Part 1: What not to do.
1. Don’t even have a budget.
Just go scouting for venues. Find one you love, book a date. Pay the deposit. If necessary, inform parents how much they need to contribute. Go about making other purchases for wedding in similar manner.
Yeah… NO. Even if your venue scouting included a focus on keeping it affordable. Even if everything you bought costs 10% of what is usually costs. Do you know there are blogs out there devoted to budget weddings, that don’t even have budgets?
People, not having a budget means intentionally staying ignorant of the consequences of your actions. Wouldn’t you like to know what you are sacrificing to pay for this wedding? Wouldn’t you like to know how much your savings will suffer? Whether or not there will be debt, and how much it will be, for how long? Not budgeting = not adult behavior.
If you haven’t crunched the numbers, you don’t know what the hell affordable is. So, I’m afraid you don’t have a choice with this one: you need a budget.
2. Dream up a number that feels right to you.
This I gather is a popular option in the school of thought that’s all about trusting your gut, trusting your intuition etc. You’ve seen this one, right? $XXk just felt like a reasonable number to aim for. $YY felt like the right amount to spend per person on the food.
Actually sometimes we see this advice given out in the world of personal finance, for relatively big-ticket items, and it really bothers me there too. I swear I once read a Suzy Orman book where she asked the reader to just come up with a number that felt right, as a way of determining how much life insurance to buy (to be fair, I think she changed that and got more specific in later editions).
You know, this way of doing things is ok for deciding how to buy things that are within your daily/weekly/monthly free spending amount. You don’t need to have every cent within your day to day spending money categorized into a budget – you just need to have that general spending budgeted within your larger spending plan. But who can pay for their wedding out of their general disposal budgets?
The bottom line is, this approach is bullshit. Not actually doing the calculations is another way of keeping yourself ignorant of the consequences of your actions. No.
3. Ask your parents what they are going to be contributing.
This is my culture talking here, and I get that some cultures do this completely differently. Where I come from, people getting married are adults. They have their own income, they have generally been supporting themselves for at least little while; they make their own decisions. (If this is not how your culture works, your operating under a set of rules I don’t understand. I bet the set of rules makes a lot of sense. But, you might not find my advice useful or applicable).
Also, the people getting married tend to have student loans, and/or a mortgage, and/or little savings, and/or are trying to get a house deposit together, or myriad other major money demands. So, even if your parents can afford to contribute something substantial, do you really want to be using that gift on a wedding?
4. Just use all your savings
You don’t need an emergency fund? You don’t have things that aren’t a wedding that you need to save for? Like say, furniture? Maybe a holiday? A house deposit perhaps? Your retirement?
5. Plan to go into debt
Do you hear my yelps of pain at this very notion?
If you need to know why it’s a very bad idea to take on debt, especially for luxury consumables, there are plenty of blogs out there you have devoted reams to this single topic. But here is a basic refresher, in bullet point form:
- One day you are going to be old
- And yet will still have to support yourself
- Everyone’s financial goal in life is to accumulate enough, or organize things such that you have something to support you, when you’re old
- That means, year after year, month after month, your goal is to increase your net worth
- Taking on debt for luxury consumables is the precise opposite of this
So guess what: you need a wedding budget. You need to figure out first, before you book any vendors or make any purchases, what your total spending amount for the wedding will be. How do you figure out this number, you ask? Well, you read my next blog post 🙂