How Much Wedding Can You Afford? Choosing The Big Number for Your Big Day

Weddings cost a lot.  A whole lot.  A put-away-every-extra-penny-for-your-entire-engagement-and-only-eat-rice-and-beans-and-don't-buy-anything-that-could-be-considered-a-want lot.  When I read that the average wedding in Canada costs over $31,000 I got very close to giving up and eloping with Jason right then and there (we were in Costa Rica, after all.  Not a bad locale if you ask me.)  But I have always dreamed of a wedding including my closest and dearest, and so had he.  We decided to stick it out and go with a traditional wedding.  But at what cost?

That is the exact topic I'd like to explore today.  How much should you really be spending on your wedding?  There are a whole host of factors, and every couple will be different, but I hope that these talking points that Jason and I spent time over will help you and your soon to be spouse figure out the big number for your special day.

Who's paying?

This is the first thing you want to figure out.  Are you and your fiancé paying for everything yourselves or will you be getting help from family?    Is your family paying for the entire shindig?  You need to know who's contributing to footing the bill.

How much outside contribution can you count on?

You don't want to just assume that your parents will contribute as much as you need, you have to actually ask them.  (You may think this is common sense, but common sense isn't really all that common.)  Have a frank discussion, even if it makes you uncomfortable, and ask them how much (if any) they're willing and able to put towards your day.  Don't go into it with any expectations, that way if they do agree to help you financially you'll be grateful no matter what the dollar amount is.  Understand that they may not be capable of contributing at this point for various reasons and respect their decision.  If they do want to help out, get a specific number from them so that you can plug it into your calculations.  Things may change a little as the planning goes along, but you want to have the most accurate idea of what you'll be getting from outside sources right from the start.

How much do you have in savings?

Have an honest conversation with your fiancé and find out how much each of you has already saved and how much each of you is willing to contribute from those savings.  You need to think about the amount you want to have remaining in your savings accounts AFTER the fact; you don't want to use your emergency fund to pay for your wedding!  A wedding is wonderful, but it's just one day.  Don't sacrifice your financial security for the foreseeable future for a party, no matter how special!  

How much can each of you save leading up to the wedding?

Look at what each of you expect to make in the time leading up to your wedding, subtract your needs, and figure out how much each of you could save, under ideal circumstances.  Don't include income that isn't guaranteed to come in.  Any extra income can be a bonus booster to your wedding budget, if you need it!  Make sure to leave a little wiggle room in your monthly living budget for wants - you don't want to deprive yourselves as you go through the (potentially stressful) wedding planning process.  Keep enough fun money for a couple of date nights and treats here and there, you'll appreciate it later I promise!

Add up all contributions from family and friends, the amount you can allocate from your savings, and the amount that you can each reasonably put aside in the time left to your wedding to find your absolute max budget.  You do not want to make this number your actual wedding budget!  Look at the next series of questions to determine how much you actually want to spend, and keep any of the left over money as a buffer.  Unexpected costs always come up and having money ready for that purpose reduces stress by approximately 500%.  

Are you planning on a honeymoon?  

Putting aside the funds for a honeymoon can be a big task.  Ask yourselves if you need to go on a honeymoon right away, or even at all.  If you do want to go right after the wedding look into options that fit within your means and shop around for the best deals.

How many guests do you REALLY need?

Make an initial guest list, then cut anyone you don't NEED at your wedding.  This day is about you and your future spouse and your commitment to each other.  Rather than thinking of the guest list through the lens of who you'd like to have there, think about who you'd be distraught to not see on the day.  Who are those people who you and your spouse couldn't get married without?  The number of guests has a huge impact on the final cost of your wedding, so think long and hard about how much you want your coworker's second cousin to witness your nuptials.

Do you need to get married near a major city?

On the whole, weddings near a city centre will be more costly than those further away.  Do you need to be married in the heart of downtown Toronto, or will Barrie do just as nicely?  Do your research on real costs in the area you're looking at to get a better idea of what you'll be parting with.

How much are you each comfortable spending?

Does the idea of spending tens of thousands of dollars on one weekend make you sweat?  Or does a $50,000 budget sound just fine?  You need to get a clear picture of what each of you is willing to spend so that you won't regret it in the years following your wedding.  Keep in mind your other financial goals for the next 5 years.  Make a list of where you'd like to be and make sure you aren't shooting the future you in the foot by overspending today.

Related Blog Post: 7 Ways Pinterest is the Best Wedding Planning Tool on the Internet!

Now that you've really thought about it, come up with a number that you both feel good about.  Know that no matter how much you plan, your wedding day will likely pop up with unexpected costs.  Don't beat yourself up if you end up a little off your goal!  Remember, that's why you set your actual budget below your absolutely maximum budget, so that you had a bit of breathing room.  Now get out there and start the fun part.  

Until next time,

Plant Based Bride

How did you and your spouse come up with a budget for your wedding?  Let me know in the comments below!  Share this post with your engaged friends to give them a leg up in the planning process and check out my wedding boards on Pinterest for a little wedding inspiration!

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