Getting married is one of the most exciting decisions you’ll probably ever make. For both bride and groom, planning a wedding can be an emotional roller coaster – on one hand, you’re filled with euphoria, and on the other, you feel stressed from the countless decisions to be made. In addition, as with most important life events, planning a wedding can be a source of financial stress because you have to balance your wedding dreams and ambitions with the reality of having to pay for it all.
The cost of a wedding could be shockingly high, or at least, potentially more than you originally intended. When creating your perfect day, here are a few financial points to consider.
If you’re a regular reader of CariDollarsAndSense, you would know we believe most debt should be avoided by either giving up the purchase entirely or waiting until you saved enough to buy the item for cash.
In the case of weddings, we strongly recommend against any form of borrowing to fund the payments. The last thing a married couple needs is to start their life with debt created from costs that have no enduring value.
Alternative use of funds
Weddings range from elaborate functions to small intimate ceremonies, depending on which you prefer or can afford. While wedding memories last a lifetime, what you spend on the wedding is geared towards one day and one event in your lives – don’t allow short-term decisions to affect you for years to come.
The ultimate question, therefore, that you need to ask yourself is, could you use your wedding funds in a more appropriate way as a married couple. The answer to this question will shape the amount of money you will be prepared to spend on the wedding.
For example, one of the larger decisions, and consequently cash consumer, is deciding on your living arrangements as a married couple. Renting usually requires purchasing furniture and appliances, while buying a home requires a deposit to obtain a mortgage. Either of these could be regarded as a better use of cash than a one-day celebration.
The trade off between making a fantastic memory versus a smaller affair but having a more solid financial start is obviously a personal one and will vary according to each couples’ circumstances. The point is do not make a decision solely on your dreams for that day, but spend some time considering what comes after. It will definitely help your decision making.
As we’ve noted in various articles, no significant expenditure should take place without a budget. Taking the time at the start of the project to create a budget helps you put all costs in the context of what you wish to spend or can afford. It also helps your planning by forcing you to identify as many costs as possible to avoid unexpected expenses.
Your budget will also prepare you for the conversations you’ll have with various service providers involved in your wedding, such as your wedding planner, caterer, photographer, etc. The first question they’ll ask is “what is your budget?”. Naturally your objective is to spend less than you’ve budgeted but you need to be prepared for the conversation/negotiation.
If you are getting married for the first time, it is unlikely you will be able to easily identify the costs associated with your choice of ceremony. If you know other married couples, it would obviously help to ask what they spent on various aspects of their wedding. Unfortunately, we don’t often find couples keeping a record of the types of expenses incurred or what was the cost.
To help you get started on the types of expenses you could incur, in the Tools section, we’ve provided a Cari$ Sample Wedding Budget. It is, of course, impossible to create one budget that could apply to everyone’s ceremonies because weddings differ widely depending on cultures, individual tastes, and affordability. Just use our sample budget as a starting point to obtain costs for the various items and tailor it based on your plans.
One of the bigger risks in planning a wedding is scope creep. This is when you plan for a particular wedding size or expenditure and you begin to make changes (e.g. changing themes or venues or menus), each change potentially adding to your costs. Additionally, changes could snowball and affect other areas e.g. adding to the guest list increases catering, bar, seating rentals, servers, venue size, etc.
While you’ll need to be flexible with certain items that might eventually result in a higher cost, your challenge would be to limit overall scope creep to an acceptable level.
For nearly any wedding item, (a simple example is invitations) the cost can range from low to high to extravagant. Understandably, you’ll want the best in every area, but the total costs could easily get out of control.
At these times, you need to stop and remind yourself that the event is not about each individual piece that makes up the wedding, but the result of the whole, where the most attention and memory will be about the bride and groom. Making cost effective decisions along the way usually does not detract from the whole event. For example, most people are unable to tell if a wedding dress costs $10,000.00 or $2,500.00. If curbing costs is an objective, why not choose the more cost effective option?
No matter how hard you try, there’ll always be a few items that you’ll forget to budget for; here are a few examples:
Meals for yourself and hired staff
When you take the final count of your guests to inform your caterer, don’t forget to count yourselves. Yes, the bride and groom may look like dolls but they do eat too. And, please don’t forget the providers you’ve hired, such as the DJ, bartenders, servers, on-site wedding coordinators, photographer, videographer, etc.
Outdoor weddings are a beautiful, picturesque idea. But outdoor weddings face the challenge of poor lighting resulting in less than ideal pictures or guests being unable to hear the proceedings. Be prepared to spend extra on proper lighting and a good sound system.
Often when the reception gets going and everyone is having a great time, the bride and groom may decide to keep partying longer than originally scheduled. There may, however, be a cost to extend the party e.g. cost of drinks, venue rental, overtime of your DJ, bartenders, servers, etc.
It’s usually a good idea to plan for a few extra guests (catering, extra tables, chairs and linens) for your late invitees, for those that forget to RSVP, or who walk with additional guests.
Depending on the venue, cleaning costs may or may not be included (you may even have to provide cleaning staff yourself).
Once you are planning an event in which there will be live or recorded music, you may be required under the Copyright Act of Trinidad and Tobago, to pay a licence fee. COTT has a schedule of fees, so you will need to contact them in order to ensure that you are charged the correct fee for the type of event you will be having.
Deciding if to pay for a planner or coordinator will depend on how much you choose to arrange for yourselves. While it is possible to attend to the various matters in the days and weeks before the wedding (it is of course tiring), depending on the size of the wedding you may need help on the wedding day itself to coordinate the different aspects. Obviously the bride and groom will not be able to perform this function!
Photographer and Videographer
A professional photographer and videographer could sometimes appear to be an unnecessary expense because you may be relying on family and friends to share the photos and videos they take. Consider though amateur photos and videos are often disappointing, so you may regret not spending a little more to properly immortalize your day.
We hope this article helped you think about the financial aspects of your wedding to avoid regrets later about the size of your wedding bill. Properly managing the costs is certainly one way to gain control during a potentially stressful time. Don’t forget to check out our related articles on Couples Finances: Long-term Relationships and Joint or Separate Bank Accounts?
If you have thoughts or experiences to share, we’d love to hear from you in the comments area below!