Planning your wedding
Planning a wedding can be one of the most stressful activities that you will ever undertake. Fortunately for you, unless you (or your child) are planning to get married next month, there are lots of Internet and local planning resources that can help you effectively plan the wedding and hopefully reduce your stress level.
Our intent here is to assist you with what we believe is the most critical aspect of the entire planning process -- the budget. Crafting a realistic budget is the easiest way to manage expectations on the part of everyone participating in the planning process.
There are some basic steps to follow that will help ensure you properly begin the planning process.
- First, get organized. For this step, you will need a checklist of all the things that need to be considered, along with a suggested timeline for these activities. A good example is available from Brides.com.
- Second, get the parents together, select a date for the wedding, and generally discuss finances. It's not so important to know at this time who is paying for what, but rather who can afford to pay and how much they can afford. The purpose here is to come up with an estimated total amount that can be budgeted for the wedding. For information on some average wedding costs (which we believe are at least twice what you should pay unless you can afford it), visit the following sites:
- Third, divide up your budget into various categories so that you don't overbudget for any one category. Some general percentages are shown below. If you need help, use our simple wedding category calculator.
- reception - 50%
- entertainment - 10%
- flowers - 10%
- attire - 10%
- photography - 10%
- stationery - 4%
- extras - 6%
- Fourth, create your detailed budget by adding the necessary items to each of the categories. We have provided a wedding budget planner that you can print out and use, or you can download our Excel version.
- Fifth, develop an activity schedule that includes your budget so you know when you have to accomplish and pay for each item. We have provided a sample wedding budget tracker that you can print and use (or download the Excel version).
- Sixth, start performing the required activities, such as interviewing and selecting a wedding site, reception site, picking a caterer, etc. Remember to base all of your decisions on your budget, allowing for some flexibility. For example, if you need to spend a little more on the reception, than you either need to reduce or eliminate other expenses or find more money so that you can increase your budget.
Talk about your personal finances
While the time leading up to your wedding is probably unusually busy, you should make time to discuss finances with your future spouse. Consider taking the 10-minute financial compatibility quiz to learn where you and your future spouse stand on financial planning. Then consider the following:
- Merging your finances. Will you have joint or separate accounts? How will you manage your investments? Have you updated your insurance policies to reflect your new beneficiary? Probably the best way to merge your finances is to make a comprehensive list of your assets, insurance policies, and other financial materials and review each one together. As an added benefit, you'll both become more familiar with your assets.
- Agreeing on spending habits. While you were dating, you may have paid relatively little attention to your partner's spending habits. Perhaps you know that your partner is much less frugal than you or has credit cards that are always charged to the limit, but it was of little concern. Now it's time to merge those spending habits. During your marriage, you'll need to build your financial security together and that probably requires consensus on some significant items, such as levels of credit card debt. The intent here is not to fight about it, but rather start discussing spending in terms of what your goals are and how you will accomplish them financially.
- Budgeting your money. For many people, the word "budget" brings resigned sighs or loud groans. Too often budgets are associated with establishing tough financial austerity programs. Budgets are necessary, but not necessarily evil. The tightness of your budget strictly depends on your personal financial situation. However, no matter how high your annual income, it's smart to establish a budget. Once you are married, you might want to start saving for long-term goals, such as raising a family or buying a house, and budgeting is a good planning tool to help you invest wisely and reach your goals.
- Considering prenuptial agreements. If you've already accumulated a large amount of separate assets before your marriage, you may want a prenuptial agreement. Of course, this kind of financial planning is complicated and requires professional advice, but you do need to consider the option if your financial circumstances warrant it.