Gut check: what happens when you envision your wedding day? How about when you think about planning a wedding?
If the former thought makes you feel swoony and excited, and the latter makes you wince, well, that’s to be expected. Weddings are beautiful, life-changing, and charged with emotion. They’re also expensive, complicated, and potentially fraught with drama.
Take heart: you and your partner can plan the perfect wedding. Here’s what you need to do.
Balance it with your other goals
Marriage is often the first step toward many life goals, and the perfect wedding supports the life that follows it while honoring the love that fuels it.
So what happens if you want to get married, but you also want to buy a house? Or have kids soon? Or launch a new career? You probably have several important, exciting goals—and that’s awesome. Balancing them, though, is tricky.
Emily M., who’s on the Customer Relations team here at Simple, is getting married this spring. She and her fiancé are also planning to buy a house soon. Since both wedding-planning and house-hunting are huge, expensive projects, they decided to postpone buying a house for a few months to focus on the wedding.
They also ran into some unexpected obstacles. “Both of our cars died at the same time, so we bought a truck . . . which broke down four times within a few months.” The truck was in and out of the shop constantly, Emily recalls, and the repair bills started adding up. “It was just really annoying. It put our whole lives on hold; you can’t do anything without a reliable vehicle.”
To keep their savings plan on track, they’ve made compromises. “If we weren’t saving for the wedding, we could just buy a really nice, newer car.” Instead, they’re going to sell the jinxed truck and search for a reliable used car.
Try these steps to plan your wedding while balancing your other goals:
- Prioritize: Think about all your goals, and select the ones with the biggest impact on your happiness. This is hard, since logic won’t always help you. So take your time. Envision reaching each goal, and pay attention to how you feel. Once you’ve identified what’s most meaningful to you, you’ll know where to focus your time, energy, and resources.
- Sketch out a rough timeline: Do any of your goals have a specific timeline attached? What might you lose (or gain) by waiting a bit?
- Estimate your resources: Most goals take time, money, or some combination of the two. A wedding is no exception. So, how much time and money can you realistically spend? Count any short-term savings, plus the percentage of your income that you’re able to save toward short-term goals (as opposed to essential long-term goals like retirement).
- For example, if you and your partner each take home $1,500 every two weeks, and you’re able to put 15% of your savings toward the wedding, you’ll have nearly $12,000 at the end of the year. If you and your partner want to do some of the work and you spend half your weekends on wedding projects, you’ll also have about 130 person-hours per month.
Define your dream wedding
Now that you’ve figured out your resources, it’s time for some serious self-reflection. Figure out what’s essential to you and your partner. Once you’ve decided which aspects of your wedding mean the most, put them first and mold the rest of your plans around them.
Consider all the possibilities; your perfect wedding may be very different than the weddings you’ve attended or that wedding magazines suggest. Your options range from a courthouse ceremony or elopement (costing as little as the license fee) to luxurious ceremonies with 200+ guests (easily costing more than a new car).
Meg P., a Customer Relations agent at Simple, didn’t want a big wedding. She believes “that clashes with the whole reason you’re doing the thing.” Her philosophy is that a wedding is “about those two people and how their relationship is changing,” so the perfect ceremony was just her and her husband. They eloped to Vegas last summer.
In contrast, Emily M. and her fiancé decided that including friends and family was paramount. They’re getting married next spring, and they’re deep in the planning process now. One of the common “rules” for an affordable wedding is to keep the guest list small, but that didn’t feel right. Instead, Emily says, “we decided to keep the ceremony and reception really simple so we could have all the people we wanted there.”
Don’t waste precious time, money, and energy on things that aren’t important to you. You, your partner (and, if you wish, your families) are completely in control. The industry isn’t. So if you don’t give a hoot about save the date cards, skip them. Focus on the things that thrill you.
Start crunching the numbers
Now you’re ready to start estimating your costs. Get an itemized checklist with all the expenses you’re likely to incur, and start filling in the blanks. Talk to professionals in your area and start getting quotes. And don’t forget expenses that come right before or after the day itself, like the rehearsal dinner, cleanup fees, or the honeymoon!
When Ian C., Simple’s Creative Director, was saving for his wedding, he realized that pinning down a lump sum was nearly impossible, but he could list the elements he and his fiancée wanted and find an average price for each. Totaling up all the pieces gave them an accurate price tag, allowing them to feel more confident that they’d saved enough.
Once you have a good idea of your costs, both in time and money, you can keep tweaking your budget until it flawlessly matches your priorities.
Daron P., a Data Analyst at Simple, and his fiancée (now wife!) Eimee went through this process. While planning their wedding, they had a few top priorities. They wanted their guests to have an amazing time celebrating with them: good food, an open bar, and the right venue were essential. Other things were negotiable. Eimee ended up finding her wedding dress for less than $300, and they found the ideal venue at a surprisingly affordable price. “When you have a fixed budget, it forces you to compromise” Daron said, and it turned out to be a good thing. They stayed within their budget, and they even had money to put toward their next goal.
Now, slow down and save
By now you’ve done several difficult things. You’ve thought deeply about your life goals. You and your partner have identified your priorities for the perfect wedding, and you’ve created a budget that honors them. And you’ve done it all sans freakout. (Or with just a little freakout.) The point is—you’ve done it and you should be proud.
Now that you’ve gotten the tough part out of the way, it’s time to start saving. The good news? It’s easier to save when you have concrete, realistic goals that are important to you.
Daron and Eimee started saving more than two years before they got married. In fact, they weren’t even engaged when they started. They were always pretty good with money, and saving together toward a single goal improved their savings habits. They visually tracked their progress using Simple’s Goals, and they could see whether or not they were on track at a glance.
Emily M, and her fiancé, who will be getting married after a year-long engagement, keep their day-to-day expenses as low as possible, allowing them to save a substantial chunk of each paycheck. She says it’s easier to avoid the temptation to spend her savings, even on clothes “which are my kryptonite,” because she knows exactly what kind of wedding she wants to have and why.
Get ready for immeasurable success
Once you’ve completed these steps, thinking about planning a wedding won’t make you wince—you’ll have already done it. Planning a wedding that celebrates your love and is authentic to your goals is no small feat. It takes time, self-knowledge, communication, and compromise—just like your life together. Once you’ve planned the perfect wedding, you can approach each new goal with confidence and exhilaration. So celebrate your love, and get started on happily ever after.
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Disclosure: Hey! Welcome to our disclaimer. Here’s what you need to know to safely consume this blog post: Any outbound links in this post will take you away from Simple.com, to external sites in the wilds of the internet; Neither Simple nor The Bancorp Bank, our partner bank, endorse any linked-to websites; We didn’t pay/barter with/bribe anyone to appear in this post. And as much as we wish we could control the cost of things, any prices in this article are just estimates. Actual prices are up to retailers, manufacturers, and other people who’ve been granted magical powers over digits and dollar signs.