Creating the wedding budget—tips from our book: Equally Wed: The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your LGBTQ+ Wedding
Your wedding is ultimately a declaration of love and commitment. No dollar amount sums up the value of your marriage. Plenty of wedding media outlets and wedding services and products will work tirelessly in convincing you that you absolutely must buy this or it would be the biggest mistake to not have that at your wedding. Stay strong and decide for yourself what’s important to you and your spouse-to-be, and let all the rest softly fall away like leaves in a forest.
Setting your budget early will bring you joy, even if it doesn’t seem that way at first. Organization is key, and knowing how much you can spend will keep you reined in. Weddings are expensive, whether you’re on a shoestring budget or are planning a lavish affair.
There’s an unfair myth floating around that lesbian weddings are low budget and gay weddings are always extravagant parties. Of course, we only need to look at income inequality to understand how this belief came about. But it’s simply not accurate. On equallywed.com, we’ve featured lesbian weddings that cost more than $100,000, and DIY backyard weddings for gay men that cost them less than $10,000. Just as the cishet population is filled with people of all income brackets, so is the LGBTQ+ community.
So what can you afford and how much do you want to spend? These are two very different questions, and it’s best to answer them both as a couple. Take all night and a bottle of wine or your go-to late-night snack to hash it out. The best way to get started is to sit down with your partner and decide what you can allocate for your big day. Give yourself a longer engagement to allow for more time to save funds. I don’t recommend credit cards unless you can pay them off within the first year; being in debt is one of the least romantic ways to begin your marriage. Perhaps your parents (or other relatives) are going to help you with the cost of the wedding. While that used to be expected, modern tradition dictates that only two/thirds of straight couples have help from their parents, and even less so for the LGBTQ+ set. If anyone offers to help pay for your wedding, this is a generous and loving gesture. Parents and relatives who can’t offer money might try to help out in other ways, such as baking the cake or helping you assemble the invitations, envelopes and postage.
No matter what, the people who love you the most will want to be involved somehow, someway, and this is a testimony to their devotion to you. Accept it graciously, but try to not expect it of anyone. Wedding traditions are changing for couples of all orientations, and while it’s wonderful if family helps out, they may decline for a myriad of reasons.
Whoever pays for the wedding—in total or in part—will have opinions about the big day and will expect to have their voice heard. Ultimately, the decisions lay with you and your honey, but as a courtesy, genuinely listen to the people who are helping foot the bill for your wedding. It’s really best if this delicate subject can be handled with care, as most people are sensitive about how their money is spent.
Having a wedding budget is important not only for controlling your spending, but also for seeing the whole picture and assessing what else needs to be done. Find an organization system that works best for you, whether that’s a three-ring binder organized by color-coded tabs, an Excel document, writing in the margins of this book, an online system (try our equality-minded downloadable worksheets at equallywed.com which accounts for such LGBTQ+-specific purchases such as multiple dresses, suits, bouquets and engagement rings), a notebook or Google docs, which allows you the ability to access your documents from anywhere you have WiFi, or an app like Evernote, which doesn’t require WiFi to access your documents. Once you’ve committed to a system, stick with it. Design it with at least four columns: estimated spend, actual spend, deposit paid, final bill. You’ll be putting down payments with a variety of vendors and venues, and it’s important to keep track of where your funds are going and what’s left to pay. On another tab or in another section, keep hawk-like records on presents you’ve received, from the bottle of Champagne a friend brings to dinner to congratulate you both on your engagement all the way to the final gifts coming in a month after your wedding. Make columns for gift description, date received, store it came from, if it was on your registry (so you can manually check it off if the giver or customer service associate wasn’t able to log it during the purchase), the giver’s name and mailing address, and finally, a column where you check off when the mandatory handwritten thank you note has been signed, sealed and delivered.
Hopefully now you’ve got a rough figure in your head of what you can spend on your wedding. These funds need to cover pre-wedding festivities, wedding attire and jewelry (though not the bling already on you or your fiancé’s finger), every bill you’ll pay for your ceremony and reception, and post-wedding things, such as the send-off brunch and postage for thank you notes. What this fund does not need to cover is your honeymoon and your engagement jewelry.
Before you get in over your head with dreams of a five-piece string ensemble or a wall of roses in the entryway for your wedding, let’s discuss the wedding budget in full with a breakdown of what your money may be covering. Keep in mind, too, that you’ll likely overspend in some areas and (maybe!) spend a little less in other areas. Perhaps you allocate $3,000 for flowers, but then your Aunt Julie offers to source those wholesale and create the arrangements herself. Or you discover a fabulous wedding baker who costs more than your luggage, but you simply must have them design your wedding cake. It happens all the time. If you’re a strict type-A personality, go ahead and plan for wedding budget fluctuations to minimize the stress when it happens. And if you can allot an emergency fund for splurges and catastrophic incidents, all the better. The more relaxed you feel during this entire wedding-planning process, the more fun it will be.
Where your money goes
Attire for attendants
Ceremony venue rental fee
DJ and/or band
Gifts for anyone who gave money
Hair and makeup
Reception décor and rentals
Reception venue rental fee
Stationery and paper goods
Travel to and from the wedding
You don’t have to have everything on this list. It’s important to keep what you want and let the other things fall by the wayside. However, looking at your overall wedding, it’s smart to first consider everything on the list, depending on your wedding style and personality. For now, let’s assume you’re having most of these things and allocating funds to each list item.
There’s not a perfect one-size-fits-all budget calculator for every couple, but on average, the reception is generally what receives the largest portion of the money. From there on, it’s entirely up to you. Some couples feel like wedding photography deserves as much as a fourth of the wedding funds, while others want the reception to be the best party of the century and will stop at nothing to make sure that happens, with a live band, hired dancers and all types of fun to keep the merriment going.
A guide to tipping vendors
Gratuity is a way of saying thanks to hired employees who go above and beyond, but it’s also just as expected as tipping your server at a restaurant. The following people and gratuity percentages are an industry standard though how much you give is discretionary. If someone has exceeded your expectations, feel free to give them extra or send a handwritten note after your wedding. Assign someone discerning and trustworthy to hand out tips on the day of (create labeled envelopes of cash ahead of time). Before giving anyone a tip, check your contract for each vendor to make sure gratuities aren’t built in.
Want more advice for planning your LGBTQ+ wedding? Check out more articles here on equallywed.com, as well as Equally Wed: The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your LGBTQ+ Wedding by Kirsten Palladino. Available on Amazon as well as at your favorite booksellers.
Kirsten Ott Palladino
The Wedding Biz Podcast
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