Part 2: Finding the total amount – ground rules.
In Part 1 of this series I discussed the wrong ways to approach your wedding budget. I closed with: “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.” Today, that is what we’re here to do. Let’s lay down some ground rules first, and then get into specifics in the next blog post.
Ground rules: general approach to figuring out your wedding budget
The first basic rule is that you need to first budget your necessary expenses, to figure out how much surplus money you have to play with. Ah, surplus money…so full of dreams, possibilities and freedom. Your surplus money is the place where you get to do whatever you want, pursue your wildest fantasy, all manner of wonderful things…provided your surplus money can pay for it.
In fact, your surplus money is not really surplus. It’s a set amount, and it has a line and allocated amount in your budget, just like all your other expenses. It’s just that you figure it out by working out everything else first. So I often prefer to call it ‘free spending money’ or ‘disposable money’.
The second basic rule is that your wedding money is going to come out of this free spending amount, of course. Once you know what you can put each month towards the wedding, you can then work out what the total cost will be.
Here is where there is some room for negotiation – you have to trade off how soon you want the wedding, with how big a wedding you want to have. For example, if you can put $500 a month towards the wedding, your options are these:
- Have a $500 wedding in one month
- Have a $1000 wedding in two months
- Have a $6000 wedding in 12 months
- Have a $9000 wedding in 18 months
- Have a $12000 wedding in 24 months
- You get the idea.
Figuring out this trade-off for yourself is a personal decision. Different people are up against different non-negotiables, and for some, the timing of the wedding will be the non-negotiable. That’s valid. But if you have a hard deadline for the wedding date, you will have to contain the wedding expenses to what you can put towards it until then. On the other hand, maybe there is a certain type of wedding, that comes with a certain type of budget, that is acceptable to you. Hey, it happens – especially when the wants of families are involved. That’s valid too. But you will have to set the date for that wedding far enough into the future to be able to pay for it.
For most people, there is going to be a balance. When you don’t have urgent or compelling reasons to set hard lines on either the date, or the expense of the wedding, you get to juggle the two back and forth until you come up with something that feels right. So really, your wedding budget, and the date of your wedding, are decided kind of simultaneously.
One thing to consider when making this decision, is that the entire time between now and when the wedding happens, you will likely be putting a big chunk of free spending money on the wedding. This means that you can’t spend it on other fun things that also require some medium-term saving – like travel! Furniture! So if you feel that the wedding you want will take two years to fund, remember to think about whether you really want to spend 2 whole years saving for that day, at the expense of other luxuries you could have.
Next up, Part 2: Specifics.