1st Discussions on our Wedding

Well, I knew it couldn't last forever. My fiancée has finally turned full speed on wedding planning. She had been distracted by other projects for at least a few weeks; however, she has suddenly decided we need to book a location NOW.

What is interesting to me is how this is beginning to evolve. I can't even conceive how you can decide where you are getting married until you have a budget for the wedding. In my opinion, 1st things 1st - you don't want to book an expensive location, find out you have no money, and then can't afford the rest of the pieces of a wedding. I understand the urgency - we have tentatively targeted Fall, 2007 to get married and hence a need to secure a location before they book up.

However I am treading on thin ice when I bring up costs. My fiancée’s parents have made some vague indications of providing my fiancée with a wedding that she wants. However, no budgets have been discussed, it seems to be stressing family members and its clear that we will be paying for at least a few parts of this wedding - how much is anyone's guess.

It seems to me that it would make sense to just get everyone in a room and everyone say 'I am willing to contribute $X to the wedding' and we can begin planning from there. However, I have been advised by many people to just stay out of the way and let things play out. I'm just worried it could lead to a budgeting disaster..... anyone been down this road?

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Comments (16)


2million,
I started reading your blog about a month ago and so far so good. As far as this post goes, I too just got engaged and we are planning a July 2007 wedding. My fiance was pretty much the same way as yours, full speed ahead. But since she is still in school, was realistic about the costs.

We have since booked the hall and to top it off, got an unbelievable deal. Maybe it is because we are booking the room within a year of the date and the hall wanted to get the room sold. I was really concerned about being able to pay for it since her family wasn't going to be able to contribute anything (both parents will give us 0% loans if needed). While you don't want to start your life with $15k in wedding debt, you don't want to remember that day for the cheap party either. We decided on 2 things we didn't want to skimp on: the hall, where you will be spending the whole night and the photographer, how you will look back on that day. Everything else we will work into our budget (26K).

While this day is important to you, she has been thinking about it her entire life. Think about it how you thought about your ring purchase. Use that same logic (demonstrating/symbol of your love) to help raise the acceptable price.

I would make a recommendation here.
Have a joint family meeting.

To start off, tell everyone how much you love your bride and want her wedding to be just right. Tell them the amount you are planning to budget, and let everyone know you feel you could pull off a whole wedding with that amount.
Tell them you inderstand that they may want to be strong participants in the planning, and they they may also want to contribute to the funding.
Ask that they let you know up front what their expectations are as far as planning and financing.
This is the best way to determine up front how to manage this project. Bring a planning guide with you. Hand out assignments. Reiterate that you want to be able to plan this appropriately from the beginning so that your bride is not puffy-eyed in the photos because she's been crying about some mal-planned item in her wedding that's gone wrong at the last minute.
Make sure everyone feels accomadated and valued.
Not only has she been dreaming about this her whole life, her mom has been, too.
Plan well, rewards to come!

My Fiance and I have been throwing around plans for our wedding. But with us there's no plans set in stone nor issues with who's paying for what; we're paying for the whole thing. Which means we've got an idea how much it'll cost and we're working within a rough budgetary idea.

I've seen so much stress when it comes to money and weddings with all the weddings around me that I just don't want any part of it. This is the main reason that we're paying for everything, no arguments that stem to the cost of something because someone all of a sudden realized that they don't have quite enough to cover what they said they'd be able to pay.

Weddings can be extremely expensive, budgeting for it is a brilliant idea; just be careful not to piss off too many inlaws in letting them know that.

Yes this would be a lot less stressful if we just paid for the whole thing ourselves but there are a couple issues with that - 1) my fiancee (or myself I guess for that matter) wouldn't get the wedding we want because our budget would surely shrink (who doesn't want a bigger, better wedding?) and 2) being a person who doesn't like to spend money, I would probably be kicking myself for years if we turned down wedding subsidies.

Fortunately, when I got married 1.5 yrs ago my father-in-law was very forthcoming with how much he would (and would not) spend. He gave us $3,000, which was the inflation-adjusted amount that he gave his other daughters 15 yrs ago. So, we had a $3,000 wedding. It never got back to me that anybody thought it was tacky; in fact, those who knew how much we spent congratulated us for putting on a nice show. Luckily, my fiance'/wife wasn't concerned at all about 'getting' married, it was the 'being' married which was important. Good luck with this financial hurdle.

When I got married years ago, we both wanted to save money. Piad for the $50 Mayor's special [lol]. Looks like a great deal when we got divorced 5 years later.

Here's something from the NY Times today:
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/16/business/16offline.html

ON THE OTHER HAND Not everyone is frugal. Lavish, pull-out-the-stops weddings are a growing phenomenon, reports Modern Bride, adding that the trend is fueled by everything from a solid economy and the fact that people are marrying later, to attempts at emulating celebrity weddings and a desire to outdo the weddings of friends.

“Although the average wedding tag is around $26,000, in certain parts of the country, such as New York City and Los Angeles, the cost is closer to $40,000,” Lambeth Hochwald writes. Many couples “spend six figures to create the event of their dreams.”

Or substantially more. One couple profiled shelled out $150,000 on just their wedding on Mackinac Island in Michigan, and that price tag did not include the $15,000 spent on the rehearsal dinner, another $15,000 on the honeymoon, and the $500 spent to announce the wedding on NPR.

Said the bride: “All of my friends say they still talk about our wedding.” At those prices, we should hope so.

I agree that it is important to know how much $$ you are working with before you start out. My parents told me you can have $XX amount for this wedding. You can spend it all on the wedding or your can elope and take the cash. If you want to spend more than that, you have to pay for the extra yourselves. Then his parents generously gave us a few thousand too. Because the costs of venues, catering, alcohol can vary a lot, you don't want to be looking at places until you know whether or not you can afford them. It would suck to fall in love with a venue that you just can't afford. (Likewise, I never tried on a "couture" gown. I did not want to fall in love with a dress that took up half of my wedding budget and then just feel depressed when I couldn't afford to buy it.)

Then I would sit down with your fiancee and discuss the 2-4 things that are most important to you. Make your budget reflect those priorities, spending a premium on them if you desire. For everything else be frugal.

For us, we prioritized location (destination wedding on the beach) and having an open bar. A large chunk of our budget is going to this. We also really wanted a classical guitarist for the ceremony. We are making all of those things happen -- but we are able to do so only because we are going easy on the flowers, got very simple (but gorgeous nonetheless) invitations, and I ordered my dress discount online for 33% savings from the retails store (same designer, same dress, different 3rd party seller with lower overhead). Anyway, my point is that you don't want to pay a premium for EVERYTHING unless you want to go broke and give yourself so much $$ anxiety that you can't truly enjoy the day. Choose what matters to you, and make those your financial priorities.

Good luck! With the right mindset (focused on the marriage more than the wedding), I have found wedding planning to be fairly stress-free. Having easy-going parents and in-laws helps with that A TON. You should start off on the right foot with them :)

We were recently married in June. I too worried about the financial aspects of this and, like a previous commenter, felt like I could pull off a pretty decent, if small, wedding for a not unreasonable amount of money. Of course the bride and her mother wouldn't have really thought it was all that great. :)

In the end I decided to put down all of the deposits for items and services, up to $2,000, so that her parents would have more time to save and fund the remaining expenses. I felt it was fair, so did my fiance, and I think her parents did as well. All along I made it perfectly clear I didn't expect a huge day, but at the same time I wanted to recognize that I should contribute a bit to our celebration as well. But given I had to pay for a honeymoon, which was in the five figures, $2,000 was all I was willing to contribute.

God speed. My suggestion is to be firm up front about what you're willing to do. It's a lot better than arguing late in the game about budgets and costs going out of control and feeling forced into footing more of the bill than you can chew.

2 million,
It's really hard to give advice here because every family is so different and every wedding is so different, but I can't help myself from jumping into the fray.

I think it's a BAD, BAD idea to start talking with both families about the exact dollar amount they'll be contributing. It takes years to get comfortable talking finance with families (your own or your fiance's), so don't try to rush things. Here's what I suggest: it's up to you and your fiance to plan the basic look and feel of the wedding. Once you've decided what you have in mind (wedding location, morning or evening wedding, full bar or just a champaigne toast, full meal with waiters or buffet, etc.) then you can let each family know the kind of wedding you want, and you can ask each family commit to WHAT they'll pay for, not HOW MUCH they'll spend. They'll pay for the pieces of the wedding they've committed to, and the cost of each piece will be high or low depending on the kind of wedding you've already laid out for them. In other words, if the bride's family knows that you want an evening reception with a catered meal and a full bar AND they've committed to paying for that reception, then you both know that they've committed themselves to many thousand of dollars (which I think is nuts, but that's just me). There's simply no need to get them to commit to some specific dollar amount based on an arbitrary budget that you and you fiance have created.

Traditionally your family would pay for the rehearsal dinner and your wife's family would pay for the reception, but DON'T adhere to tradition just because it's tradition. Make a list of each discrete part of the wedding that will need to be paid for and have each family pick what they want to cover. This way you don't even have to make this a financial discussion. It's a simple planning issue. You need to know what each family is paying for so that you know who to consult with on what.

Now that I've given my advice, here's how our wedding went (you can skip this part if you don't care): My wife and I agreed from the outset that we wanted a modest but beautiful and memorable wedding (we were married in August, 2002). We had a total of about 85 people at our wedding, so I guess that qualifies as small. We had a morning wedding with a modest buffet and champagne brunch afterwords. We both hate cheesy, endless wedding dances with more four year olds out on the dance floor than adults, and we didn't want to pay for a bar, so the morning wedding idea was perfect for us. We did splurge a bit by having a catered reception at my wife's house the night before the wedding for everyone who was in town (not just the rehearsal folks). It was a small wedding, so the catered reception the night before was very affordable, and it was a LOT of fun. Since it was at my wife's parents' house (actually, their backyard) we didn't have to pay for a location and we could provide all kinds of booze very affordably without licenses or extra costs. Also, we were married in a mid-sized midwestern town (my wife's hometown) rather than in the city of Denver where we were living at the time. I can't tell you how much money that location decision saved us. It meant that we could invite a lot of people safe in the knowledge that only the truly committed would want to make the trip to her rather remotely located hometown, and it meant that the purchases we made on the wedding were dramatically less expensive than the very same items would have been in Denver. Her hometown is large enough that we had at least two options for every purchase, and the quality of the food, flowers, etc. were all excellent. Another money-saver for us was that we designed our own invitations and programs using MS Publisher (we really enjoyed doing this). We bought pretty expensive paper from a high-end store in Cherry Creek in Denver and printed everything on a laser printer, but it was still dramatically less expensive than ordering invitations and programs elsewhere. My parents paid for the food at the dinner on the night before the wedding, and my wife's parents paid for the reception hall and breakfast buffet on the morning after the wedding. We paid for everything else. We didn't have a penny of debt after the wedding, and by all acounts it was an absolutely beautiful event.

Good luck, and have fun!!

having just gotten married in July 2006, i can give you a bit of advice.
from the outset, my wife and I are both very financially conscious. we knew that we'd both rather modesty than extravagance.
I first told my parents to buzz off and stay out of our hair. they said they were prepared to help and would be on stand by.
My wife's parents kept giving mixed messages. The mom wanted us to do what we wanted, whereas the father would switch back and forth between not giving a cent to making all his daughter's dreams come through.

That said, I prepared myself for the worst case of paying for it all, with a bit of help from my parents. We found a really nice rustical location, which was relatively cheap, but had a wonderfully excellent catered buffet. Throughout the whole process, i kept mentally asking myself "would I pay for this myself?" in order to avoid doing soemthing simply because it was on someone else's tab.

In the end, her father ended up paying for the location/food. My parents paid the band, and I paid everything else: photographer, our clothing, flowers and all the other small things that add up. I imagine this added up to about 50% father-of-the-bride, 35% me, 15% my parents.

My advice: get a clear answer on contributions from the beginning and keep track of your budget...much like you'd do for any other project. this is something i missed be able to do, due to too many back-and-forth discussions with the various families.

Its an one time event, good luck, and remember to have fun!

Wow - lots of advice to digest.

I like the idea of thinking of paying for it myself and any contributions a bonus - that has been my plan all along, however, I am also thinking this may be the root of the problem.

The reception places my fiancee has looked at are all way over what our entire budget would probably be if we paid for it all ourselves. Definitely a mismatch there.

Planning for a wedding is a huge project that can get out of hand. A lot of great advice is noted above.

I had to make clear to my wife when planning our wedding was to clearly determine the priority / levels of wants and needs since her parents did not provide any assistance. Therefore the two of us paid for the entire wedding.

A preliminary guest lists was important to us since it was our wedding and not her parents. I didn't think it appropriate to invite guests of her parents I didn't know before nor would I ever see again after the wedding.

What we did was to compare several halls for quality/price/availability/value against the hall we wanted to use. I had a predetermined amount set up to avoid paying an excessive premium for the hall. Ask the halls for low cost options such as the thanksgiving weekend, menu combinations, or afternoon/evening receptions. Our hall required the payment in full before the reception and was accomplished in installments which helped.

Finally, the bulk of our wedding gifts happened to be in cash. Therefore our wedding didn't cost as much as we expected. This was our experience and yours will differ.

Best of luck.

I just got married earlier this year. There's an easy way to budget for your wedding. Sit down with your fiance and map out what you think everything will cost. Then double it. There will be a ton of items you will have to pay for that you will never think of when doing your initial budget.
Thre's just too much emotion and time preasures to deal with during planning a wedding. Trust me no matter how shrewd you are, it would be near impossible to say 'no' to the perfect dress, wedding ring, etc.

Good luck!

http://www.dollarbytes.com

Lots of excellent advice. All I can say is, don't let yourself get railroaded into an expensive wedding. Remember, it's just one day. ONE DAY. You have the rest of your lives together--a smaller, more intimate wedding that doesn't break the bank can mean just as much emotionally as a big shebang, and perhaps more!

To RR, it may be only one day, but it is one day you will spend the rest of your lives together to looking back on. It's a chance to make great memories, as long as you spend on the things you really want.

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