wedding expenses

Wedding Expenses Lessons Learned

by Melissa on March 16, 2012

Well, I started to talk about this a bit last Thursday, but didn’t want to get too far ahead of myself. 

Am I ashamed that we went more than $8000 over our desired wedding budget?

I’m not sure.

regrets

Image Source

Yes, I think it reflects badly on me and hints at some overall irresponsibility with regard to spending that Ken and I have. After all, I set out to have a “budget” wedding! What did I end up spending? Close to the national average expense of a wedding.   Although definitely on the low end of what weddings cost where we live.  

I’m confused.

We self-deejayed. I bought two wedding dresses, both of which were less than $200 each. We had no videographer. No floral centerpieces. No fancy limo (or heck, even bus) transportation. We had no bridal party, which meant no bouquets and boutonnieres for them and no gifts to have to buy them to say thank you. I DIYed my own wedding day makeup.

I was doing everything I thought we could do right to save money. 

Allow me to throw a pity party for second and place blame everywhere but on myself.

Those “average” wedding expenses? I think are drastically UNDER ESTIMATED.  Maybe I’m just being a self-important brat here, but I think there are very few couples that have ever tracked every penny of their wedding-related expenses like thumbtacks for their escort card display, parking fees during their engagement session, and tin buckets for s’mores supplies. But, maybe they do track it. Who knows. Maybe those types of expenses are taken into account when determining the average wedding cost

When I read wedding submissions on wedding blogs, I find it very convenient that their wedding cost “total” is something like $12,000. Or $9000. Really? It came out that nice and evenly? Because our wedding expenses were $23,598.91. This doesn’t just include the “major” expenses.

Like here,

Or here.

Am I bitter that some folks can (or at least claim to) have a budget wedding of approximately $8000-ish, and I can’t even have one for $15,000? Heck, or even $20,000?

Nope!

And here’s why. Despite about $1000 worth of “regrettable” expenses, there is nothing else, and I mean nothing, that I would’ve cut or changed from our wedding. So no, I do not regret our $760 dance lessons or our $87.25 (plus $10.95 shipping) lego ring bearer box. Or renting our wedding venue for three days instead of two or just one. Or spending $490.17 (plus shipping) on some really rockin’ wedding invitations.

Here’s what I really don’t regret. Basically inviting EVERYONE we knew. “They” say the easiest way to keep the cost down for a wedding is to lower your guest list. What fun is a wedding if ALL your friends and family (including their plus ones!) can’t celebrate with you? So, although inviting nearly 300 people was a bit stressful at times, I was so happy that about 150 could make it and celebrate with us. Plus, we were able to keep our costs low on the catering, which allowed us to invite that many people without REALLY breaking the bank. Anyway, we could’ve easily cut our budget without cutting our guest list anyway!

Everything about our wedding really, truly, was “us.” Because we didn’t allow any outside involvement, there was nothing in our wedding that was forced on us. We were cognizant of our expenses. We continued to track them even when we started to go WAY over our budget.

So, while it may seem ridiculous to go more than $8000 over budget on anything, I have zero regrets here!

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Overall Net Cost of Our Wedding

by Melissa on March 13, 2012

One of the nice things about wedding expenses is that sometimes you can manage to actually “recoup” some of your costs. After all, you get nice gifts and/or cash, and you can sell many of the items you purchased during the wedding planning process.

So, what was our overall “net cost” of our wedding? Lucky for you, I’ve figured that all out for you!

Wedding Gifts

We already know that our grand total of wedding expenses was $23,598.91, more than $8000 over our intended $15,000 budget. Now, let’s take a look at the money we “made” from our wedding. These figures include the wedding only, and not shower gifts.

Amount of Cash and Gift Cards Received: $2340

Total Value of Goods Received*: $2438.91

Total Amount of Gifts Received: $4678.91

* For gifts we received that were on our registry, we used the price of that good to calculate the price. For gifts that we could not easily determine the value of, we made a best guess estimate.

Selling Used Wedding Items

We’ve been sticking to our strategy for selling used wedding items.  It’s been going well, but we still have a few additional items to sell.  Therefore, in addition to wedding gifts received, we have also managed to recoup some of our wedding expenses by selling lots of items.

Total Amount of Goods Sold: $1684.00

Total Estimated Value of Goods Remaining to be Sold: $500

Total Estimated Value of Recouped Costs: $2184

In the near future, I’ll do a more in-depth post about our experiences with selling our used wedding items. But compared to the total cost paid for the items that we sold, we’ve recouped about 80% of those costs.

Total Net Cost of our Wedding

$23598.91 (-) $4678.91 (-) $2184

=

$16736.00

This calculation makes me feel a *wee* bit better, knowing that our overall net cost of our wedding is much closer to our original $15,000 budget. That’s not exactly how we intended to get there of course, but it still helps.

But wait! What about repurposed items?

For the purposes of my calculations, I’m not going to delve into the value of the goods that we can reuse in the future. At least not now. Maybe it’s a topic for a future post.

But just to give you an idea, we have a decent number of items that we purchased for the wedding that can be used for future (non-wedding) events, or in some cases, already have been repurposed. For instance, all of my wedding accessories I purchased, including pearl necklaces, shoes, and bracelets, are not very wedding-y looking, so I am able to wear them with regular outfits. Ken can wear his suit, tie, and dress shirt in the future, and our save-the-date prop and sand ceremony kit now serves as art in our home. At future parties, we can reuse the coffee urn and chalkboard A-frame we purchased for the wedding. Heck, there’s even an argument for saying that part of my bouquet has even been repurposed!

Oh, and Frequent Flier Miles Too!

There are other aspects of our wedding expenses that reaped financial benefits that are much more difficult to quantify. For instance, during the course of wedding planning, Chase offered a phenomenal British Airways 100,000 bonus miles promotion. I signed up for the new credit card, and promptly started putting all our wedding-related expenses on it. All told, my current British Airways miles balance stands at 104,352 miles. That’s enough for 4 round trip coach tickets to Maui, or 2 round trip business class tickets to Maui. Or two round trip coach tickets to Maui plus one coach ticket to Europe.

You get the idea. It’s difficult to quantify these rewards because they have so many different redemption values. And before that British Airways card, I was putting our expenses on my normal everyday card, my Southwest Airlines Chase card. When we went on our minimoon to Las Vegas in November, our airfare came to 10 bucks for two tickets. Granted, I also put my everyday expenses on that card, but the increase of expenses thanks to the wedding helped contribute to those free tickets!

So, if you use a credit card strategy wisely for your wedding purchases, you can also reap additional rewards from stuff you’d be buying anyway.

 

Please remember that I am writing this from a purely financial perspective. I’m not saying that you should plan a wedding just to get gifts or try to keep your wedding expenses low and, in tandem, invite only your wealthiest friends and relatives. But just keep in mind that although your wedding day itself has the potential to be expensive, you can indeed recoup many of your costs!

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Distribution of our Wedding Expenses

by Melissa on March 6, 2012

This post is part of a series that analyzes our wedding expenses. See also our Our Comprehensive List of All Wedding Expenses, The Cost of Getting Married vs. the Cost of our Wedding, Our Avoidable and Regrettable Wedding Expenses, The Overall Net Cost of Our Wedding, and Some Wedding Budget Lessons Learned

As part of my ongoing discussion this week about our wedding budget and expenses, today I’ll talk about the distribution of our wedding expenses.  I realize that this is something extremely important for folks who are on tight budgets and are trying to figure out how to budget their regular monthly income for wedding expenses. 

First up, our wedding consisted of 174 separate expenses (this may vary a bit from figures I mention in the future, because our “wedding expenses” spreadsheet also includes transactions such as refunds from things like, oh, missing wedding dresses, and returns of items I didn’t want. So, there are a few negative (-) figures included in our overall transactions. But for the purposes of this analysis, I’m just including postive (+) figures.

Also, you’ll note that this will affect the overall amount “spent.” These figures will appear higher than the amount I mentioned yesterday, because yesterday’s figure included ALL the wedding expense transactions, including refunds and returns. It’s just that the negative figures really affected the charts and graphs, so I decided not to include them.

Wedding Expenses by Month

We had a 13 month engagement (engaged in October 2010, married in November 2011), so first up, let’s take a look at our wedding-related expenses by month:

total-wedding-expenses-by-month-supernovabride

As you can see, the wedding month itself was the most expensive month, but only by about $900 from the second most expensive month. Since we couldn’t apply to our wedding venue until March, and didn’t find out that our wedding date was confirmed until the last day of May, our wedding expenses for the first seven months of our engagement were fairly minimal and included wedding magazines and books, dance lessons, and some other random things. (Yet another reason why you can plan your wedding in a much shorter time frame than the traditional “it takes a year to plan a wedding” advice).

Our big spend months are pretty consistent with what I thought they would be. Our November 11 wedding date was confirmed on May 31st, so we sent out a bunch of deposits in June. And then in September, I was trying to finish 99% of wedding tasks two months before the wedding, so we spent a lot of money that month too.

(And just as an FYI, that $134.22 expense in January 2012 was for our thank you cards and stamps. I’ll be posting the comprehensive listing of ALL our expenses tomorrow.)

How this can help you if you’re on a budget and need to pinch your pennies?

So what do these figures mean for other couples planning their wedding? Well, of course every couple will be different, but in our circumstance, this is how we spent our total wedding budget by month:

We spent nearly 23%, or nearly one-quarter, of our total budget the actual month of the wedding. So, if you have a $10,000 wedding budget, you can expect that approximately $2500 of that will be spent the month of your wedding. Nearly 20% of the total was spent two months before the wedding, and 15% of the total was spent one month before the wedding (and another 15% of the total was spent five months before the wedding). 

Here’s a quick reference table, based on our experience, of what percentage of your budget you can expect to spend during a 13 month engagement. Again, this isn’t universal, especially given our unique venue situation, but I hope it can still be useful.

T-13 Months 1%
T-12 Months 0%
T-11 Months 0%
T-10 Months 0%
T-9 Months 0%
T-8 Months 4%
T-7 Months 1%
T-6 Months 4%
T-5 Months 15%
T-4 Months 9%
T-3 Months 8%
T-2 Months 19%
T-1 Month 15%
Wedding Month 23%
Post Wedding 1%

 

Distribution of Expenses by Amount

I’ve talked about our distribution of expenses before, and I thought it was a useful exercise. It helps illustrate that smaller wedding expenses add up to huge chunks. So, while categories listed on sites like Wedding Wire and The Knot include the major expense categories (catering, venue, photographer, attire, etc.), you also have to be keenly aware of those expenses that are less than $100.  Because they add up like crazy!

So, I did some analysis of our expenses for the following categories:

  • Expenses less than $100
  • Expenses $100.01-$500
  • Expenses $500.01-$1500
  • Expenses greater than $1500.01

Now, a few caveats. Our wedding expense tracking spreadsheet (more on that tomorrow) lists out each individual expense. So, for instance, our catering deposit is a different line item than our catering balance, which is different than the catering tip (and different from the beer, wine, etc.) So yesterday, when I mentioned how our catering expenses (or, as we categorized it, our “food and beverage” expenses) was $3933.92, that was our TOTAL food and beverage expense. For the purposes of the distribution of expenses, I’m accounting for each individual line item such as deposits vs. balances.

Another caveat: like the above analysis, I’m not including transactions from our wedding expense spreadsheet that were negative, such as refunds and returns. Therefore, not including those negative transactions, we had a total of 174 expenses.

Here goes:

    • 124 expenses less than $100 that added up to $4819.25
    • 42 expenses $100.01-$500 that added up to a whopping $9,627.05
    • 5 expenses $500.01-$1500 that added up to $3769.10
    • 3 expenses greater than $1500.01 that  added up to $6212.85 (Our biggest single expense was $2910 when we paid our wedding photographer in full after we negotiated a $150 discount for paying the full balance up front)

Amount-distribution-wedding-expenses-supernovabride

wedding-expenses-quanity-amount-distribution-supernovabride

When I looked as these figures, I was completely flabbergasted! All of those “less expensive” items (i.e., less than $500) accounted for TWO-THIRDS of our wedding expenses!  It wasn’t our “expensive photographer” or renting our wedding venue for three days instead of just one or two that broke the bank. It was all those “small” expenses of less than $500 that completely killed our budget!

How this can help you budget for your wedding expenses

Figure out what your individual “big ticket” expenses will be (i.e., expenses greater than $500) and add all those up together. Using our wedding as an example, you can expect that the sum of all those “big ticket” expenses will be approximately 40% of your budget. The remaining 60% should be set aside for expenses less than $500, that often can’t be anticipated.

For example, let’s say you added up all your estimated “big ticket” expenses, and that figure added up to $4000. You can likely estimate that you will spend another $6000 (60% or approximately two-thirds) of your budget on additional expenses that cost less than $500. If your wedding budget is $10,000, then you’re in good shape! If your budget is only $7500 though, then you’re unfortunately well-positioned to go over your budget.

But there is hope!

You can learn from our wedding! You can be very careful about what you spend money on that is less than $500, or heck, even less than $100. In a few days I’ll talk about what expenses we could have avoided for our wedding, so maybe that will help illustrate it a bit more, but just be very wary of those little expenses that add up to such significant amounts. You know what costs less than $100? DIY supplies, thrift store vases, table number holders, cake toppers, cute little chalkboards, stamps, and tons of other items. So, even though I thought I was saving money by buying things from, for instance, the thrift store, those expenses still added up significantly!

 

How about you all? Were your expenses distributed similarly? Any additional distribution analysis you would like to see?

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How much money did we spend on our wedding?

by Melissa on March 5, 2012

This post is part of a series that analyzes our wedding expenses. See also our Distribution of Wedding Expenses, Our Comprehensive List of All Wedding Expenses, The Cost of Getting Married vs. the Cost of our Wedding, Our Avoidable and Regretable Wedding Expenses, The Overall Net Cost of Our Wedding, and Some Wedding Budget Lessons Learned

One of my earliest blog posts here at SuperNoVABride was about our $15,000 wedding budget, according to Wedding Wire. I lamented why nearly HALF of our budget would have to go towards food, and I freaked at the prospect of what a shitty photographer I would have to settle for if I could only spend $1200. 

As a reminder, here was our $15,000 budget breakdown, according to WeddingWire:

Wedding Wire Budget Screenshot

All in all, this was a very humbling exercise. To see how LITTLE a $15,000 budget would actually get you.

Here’s what we actually spent (using Wedding Wire’s Categories)

Wedding Wire estimate

What we actually spent

Difference

Band

$0.00

$0.00

$0

Beauty and Health

$112.50

$434.00

$-321.50
(This included my hair and makeup trials, hair for our engagement photoshooot, and Ken’s shave for the photoshoot)

Cake

$375.00.00

$384.28

$-9.28

Catering

$7050.00

$3933.92

$3116.08

Ceremony Music

$150.00

$350.00

$-200.00

Deejay

$600.00

$482.19

$117.81
(for self deejay equipment we purchased)

 

Dress and Attire

$1230.00

$1897.47

$-667.41

Favors

$0.00

$592.25

$-592.55

Flowers and Decor

$1335.00

$2688.39

$-1353.89
(only $355 of that went to flowers. The rest went to décor)

 

Invitations

$525.00

$891.49

-$366.49
(I’m including cost of Save-the-Dates in here too. Includes all envelopes, stamps, labels, etc.)

 

Wedding Rings

$375.00

$791.93

$-416.93

Officiant

$180.00

$185.00

$-5.00

Other (according to WW, this includes accommodations, gifts, etc.)

$180.00

$293.70

$-113.70
(This also included the hotel room for our out-of-town officiant, a family friend)

 

Photography

$1200

$3210.00

$-2010.00

Planning

$0.00

$450.00

$-450.00

Rentals

$0.00

$1087.92

$-1087.92

Transportation

$0.00

$0.00

$0.00

Venue

$1687.50

$1770.00

$-82.50
(This included venue rental for THREE DAYS, required insurance, and application fee) 

Videography

$0.00

$0.00

$0.00

 

Hidden Expenses

So, is that it? No.

As they say, the devil is in the details.

As you can see, we went over budget in 14 out of the 19 categories.  All told, from the way that our expenses, based on these categories, cost us $19442.54.  Significantly over budget, but nothing we couldn’t handle. Because, after all, we were on a budget by choice, not by circumstance.

So, was that what we actually spent? Nope, we spent $3704.88 more than that. Our grand total wedding expenses were $23,147.42 (more detailed analysis coming in future posts)

That remaining amount, 3704.88 came from categories not included in any “normal” wedding budget breakdown, or, what would be included in the “miscellaneous” category. 

I’ll talk more about those “hidden” expenses over the next few days!

 

How about you all? How did your estimated budget breakdowns vary from your actual?

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Our Wedding Expense Analysis: A Prologue

by Melissa on March 5, 2012

wmw-2012This year, I’m participating in Women’s Money Week, all about encouraging women to speak up about money, take control of their finances, and reshape their financial futures. I definitely recommend checking out all the amazing bloggers participating and topics that are being discussed.

This week, all of my posts will be about our wedding expenses and budget. How much we spent. How much we’ve made back by selling items we used at the wedding. What expenses we regret. And what expenses were well worth it!

Ummm, you’ve been married for almost four months now … what took you so long?

I’ve been putting off my wedding budget posts for a while now. There’s a few reasons.

1) We’re still in the process of selling items from our wedding. We started posting our wedding items for sale at the end of December. We’ve sold more than $1600 worth of stuff ($1664 to be exact), and still have about another $500+ worth of items to sell. Since that will factor in to the overall net cost of the wedding, I didn’t want to call any of the figures “final” until we had unloaded ALL of our wedding stuff.  But, the figures will be close enough, and I can always come back and update the final figures when we’re done selling all the items.

2) This whole wedding expense tracking thing is complicated shit. Ken and I tracked every.penny of wedding-related expenses. $1.25 parking fee during our engagement session? Accounted for. Cardstock purchases at Michael’s? Yep, it’s on the spreadsheet. But there are additional complications though.  Exactly what expense category do “patio heaters” go into? Or what about the foam core I purchased to make our escort card display? Or the royal blue totes I purchased as our wedding welcome bags? Or the buckets I purchased to hold our s’mores supplies next to the fireplace? Somehow, WeddingWire and The Knot do not have categories for these types of purchases!

So, here’s the deal. A lot of the categories are simple judgment calls. Should the s’mores buckets go into the food expenses or the supplies expense category? Well, I put it in the “supplies” category, but it just have easily could have gone in the food expenses bucket since, after all, it was holding food items. Does the liquor license go into the venue expense category (since our venue required it) or does it go in the “food and beverage” expense category? Well, I put it in the “food and beverage” expense category. Do tablecloths go in the decor budget or the supplies budget? Well, I put them in the decor budget.  Judgement calls. That’s it.

Other folks may have categorized these items as something totally different, and that’s fine.

3) There are just so many budget and cost-related things to discuss, I had no idea how to organize it. So, I’ve done my best to organize it in the clearest way possible, but, since I don’t have the skills to do a pretty infographic, I will write about a bunch of topics, all in separate posts.

Post Schedule for this Week

    • Monday: Projected Budget Breakdown according to WeddingWire vs. Actual Budget Breakdown (still using WeddingWire’s categories)
    • Tuesday: Distribution of Expenses (i.e., how many expenses were less than $100, $101-$500, etc. and how our expenses were distributed during our 13 month engagement)
    • Wednesday: Comprehensive listing of all expenses and pretty charts to go along with it.
    • Thursday: Wedding Day costs vs. The Cost of Getting Married (and what the heck the difference is)
    • Friday: Avoidable expenses vs. Regretable expenses (again, a lot of judgment calls in this post. Realistically, all wedding expenses are “avoidable” except a marriage license fee. So, this will just be my own judgment).
    • Saturday Tuesday: True Wedding net cost: Total cost of getting married (minus) wedding items sold (minus) wedding and shower gift values
    • Sunday Friday: A few wedding budget lessons learned

So, check back later today for the first post in the series! I hope that this series will be the most comprehensive analysis of wedding expenses that you have ever seen and that it will be helpful to couples trying to budget accordingly for their wedding!

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Last Year on SuperNoVABride

by Melissa on March 4, 2012

Ooops! I realized I hadn’t posted February’s archives post yet! Since we’re only four days into March, I suppose there’s no harm in looking back a bit.

So, here are some of my favorite posts from February 2011:

There you have it.

Happy March!

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An absolutely amazing photographer.

I looked long and hard for a great photographer. And we found one. And I am still on an absolute high after receiving our wedding photos about two weeks ago. They are stunning.

An amazing photographer can make even a simple, inexpensive wedding look like a million bucks. Conversely, if you spend all your money on food, decor, a wedding dress, etc., and then skimp on a photographer, your wedding can look cheap, regardless of how much money you spent to make it look amazing.

Our photographer was our biggest wedding expense of $3210 – more than we spent on food, and more than we spent on our venue. And now, we have these incredible photos to last us a lifetime. Much, much longer than any food or decoration!

Something unique and fun

For us, this expense was board games. Yes, we had board games at our wedding. Why? Well, a few reasons. 1) Prior to taking dance lessons, Ken and I never liked to dance. That made weddings, especially ones where we didn’t know many people, very awkward for us when we were guests. We wanted to make sure everyone had fun at our wedding, even if a guest didn’t like to dance or didn’t know anyone else at the wedding! 2) Of the 147 people that RSVPed to our wedding, 33 were kids! We wanted to make sure they had fun at the wedding too! So, we bought about $300 in board games, decks of cards, and poker sets. We also had LED frisbees and small Nerf footballs. (We wanted to rent a moonbounce too, but our venue wouldn’t allow it). As I look through our wedding photos, I practically cry with joy seeing how much fun people were having playing those games. Grownups, kids, teenagers … they were all having a blast playing games. And seriously, how often do you see a teenager having fun at a wedding? This was a great expense, and made the wedding memorable for our guests! 

So, pick something fun and unique and trust me, it will be a worthwhile expense!

A few, high-impact decor pieces.

As brides, we tend to get weighed down with the “details.” And how can we help it. All those shots of “details” on Style Me Pretty and in Martha Stewart Weddings! But … details are damn expensive! So, instead of individually wrapping all your silverware sets with twine, or tracking down the best prices on striped straws to and mason jars for your signature lemonade cocktail, just focus on a few big impact decorations. Perhaps huge pieces of muslin fabric draping your ceiling. Or an amazing lighting scheme. Focus on the big picture items, and the details won’t matter!

 

What was your most important expense for your wedding?

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The nebulous world of wedding expense tracking

by Melissa on September 28, 2011

To date, we have spent $12,704 on wedding expenses out of our $15,000 budget. $214.44 dollars of that has been shipping costs.  We estimate that we’ve earned about $211.89 using cashback reward programs so far. I’ve also earned more than 100,000 British Airways miles after I signed up for a mega bonus program a few months ago as well as many many Southwest Rapid Rewards Points. Given our projected expenses (balances to be paid to vendors, etc.) we estimate that we’ll be approximately $4000 over budget. Yikes. (For those interested, I’ve updated the expense tracking spreadsheet in the sidebar)

abacus

Let me tell you though, if you haven’t tracked your wedding expenses to the absolute nitty gritty level that we have, it is a really nebulous exercise.  Just to give you a breakdown:

So far, we have had 93 wedding-related expenses

  • 72 of those expenses (77%) have been less than $100
  • Those 72 expenses add up to $2442.84
  • 18 of the 93 expenses have been between $100-$500.
  • Those 18 expenses add up to $4182.35
  • 3 of the expenses have been between $501-$1000
  • Those 3 expenses add up to $2011.16
  • We have had 2 expenses between $1001-$3000 ($2910 was our max expense)
  • Those two expenses add up to $4067.85

I guess what I’m trying to illustrate with my analysis here is that it’s not always the big expenses that kill your budget. Our 18 expenses between $100-$500 have been a complete budget buster.

There are many other things that leave me scratching my head when I add line items to our expenses spreadsheet.  Let me illustrate with some examples.

  • The other day, I bought a huge multi-pack of scrapbook paper for $14.99 (after coupon). I’m only going to use maybe 15 out of the 100 sheets. So, what do I put down as the wedding expense? $14.99 for the whole pack? Or since each sheet comes out to about 15 cents, do I just put down $2.25 in the spreadsheet (15 cents each (x) 15 sheets of scrapbook paper used)?
  • I bought a hot glue gun from Amazon to assemble my seating chart poster. Now, I never had a need for a hot glue gun before, so the wedding was the reason I had to buy the hot glue gun at this moment in time. But will I use the hot glue gun again in the future?  Very likely yes!  So, is that a wedding expense?  Or, let’s look at it in a different way. Let’s say I already owned a glue gun and glue sticks. Would I have to to deduct the glue sticks that I used as a “wedding expense” even thought I might have bought those glue sticks years ago and was only just using them on the wedding project?
  • Over the past few days, I’ve been purchasing accessories (purse, bracelet, necklace, etc.) to wear on my wedding day. Nothing “bridal” looking, but instead fun, funky jewelry and some plain old elegant pearls. All jewelry that I would wear on future occasions. So, are the accessories a wedding expense?
  • I’ve identified a difference between the cost of “getting married” vs. the cost of your wedding. For instance, should our engagement photos and the amount I paid to get my hair done for our engagement photos be considered a “wedding” cost? The more I thought about it, no. That might be part of the cost of “getting married” but our engagement photos cost have nothing to do with what we’re spending for our wedding day.
  • What if I manage to sell $1000 worth of stuff after the wedding? Would I subtract that from the “cost” of the wedding?
  • What about all the gifts and money we receive? What about all the frequent flier miles earned? Shouldn’t that somehow be taken into account when trying to determine how much you “paid” for your wedding?

Or maybe I am just trying to make excuses for myself as we anticipate that we’ll be nearly $4000 over budget?  What this all boils down to is the need for multiple spreadsheets. So, what you’ll see here on SuperNoVABride after I get married (in just a little over 6 weeks! Yikes!) is all sorts of different expense analysis. One counting supplies (even if it’s a supply I’m likely to use again in the future), one breaking down “wedding day” vs. “getting married” expenses, and all sorts of other fun stuff.  What? Other people don’t think that’s fun?

Has anyone ever taken an accounting class? How are expenses like these accounted for in the business world?

Image Source

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My fiancé and I are in a unique situation (or maybe it’s not all that unique, who knows).

We both grew up in families that did not have much money.  And they still don’t have much money.  However, my fiancé and I now make good money.  In fact, combined, we make nearly $180,000/year.

We have both done everything we can to make our wedding as financially easy on our families as possible.  We’re paying for the entire wedding ourselves.  We’re not having a wedding party so we don’t have to saddle our families with bridesmaid dress and suit rental costs.  I told my family that I did not want a bridal shower either.  (although that wasn’t an entirely financial consideration, I also don’t like the idea of being in front of all those people opening gifts).

Yet, I still feel bad about some things.  For instance, I want to suggest that all our immediate family members wear solid colors, and no pastels (instead, bright colors or jewel tone colors) so that we don’t clash in photos.  But I feel really guilty for making that suggestion.  What if they already have a perfectly nice outfit that is a print pattern and they don’t want to buy a solid color dress?

Another example. My fiancé and I went to Men’s Wearhouse to look for a suit for him to wear at the wedding.  We found one, but they’re running a promotion that if you buy one suit, you get a second one for $100.  So, I thought that we could ask my dad if he wanted to get the second suit since he needs a new one for the wedding.  But, that begged the question, since we’d probably try to get two suits that were about equal value, would we ask my dad to pay just the $100, or would we ask him to pay like (fiance’s suit cost (+) dad’s suit cost), all divided by two?

My fiancé’s sister and her husband recently declared bankruptcy, and I feel terrible for asking them to buy a $25 tutu and a cute cardigan for their daughter to wear as our flower girl.  I often wonder if they’re thinking to themselves, “What assholes, they know we’re struggling with our budget, can’t they just pay for it?  It is THEIR wedding after all and they have plenty of money.”

My fiancé’s dad, who also recently declared bankruptcy, is a bachelor and is also in need of some new clothes in general.  His weight has yo-yo’ed because he’s had some medical issues over the last year, so his current clothes are either ill-fitting or just really old. But, how can I ask such a thing from someone who is, literally, bankrupt.  Am I a bad person?

I also feel terrible for registering for expensive items.  But, we already have cheap items that we’ve had since college, and I’m ready to upgrade.

But, here’s the thing.  I need to put those feelings of guilt aside.  Yes, we make good money, but spending $15,000 on one day of our lives is already so excessive.

I’ll offer up everything as suggestions and give my reasoning.  So, for instance, I’ll just say, “since we’re going to be in a lot of pictures together on our day, I was thinking that we could make sure we didn’t clash too badly.  How about if we all try to wear solid colors and nothing pastel?”

What do you think?  Have other couples been in this type of situation?

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I am a bit of a personal finance geek.  I follow way too many personal finance blogs.  I constantly tinker with spreadsheets that will help me stay on top of my finances.  I’ve tried all the big personal finance tools and sites, like Mint and Yodlee, but really, nothing gives me the flexibility that I need more than a good ‘ole spreadsheet.  For each vacation my Fiancé and I have taken, I can tell you precisely how much money we’ve spent, and provide an analysis of how our spending breaks down by category, all in one neatly-organized spreadsheet in Google Docs!

Because of my obsession with saving and tracking my money, I  love maximizing the benefits of my purchases by taking advantage of cashback bonuses through credit cards and online cashback sources such as Ebates and FatWallet.  I’m always switching around the credit cards that I use based on the best cash back rewards offers.

*** Disclaimer. I only advocate using credit cards for wedding expenses if you can pay off the full balance every month.  I pay off my credit card statement balances every month to avoid interest charges (with the exception of one 0% interest card I have).  Any cashback program wouldn’t be worth it if you let yourself accrue 15%+ interest just to get 3% cashback.  However, used correctly, cashback credit cards are an awesome tool!

credit card 2

So, how am I preparing my personal finances and planning credit card hacks for our wedding expenses?  I plan to use a combination of the following cashback methods:

  • Store-Specific Cashback Offers. Let’s say I want to buy some wedding makeup from Sephora.com.  I head on over to Evreward (more on that later) and type in “Sephora.com” and see that Mr. Rebates and Shop Discover offer the best cashback bonus.  So, I link to Sephora through Mr. Rebates or Shop Discover and earn 5% on my purchase!
  • Category-Specific Cashback Offers (usually through credit cards only).  Many credit cards offer cashback rewards on certain categories, and sometimes those categories rotate on a quarterly basis.  For instance, my AmEx offers 3% cashback on Restaurants and Gas all year round.  On the other hand, my Discover card is offering 5% cashback on Drug Stores, but just between January and March.
  • Generic Cashback offers. These are cashback offers that are independent of stores and categories and are good on anything.

We can use these offers for a variety of our wedding expenses!

Catering

Category Specific Rotating Offers: We’re planning a self-catered wedding plus some accompaniments by a local restaurant or caterer.  Coincidentally, from October to December, my Discover More card will offer 5% cashback on Restaurants and Fashion.   So, I’ll use my Discover More card at the restaurant we use for catering (hopefully they take Discover! ).  Typically the 5% cashback bonus is good on up to $500 or $800 worth of purchases.  In case we spend more than that, I may ask my fiancé to apply for a Discover More Card as well so that we can use his card and get additional cash back bonuses.

Or, my American Express True Rewards card offers 3% cashback on all restaurant charges.  So, we can switch to that card after we reach the Discover More threshold (or switch to a generic 5% cashback card.  More on that below!)

Generic Cashback Offer: My Discover More card is also offering a promotion that if you spend a total of $3000 between February and October (spending money each month), that you get a $500 cashback bonus.  That is a nearly 17% cashback bonus.  (I received this offer from Discover by mail, and can’t seem to find anything about it online.  It sounds a lot like what is mentioned here though)

Because my Discover More card is not my everyday credit card, I’ll start using it more for wedding-related purchases to make sure I get to the $3000 threshold.

Online Shopping for Wedding Items

Store-Specific Cashback Bonuses: I anticipate doing a lot of shopping online for wedding-related items.  Before I click “purchase” on anything that I buy, regular or wedding-related, I always head to www.evreward.com to determine who has the best cashback bonus for the store I’m about to purchase from.

(Evreward is a website that aggregates all the cashback reward programs websites, so all you have to do is enter the store where you’re shopping, and it’ll tell you who gives the best cashback, and even if there are any coupons!  I have accounts with all the rewards programs, including Ebates, FatWallet, Mr. Rebates, and of course, Shop Discover).

I have an Amazon.com credit card that I’ll use for any purchases from Amazon.com, since it offers me 3% rewards on all Amazon purchases.  It looks like Amazon has reasonably priced catering supplies, like chafing dishes, that I could buy and then try to sell after the wedding.  The only reason I wouldn’t use my Amazon.com Chase Card for a purchase from Amazon is if another credit card had a better offer.  For instance, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, Discover Card offered 5% cashback on all online purchases.  5% beats Amazon’s 3%, so I used my Discover Card.

Generic Cashback Bonuses: For non-Amazon, non-cashback rewards-offering websites that I may use for wedding items (ahem, Save-on-Crafts), I may either use one of my airline cards, or apply for (yet another!) credit card that offers a short term, high percentage, cashback bonus.  For instance, Madison over at My Dollar Plan (who, by the way, runs an enviable credit card arbitrage game.  She’s my hero!) wrote about how you don’t have to be retirement age to apply for the AARP Credit Card, which offers 5% unlimited cashback for six months.  This 5% card, or something similar, would also be the perfect fallback card for places that don’t accept Discover Card (or if we’ve reached our “restaurants” category ceiling) or American Express.  With our wedding planned for mid-November, I’ll wait until May before I apply for it though.  Once I reach the $3000 ceiling for the additional $500 Discover Cashback Bonus, I can switch to the 5% cashback AARP card (or whatever card I decide to apply for) for other wedding-related purchases, regardless of whether they are online purchases or in-store.

Vendors that Accept Cash or Check Only

Now, what about all those pesky vendors that take cash or check only?  It’s funny, because I was just complaining to my fiancé the other day about how much I hate getting those credit-card blank checks in the mail.  I shred them as soon as I get them, and am always afraid of someone getting a hold of them and compromising my account.

Well, I think I may have finally discovered a use for them!  Why not use those checks to pay vendors that accept cash or check only?  Or, I can write one of those checks to myself, and then deposit the money in my checking account in order to use a “less shady” looking check when paying a vendor.  I haven’t ironed out the details yet, but I think my US Airways Dividend Miles card would be perfect for this.  They send me checks all the time, and plus I could rack up some frequent flier miles just for paying vendors with those checks!

Buying in Bulk

We anticipate a lot of purchases at bulk-item stores for our (mostly) self-catered wedding.  My fiancé and I belong to Costco, and I have an Amex True Rewards card that you can use at Costco.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Costco, they accept cash, check, or American Express only.  So, since I hate dealing with cash and checks, I applied for their credit card.  The card only offers 1% cash back on purchases at Costco, but it’s better than nothing, and I don’t have to deal with paying with cash or check.

Isn’t this a lot of work?

Not at all!  I have a blast with all of this.  I use my cashback rewards every year as my Christmas gift fund.  Let’s say that I average a 4% cashback on a $10,000-$15,000 wedding.  That’s an at least $400 bonus just for money I had to spend anyway.  Plus, let’s not forget about the additional $500 Discover Card cashback bonus.  Plus some frequent flier miles!  Score!

As always, before applying for any new credit card, do a quick search online to see if the credit card is offering any sign-up bonuses.  Folks on forums and personal finance blogs will often post sign-up bonus links.

Does anyone else have any tips for playing the credit card game for their wedding?  Any good stores that offer cash-back bonuses?

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