and one pragmatic dream-destroyer will turn every planning choice into an argument about money.
Keep on top of it
My wife and I went out for lunch the other day. We ordered a few sides and a couple of drinks, but we didn’t think we were being particularly bougie, you know? Then the bill came, and we gave each other that wide-eyed “what the fuck did we order?!” look across the table. You see where I’m going with this…
Weddings are a little bit like going out for lunch, except everything on the menu costs thousands of pounds. So, keep on top of it and make sure you don’t get blindsided by how much you’re spending. Make a spreadsheet, keep track of what deposits you’ve paid and what’s outstanding, and make sure you don’t get a shock when the bill comes.
It’s boring, I know, and not remotely romantic. But if you let it, a wedding will empty your bank account faster than a foreign prince with a business opportunity.
Prioritise your budget
You’ll be surprised how easy it is to sacrifice everything you actually want in pursuit of the ‘Instagram wedding’ dream. A mumbled, “I guess it’s not that important”, a compromise or two here and there, and before you know it your perfect day is nowhere to be seen.
Before you spend a single penny, sit down together and write down your ‘dream wedding’ must-haves. Maybe you’ve always wanted a kickass band, an amazing photographer or a stunner of a dress. Maybe you’ve been dreaming of eloping in the Scottish mountains, or saying your vows on a faraway beach. Or it could be that you just want a shit load of booze, an awesome DJ and a crazy party?!
Whatever your ‘must-haves’ might be, choose two or three each and pay for them first. Then you’ll know how much you’ve got to spend on all the other stuff you don’t really care about. And if there ever comes a time when you can’t afford something, you can shrug it off and move on. Safe in the knowledge that if it actually mattered to you, you would’ve already paid for it.
You can only spend money once
Planning a wedding is like running a ‘pointless crap’ gauntlet, while traditions and expectations whisper in your ear how ‘very important’ it all is. So, keep your eyes on the ‘dream wedding’ prize, and make sure you’re not haemorrhaging money on bullshit.
Plus ones, for example. Those bloody plus ones. We had ten plus ones at our wedding, and it was easily the worst money we spent the whole day (probably in our whole lives). Have we ever seen any of them again? Of course not, I can barely remember their names. And I tell you what, I’d have enjoyed our day a lot more if we’d had a bucking bronco instead of buying dinner for ten random strangers.
But it’s not just about the plus ones, it’s about the plus everything. Wedding favours the guests will invariably throw away or leave behind. Those super-fancy flowers you’ll be too excited to appreciate. The extra tier on the cake you’ll eventually end up taking home and giving to the neighbours. All these superfluous little extras add up, swallowing up untold money that could be better spent elsewhere.
And if they really matter to you, of course you should get them. But don’t get anything because you feel like you have to, or because Instagram told you to. Save money wherever you can, and use every penny to build the atmosphere and experience that’ll make you both happiest.
You can’t buy good memories, you can only make them
As a professional wedding blogger, I’ve seen a shit load of weddings. And I’ll tell you for a fact, you won’t love your wedding any more or less because of how much it costs.
I’ve seen weddings that cost more than my house, where the couple looked miserable and every guest looked bored as fuck. I’ve seen back-garden receptions, where the drinks were flowing, the party was off the hook and everyone was having the time of their lives. I’ve seen clifftop elopements, where the couple were so lost in each other’s eyes it wouldn’t have mattered if there were ten guests or ten thousand.
And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with splashing a bit of cash if you can afford it. All I’m saying is, it’s the people, the atmosphere and your love for each other that’ll make your wedding day special. Everything else is just decoration.
ABOUT JON CARPENTER
Jon has been writing about weddings for over five years and been married to a wedding photographer for six. He proposed in Kefalonia, got married in Whitstable, eloped in Vegas and now lives in…well, Chatham. But at least the first three sounded cool. Either way, wedding-wise, he’s pretty wedding wise.