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I don’t want this post to be about regrets. Our wedding day was beautiful and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. However, I feel I should be completely blunt with you fabulous BABs about budgets and how they can easily veer way off course. Because I know I’m not the only bride whose budget took a path into “oh shit” territory, nor should there be any shame attached to it. Instead, there needs to be better communication and knowledge transfer through honesty. So prepare yourself. I’m about to get real up in here.
Our original budget: $15,000
My parents were able to contribute $10,000 to our wedding day. How great are they??? So when our venue price estimate* totaled right at $10K, the groom and I figured, “No biggie! The biggest expense is covered, including food, beverage, ceremony/reception space, linens, the whole nine yards! We’ll grab a reasonable dress, a fancy suit, officiant, rings, DJ … we can do that for about another $5K, easy!” And we danced off merrily into the deluded wedding sunset.
OH, HOW WRONG WE WERE.
Did you notice that (*) up there? It stands for Beware the Caveats. Because while I give our venue credit for being forthcoming that the flowers, decor and cake would be additional charges, I could also string them up by their toenails for not giving us specifics on how much those charges would actually be. Once the day came to choose these items, my parents, the groom and I sat there silently with mouths agape at the prices. When we ruthlessly slashed all the extras and went with mostly the basics across the board, it left us feeling like we were being cheap! End result? Our final venue payment was still almost $3K more than the original quote. Luckily all of us felt good about the “basic” decor and floral choices we made together. My parents insisted that they could cover the extra $3K. We were grateful, but still felt
kicked in the nuts defeated by the Great American Wedding Factory.
Looking back, there were plenty of warning signs about our venue that we should’ve acknowledged. In a nutshell, it was their lack of flexibility on just about everything. (Your guests cannot throw anything or wave sparklers during your exit. You cannot exceed the 6 hour window onsite, or you will incur additional charges. If you want your wedding to be the only event that day, you will pay extra. No, you cannot taste the food ahead of time unless you go to a bridal convention where our caterer will be, this one day in five months, after you sign with us, of course. No, you cannot bring in your own votives for your table decor, you have to use ours at our price. And so on.)
Instead of listening to our instincts, we locked ourselves in with them and paid the price. Dearly. So where are we now?
Parent Budget ($10K) + $3000.00 = $13,000K
The Snowball Effect
The venue was the biggest offender, by far. But we quickly discovered we’d under-budgeted for our pieces of the pie, too. We decided together that my husband would get a very nice suit because of it’s long-term use and practicality. Don’t regret that one bit. But what we didn’t expect were the prices on the rest: photography (ouch), DJs in Atlanta are $$$$$, the officiant, our rings and my dress, well … there went a LOT more money. Our own budget was officially toast. And we weren’t even done yet. Shit, double shit.
Parent Budget + 3000 + Our Budget (5K) + 4200 = 22,200
The Rest of the Story
Here’s where it gets even hairier. Add on videography. Oh, and you still don’t have shoes — for either of you. You don’t have jewelry or any hair or makeup people booked. And let’s not forget paper products and the guest book you made on Shutterfly. But the real kicker — the one I completely and utterly did NOT budget for: bridal party and parent gifts. With 13 in the party + 4 parents, we came in just under $1000 dollars. Dear Budget, excuse me while I prepare my favorite fatality move.
Parent Budget + $3000 + Our Budget + $2500 + $3300 = $25,500
And there you have it. That’s how a $15K budget became a $25K budget … all in a matter of months.
But I can’t leave you feeling this crappy.
A few disclaimers: Our engagement was 13 months long, therefore our payments were spread out far enough that we didn’t have to dip into extra savings. The payments my parents made to the venue were spread out as well. But we know that if we had had a six month engagement, we’d have been in serious trouble. So remember that the shorter your engagement, the more you’ll need to have cash at the ready. Another tip — ask around for ballpark figures, not from venues, but from people you know who were married in your town/location. Our original budget wouldn’t have been so laughably bad if we’d priced out DJs, officiants, photographers, etc., in Atlanta before we pulled a number out of thin air.
I hope some of you can learn from our experiences and follow these nuggets of wisdom: read the fine print, plan for the unexpected, ask more questions than you think are necessary and do not, DO NOT, pay one cent more for anything than you think you should.
Lastly, look out for my full Real Wedding post coming up soon here at BAB, which describes some ways that we did manage to save serious cash in other parts of our wedding day and other useful things I learned along the way.
Till next time,