@cmoest: I think it is kind of hard to get started planning a wedding when you’re not actually engaged yet, unless you have some idea of a budget. So most certainly start with a budget. Sometimes it is hard to know what kind of budget you’ll be working with because you don’t know if your parents or his parents are going to offer to pay anything. Of course, once you are actually engaged and setting a budget, your best bet is to assume you’ll be paying 100% of the costs, then increase later on if you’re given extra money.
Once you have a budget set, I would strongly suggest guessing your guest list number. 50? 100? 200? 300? More? This will give you a good idea on where to allocate your budget (more guests means larger venue, more food, more rentals, etc.) Once you have your guest number and budget in place you can start looking at venues and try to decide on a date. From there, what I did was call a variety of people, florist, caterers, djs, photographers, etc and get an average cost. I asked them to draw me up a quote and used this information to assess reasonable costs. I prioritized my top three splurges and FI prioritized his top three splurges. From there we made a simple list and allocated our budget to what we saw fit.
For me, my top three things were:
FI’s top three things were:
Luckily my location is inexpensive and we came in under budget. Our photographer came in right at budget, our food/drinks are slightly over budget (but that’s okay because we’re getting yummy food and having a full bar). The DJ is right at budget, and we got a deal on the lighting so we’re way under budget there (FI just happened to know a guy who works for an event lighting studio so we got the employee discount of 40% off).
The rest of the list we made together and looked like this:
As it turns out, my attire came in under budget, so we have more money for flowers. Linens came in way under budget, as did stationary. Cake is slightly over budget, but all in all, we have room in our budget to wiggle.
Check lists are great, but sometimes unless you can really get a good handle on your budget and what is important to YOU on your wedding day, you can get overwhelmed. If you’re struggling with a budget, I suggest building a monthly living budget and seeing what your expenses are. How much do you have in savings? How much do you think you can reasonably save? How much do you want to have as a cushion after the wedding? These things are best discussed as a couple, as I strongly suggest that neither party make all the financial choices when it comes to a wedding! (Weddings can add up really quickly!)