If you’ve recently become engaged to be married, you’ve got a lot of planning to do. While you’re probably thinking about the dress, the flowers, and the wedding venue, don’t get too ahead of yourself. Planning a wedding entails much more than just imagining how you want the big day to be – you need to set the tone for your entire married life. Therefore, once you’ve alerted your family members and friends about the big news, it’s time to buckle down and focus on not only your wedding plans, but also your financial future.
While financial planning isn’t exactly fun, debt and money woes in the first year of marriage can be even worse. Be smart about money and financial planning now, and you can make it through married life with minimal squabbles – at least regarding money.
Financial Tasks for Newly Engaged Couples
1. Delegate Costs
When my husband and I got married in 2003, our long-distance relationship resulted in the necessity of having two receptions: one in Canada, and one in the United States. It basically doubled our wedding budget, even though the receptions were of different styles. Regardless, the first thing we did before even creating our own budgets was talk to our families to see if either planned to contribute to the wedding. It was kind of awkward, but after we found out that his family would be willing to contribute to our American ceremony and my parents were happy to foot the Canadian bill, it made planning much easier. We then knew a general budget from both families, plus the costs we’d have to cover as a couple.
Modern weddings aren’t always paid for through traditional means. However, even if your family isn’t willing to pay for the whole shebang, there’s a good chance they’re willing to contribute. Find out immediately so you know which components are covered and which will be paid for out of your pocket.
2. Create a Budget
After the wedding, you and your spouse will be partners in finances. What better way to kick off that partnership than by creating a wedding budget that you both agree on? Once you know which parts of the wedding are coming out of your bank account, you can have a financial date night with your fiancé where you outline the wedding and your overall budget.
This might not as be as exciting as a night out on the town, but it’ll be one of the most eye-opening dates you’ve ever had. Outline what you hope to spend on the budget and who is paying for what. Determine an amount that you both can live with, and use that as a point of reference going forward.
3. List Your Must-Haves
With two people – and their families – involved, you’re bound to have differing ideas on what your wedding should entail. While you can’t make everyone happy, you can ensure that you both get what you want at a price you can live with.
When I was planning my own wedding, I was a stickler for three things: the dress, the flowers, and the photography. Anything else was second-tier, and therefore less important. When allocating money in my wedding budget, the bulk of the money went to those top-tier things that I wanted to be absolutely perfect. That way, I got what I wanted most without having to settle.
I spent a lot on those three things, but I was able to scale back on other things that weren’t as important to me. For instance, we had my baker aunt make our wedding cake, rather than ordering one. List your top three wants, and you’ll still feel like you scored the wedding of your dreams, even if you pinched pennies elsewhere.
4. Be Clear with Prospective Vendors
When meeting with your wedding vendors, be clear about your budget for each component from the first meeting and don’t budge. When planning, you’ll have the opportunity to meet with everyone from a D.J., to a florist, to lighting engineers, to stationary designers. Instead of being pushed into higher price brackets for your wedding necessities, promise your partner that you’ll tell vendors straight-up what you hope to spend and ask that they only show you options within your budget.
5. Explore Offbeat Options
If you’ve always dreamed of the perfect autumn wedding at the Plaza Hotel and have the money for it, by all means, go for it. But if your budget’s a little tighter, discuss some of the offbeat wedding options that can help save serious cash without compromising quality.
Planning your wedding during an off-season (usually wintertime) can help you score better deals from vendors who are willing to discount their services during slow times. Or, going for a chic weeknight cocktail-style affair can save money over the huge weekend wedding. If you’re laid-back about your options, you could find deals that help you save money and start off your marriage on the right financial foot.
6. Agree on Debt
Of course, I don’t recommend going into debt for your wedding, but it’s still a conversation you need to have. If you agree that you must stay in the black while planning for the wedding, consider not using credit cards to pay for the event. Or, if you don’t mind using credit cards and other lenders to pay, determine the amount that you’ll spend using credit cards and other forms of debt. Spending can quickly spiral out of control, so be sure to set a limit and plan your debt wisely.
7. Create a Timeline
The last necessity of pre-wedding financial planning is to create a timeline for your checklist. The closer it gets to the date, the easier it is for vendors to take advantage of a sticky situation when you simply have to have a dress rush-ordered or secure a busy wedding photographer. Once you get the date in place, give yourself plenty of time to talk to your family, arrange for vendors, and ensure that all of your components are shipped to your home in time. Creating a solid timeline also gives you plenty of time to work on DIY projects, which can save you money on items such as invitations or centerpieces.
Planning a wedding is exciting, and so is the prospect of spending the rest of your life with someone you love. But in between showing off the ring and choosing decor for the reception, get your finances in order. That way, when you finally walk down the aisle, you can spend time enjoying the moment and not stressing about how much it’s all going to cost you.
What are your best pre-wedding financial tips?