No matter how big or small your wedding, there are some critical expenses that you need to budget for. Anyone trying to plan a wedding without a full handle on their budget can find themselves in a sticky financial mess very quickly (unless you have more money than you know what to do with). Before you start thinking about all the nice-to-haves, make sure you put plenty of budget aside for the following:
1. Your Dress
You're the bride and every eye is fixed on what you wear and how you look, so be sure to budget for your wedding dress. How much you allow depends on how much your budget is going to accommodate your dreams for the whole event. You might want the most expensive designer dress but if the rest of your event is low budget because you had no money to spend, the dress won’t be as wonderful as you imagined it to be.
Don't forget to budget for wedding photography. It is important to steer clear from "friendtographers", "fauxtographers", and "fraudtographers" because inexperience can spoil it all. It may save you money when your friends offer to do your photos, but you may end up losing your special memories. Similarly, a percentage of your total wedding budget should go to videography if you want the big day recorded. Remember, a friend with a video camera just cannot match a professional videographer. So, plan properly.
3. The Cake
It is important to budget for your wedding cake. You need to know that a wedding cake will be priced by the slice, and you will pay differently depending on the cake you have selected. It may cost anywhere between $1.50 and $12 a slice. Also, decide if you want a cake with fondant icing or you want one with buttercream – you will have to pay more for fondant icing. Similarly, you will need to save more to order a cake with handmade sugar-flower detailing or cakes in elaborate molded shapes. Know your preferences and plan early.
You can definitely have a well-decorated reception – elaborate centerpieces dripping with orchids, gardenias, and crystals, tablescapes bursting with color, and a dance floor awash in brightly colored lights. It looks great, but it comes at a steep price. You can also go for the cheaper option and make all your own decorations. Whatever the choice, be sure to set a budget well in advance to avoid getting in any trouble. Use natural items for decorations to save money. Think dusty miller, ferns, mint, moss, and lamb's ear for a classy impression.
Selecting the right venue is one of the most critical wedding expenses. Establish your budget early and know how much to spend on venue. Some cities are more expensive – Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles are the obvious culprits. Taking it all to a remote destination may entail greater costs if staff, flowers, and talent have to come from afar. You will have to set aside more money if you're going to tie the knot in a tourist town during peak season. Remember, some venues may come with low or no fee (a city park), while others may cost you four figures. Plan carefully.
Your guests are more likely to forget whether your French manicure was perfect or what color flowers were there in your bouquet, but they won't forget a great meal easily. How much you should set aside will depend a lot on your wedding style. You may want to opt for a formal sit-down dinner if your dream wedding includes a traditional gown with a long train and probably a string quartet. For a barefoot, sun-drenched beach wedding, a laid-back outdoor cocktail celebration will do. Finalizing a menu early will also help you decide how much you will need for food. Scallops, shrimp, and other seafood items are pricier appetizers, so know if you really have saved enough for such luxury.
Are you expecting many guests from out of town? Don't forget to budget for transportation. Determine if you'll be hiring cabs or renting a coach or passenger van to transport people together. For fewer guests, about 20-25, you can even think of renting a limo, if of course you want to treat your guests like royalty. It will save you money to rent a limo a few hours before and a few hours after the wedding.
These are the most critical expenses of any wedding. Beyond these, it’s really down to your budget and personal choices. What else do you consider to be critical?