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Set a budget for your wedding

How to set – and stick to – a budget for your wedding

Many little girls dream of their wedding days by dressing up their Barbies and draping white  towels over their heads. But when the time comes to plan a real wedding, most brides are faced with the stark reality of trying to match those dreams to a real-life budget.

The truth is that for most people, the sky isn’t the limit when it comes to spending on a wedding. Very few brides have an unlimited budget, and most find themselves faced with making compromises. But the best way to have a wedding that fulfils all your wishes and fits your budget is to start planning your budget early – and sticking to it.

How do you plan a proper wedding budget? Here are some tips to help you get started.

1. Decide who is paying for what. Are your parents helping pay for part of the wedding? Are your partner’s parents?  Are you and your partner contributing anything to the wedding? Sit down with all the people who are contributing financially to determine who is going to pay for what part of the wedding. For example, perhaps your parents will pay for the reception dinner, your partner’s parents will pay for the rehearsal dinner, and you and your partner will pay for the wedding photographer. Or perhaps everyone will contribute a lump sum and you can divvy it up as required.

2. Determine how much each person can afford to spend. The real key to a wedding budget isn’t determining how much you want to spend – it’s determining how much you can afford to spend. With Canadians’ personal debt levels rising, it doesn’t always make sense for everyone to go into deep debt just to finance your wedding. Figure out how much you can realistically put aside each month to save/pay off credit and work from there. Similarly, get anyone else paying for the wedding to give you their budget well ahead of time.

3. Get organized. Once you’ve got some realistic budget numbers, start a spreadsheet with the estimated costs of each item, who is paying for it and how they are paying. If you’re not sure how much something will cost (i.e. flowers or a photographer), try calling a few places to get a rough estimate. Then add at least 10 per cent for contingencies and overages.

4. Make your wish list work with your budget’s reality.  Once you know exactly how much you can afford to spend on each item, it’s time to start making it a reality. Sometimes, that means compromising on certain areas. Is your dream reception venue too pricey? Try looking for an alternative, or consider booking your wedding on a Friday or Sunday, when prices are lower.  Don’t have as much to spend on flowers as you thought? Try using silk flowers or seasonal flowers to keep costs lower.

5. Remember – it’s only one day. Heartbroken because your budget can’t handle a string quartet at the ceremony and a swing band at the reception? Instead of blowing the budget, why not look for lower-cost alternatives? Contact a local school of music to see if students can play for a discount, or grab an iPod and download your favourite tunes instead. And don’t sweat the small stuff. When it’s your 50th wedding anniversary, you probably won’t even remember whether or not you had a string quartet at the church!

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