Two Wedding Budget Tips you Won’t Read Anywhere Else

by Melissa on April 6, 2011

There are a lot of tips out there for having budget weddings.  From DIY wedding invitations to finding student photographers, having a afternoon brunch reception, and using an iPod instead of hiring a DJ, there is no shortage of tips to help you save money on your wedding.  We all know that these are things that we can do to save money on our wedding, so that’s not the problem

The problem is perspective and how you view money and budgeting.  If you don’t have a good relationship with your money or if you don’t consider yourself “financially savvy,” or even if you say, “I hate math, so I just don’t bother,” then you won’t really know what it means to budget for your wedding.  So, learn some of the basics about personal finance and take these two tips below to help you plan a budget wedding.

#1: Personal Finance Books First, not Wedding Books

If you want a budget wedding, the first books you should read are some good personal finance books, not wedding books and magazines.  There are a lot of very simple personal finance concepts that can help guide the way you think about money, budgeting, and spending. Check out some excellent personal finance blogs like Get Rich Slowly, My Dollar Plan, and The Simple Dollar. Watch some episodes of The Suze Orman Show.

But, if you do only one thing, you need to read Your Money or Your Life.  It is the one book that will help you gain some of that perspective on your personal finances, and what it means to spend money on anything in your life, not just wedding expenses.  For those of you who have read Your Money or Your Life, you’re familiar with the concept of Life Energy.  I’m oversimplifying, but basically, Life Energy is a statement of what something “costs” in terms of hours that you have to work for that item.

It’s easy to determine Life Energy costs.  Again, this is oversimplifying the formula a bit, but first figure out your “real” income.  Take your weekly net income and subtract all the money you spend related to your job each week, like gas/public transportation, clothes/uniforms, dry cleaning, going out to lunch, office gifts, etc.  This gives you your “real” income.

Then you determine how much time you really spend related to your job each week, including commuting time, time spent “unwinding” after work, time spent at happy hours or social functions you’re expected to attend, etc.  This gives you your “real” hours worked.

Then you divide your real income by real hours worked to determine your real hourly wage.  For instance, my Life Energy calculations look like this:

I net $963.50 each week after taxes, insurance, retirement contributions, etc.  I spend $22.50/week on parking, $25/week on gas (estimate), and given my patterns of clothing expenditures, I would estimate that, when broken down by week, that I spend $19/week on clothes and dry cleaning that I probably would not need or buy if I didn’t work in a professional environment.  So this makes my “real” net weekly income $897/week ($963.50 – $22.50 – $25 – $19).

I work in the office 40 hours per week, commute 10 hours a week, and spend time “getting ready” for work 0.83 hours/week (like packing my lunch, etc.).  So this makes my real “work” hours 50.83 hours/week.

So my real wage is $897 / 50.83 hours = $17.65/hour.

So there you have it.  My “real” wage is $17.65/hour.  Now let’s see how that translates into Life Energy

So let’s say that an item I want to purchase, like a wedding dress, costs $3000.  That would mean I would have to work nearly 170 hours to buy that dress ($3000/17.65.  In Your Money or Your Life, this concept is known as “Life Energy.”   I have to invest 170 hours of my life energy, i.e. working, when I could be doing something else I enjoy, just for that dress.  Doesn’t sound worth it to me, when I put it like that!    If we spent $10,000 on catering, like some caterers quoted us, that would cost 566 hours of life energy.  Granted, this only includes my life energy and not my fiancé’s, but still, that’s a LOT of freakin’ life energy used up on rubber chicken catering!

I highly recommend doing some of these calculations to help put into perspective what you’re spending on your wedding.  And this is also good for putting into perspective your everyday type purchases too, not just large wedding purchases.

In addition to Your Money or Your Life I also recommend

#2:  Do Not Rush

Let’s get another important tip out of the way here.  Do.Not.Rush.  I know, I know.  It’s not what you want to hear.  “I’m ENGAGED!  I’m so EXCITED!  Everyone is asking me when our wedding date is!  All the wedding books and websites say I need to book my venue 12-14 months before our wedding date!  I don’t want to wait longer than that, so we must do everything now!”

I hate to break it to you, but if you want (or need) to stick to a budget for your wedding, then you need to take your time.   I’ll share our story of how taking our time has really helped us.  Within our first month of being engaged, we visited several venues.  We found one that we loved, so we put a two-week, no deposit hold on it because we could totally see ourselves getting married there.  It was unique, and the venue fee was within our budget.  The problem was the caterers.  This venue only had six preferred caterers to choose from.  Unfortunately, their initial budget estimates were not all that straightforward.  I had a sinking feeling that they were waiting until we put the deposit down on our venue until they gave us their “real” estimate.  Because we weren’t willing to risk being taken advantage of, we let our two week hold expire.  On a venue that we really, really loved.  *sigh.  The second venue we fell in love with, once we crunched all the numbers, we realized that, given our $15,000 budget, that our wedding would cost us $3000 per hour, since that venue had a strict 5 hour limit for both ceremony and reception.  If we had rushed into either of these decisions, we’d be sweating our budget.  Yes, this is a really exciting and overwhelming time.  And yes, you’re probably being rushed into making decisions by outside forces like family and friends who are excited for you.  But the more you rush, the more overwhelmed you feel, and the less likely you are to pay attention to the important details (and no, I’m not talking about decor details, I’m talking about budget and contracts).

You don’t have to rush for other things either.  Just like there is no rule for booking your venue within a month of your engagement, there is no rule that immediately after said booking, that you need to book your DJ/Band, Photographer, Caterer (in most cases), Officiant, and so on.  The more you rush, the more you’ll feel overwhelmed with having to do everything at one time and the more you may ignore your budget just to get things done.  Let’s take an example.

Within the first month of your engagement, you research and visit a lot of venues, and decide to book one that you love.  So now you’re trying to research all the catering details for the venue.  And now that you have the venue and date booked, you think that means that you want to send out the Save-The-Dates right away.  So in addition to trying to book all your vendors for that date, you’re trying to find or design the perfect Save-The-Date card, trying to wrangle all the addresses to send said Save-the-Date cards to, and then, oh, of course, since you want to list your wedding website on the card, that means that you have to develop content for your wedding website.  Ugh, which means that you have to hurry up and decide on your bridal party that will be included on your wedding website.  And let’s not forget about dress shopping, picking out bridesmaids dresses, oh, and you definitely want to include some engagement photos on your wedding website, so now you have to hurry up and find a good photographer and schedule an engagement session ASAP so that you’ll have the photos in time.  Deposit checks are being cashed left and right before you even have a chance to add everything up.  The more rushed and the more overwhelmed you feel, the more likely you are to disregard important budget considerations just because you feel like you have to get things done.

I realize that people are rushing your decisions.  By the time our venue is finally confirmed, we will have been engaged for seven months.  But I am completely comfortable with that because it has given us the time to have the exact wedding that we want, at the price that we want


Any other budget tips?

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