Budget first. Always budget first.
How much money are you able to or do you want to spend? You should be approaching this as “I have X dollars, what does that buy me?” Rather than “Do I want big or little – big will cost me $25,000.” Unless of course you have unlimited funds.
If you are only able to budget $5000, that’s fine. If you want to spend $20,000, that’s fine. But you build the party around the amount, not the amount around the party. A party should never be putting you into debt, so that is always the first thing you need to figure out.
Then create a list of VIPs.
Who do you absolutely want there – non-negotiable? It could be no one. You could be totally fine with eloping. It could be parents, siblings, and BFFs only. It could be your entire family including aunts, uncles, and cousins. However, this list should be only those you can’t picture getting married without.
Now, you have an idea of what kind of wedding your money can throw. If your budget is $20,000 and your VIP list includes only 6 people, you likely have the budget to splurge and pay for a long weekend destination of some sort. If that seems too grand and you are thinking more traditional reception, then that means you can either splurge on other items or invite more people. If you budget is $5,000 and your VIP list is 20, this means you could spring for a nice dinner at a private room in a restaurant or this doesn’t seem appealing and you really want all your friends, maybe it means you go with budget BBQ in a park or a cake and punch reception. Or if your budget is small and your guest list is huge and the idea of cake and punch isn’t appealing, then you know you need to cut somewhere – either your guest list or be willing to spend more money.
So start with the budget first and who must be there first. Then other pieces will start falling into place once you have a more realistic idea of cost and absolute minimum size. It’s easier to start making cohesive plans when you actually start putting some limits instead of leaving everything a wide open buffet of options.
And if you are having trouble setting a budget, sit down with your Fiance to talk about all of your financial goals and where you are with savings and debt instead of just isolating the wedding as if it doesn’t affect your savings and ability to pay off current debt. What are you realistically able to save for a wedding that doesn’t put you into debt or drastically alter being able to pay off current debt or put off other financial goals?