Spring has sprung and, after a holiday lull, wedding season is in full swing. Planning your big day is exciting, but it can quickly get overwhelming—and expensive. To avoid headaches and unpleasant financial surprises, it’s important to assess your wedding budget before doing anything else.
Here are five things to keep in mind when planning your wedding:
1. You and your soon-to-be spouse need to be on the same page. How much do each of you feel comfortable spending? As a couple, are you OK going into debt for the wedding and the honeymoon? The earlier you talk about these items, the better off you’ll be. You need to figure out how much you are each willing to contribute, whether friends or family will be helping out financially, and how the bills will be assigned.
2. It’s important to stay organized. Now that you and your partner have talked about how much you’re willing to spend on your wedding, it’s time to get organized and make a wedding budget. Make a list of everything you will need. If you plan on taking a honeymoon, create a separate list.
Using a spreadsheet or ledger, organize your expenses into the following columns: estimated, price quotes, and actual. Get a few quotes from different vendors for each of your items before committing.
3. You can DIY. In some cases, you might be able to save money by taking care of certain items on your own. For example, if you have the time and energy, you can create your own centerpieces for tables rather than buying them or hiring someone to create them. You may also want to consider a DIY or hand-me-down dress.
In addition, think about people you know who might be willing to offer their skills as a wedding gift. My uncle, a talented photographer, took pictures as his gift to us, and another friend gave the cake as a gift. My mother made my wedding dress. If you are on a tight budget, realistically look for ways that you can cut costs with DIY solutions.
4. You should start saving early. Ideally, you’ll have six to 12 months—or more—to plan your wedding. In that time, you can open a wedding savings account or use a site (such as Betterment.com) on which you can set up an account and add money that grows at a faster rate. Make it a point for both you and your future spouse to set aside money for your wedding account. Sites like this also allow friends and family who are willing to contribute to the cause to add to the account.
5. Consider using a credit card for purchases. If you already use credit cards responsibly, it can make sense to use a rewards card for wedding-related purchases. You can make your deposits and purchases with the rewards card, then pay it off with money from your savings account. You get the rewards points and also avoid paying interest. Best of all? You can redeem your points for cash back to further help with the wedding planning or for honeymoon travel to cut those costs.
Even if you decide that some debt is worth it, control your costs as much as possible to help ensure that your big day doesn’t turn into a big financial bust.
Miranda Marquit is a freelance writer and professional blogger specializing in personal finance, family finance and business topics. She writes for several online and offline publications. Miranda is the author of Confessions of a Professional Blogger: How I Make Money as an Online Writer and the writer behind PlantingMoneySeeds.com.