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A decade in the making: Budgeting for a wedding

10 Jan 2019

With 10 months to go until her Cheshire wedding, bride-to-be Alicia Dunning advises how to set a wedding budget and stick to it

Image gallery

Image gallery

Planning a wedding can be challenging at the best of times, but there is nothing more difficult yet so crucial as the wedding budget. And what better time of year to talk about it than January when there’s been an influx of newly engaged couples, and everyone is poor waiting for their first wage of the New Year?

Apparently, the average UK wedding cost now exceeds £32K, with as many as 45% of couples spending more than they’d originally planned to spend – we’re 10 months away from our wedding and I’ll hold my hands up... we’re already in the 45%!

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When you plan your wedding budget, I’d suggest starting with a figure of what you can realistically afford and then trying to plan for 10-20% less than that. So, if you think you could afford a £20k wedding then budget for £17-£18k, as you’ll probably end up spending around £20k by the time the day arrives.

One really helpful tool is the Bride Magazine Budget Tracker. I trialled loads of trackers and even created my own on Excel and honestly the Bride one is the easiest to use and includes everything you could need. You simply enter your wedding details and the budget you’re working towards and it does all the rest of the work for you.

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The tracker splits the wedding into key segments like the ceremony, reception etc. and then splits these down further into the individual elements like the venue, caterer etc so that you can enter quotes and costs for every aspect of the day. It also splits the finances into estimated, actual, paid and left to pay so that you can keep on top of everything and easily see where you’re up to with it all. Then all you have to do is crack on with those savings.

So, once you’ve set your overall budget and got your techy tools ready, the next thing is to start allocating costs to each element – this is where things can get messy. There are the obvious big costs that you can easily estimate like the wedding venue or how much you’d be willing to pay for your dress. What’s harder to grasp are the elements of the day you didn’t realise you wanted.

Prime example – lighting. When I started planning my budget this didn’t even enter my mind as something to consider but it is worth it. We’ve gone for a rustic theme, so I’ve booked some gorgeous items with Hipswing, including this festoon chandelier (pictured below). There’s also things like light-up letters spelling ‘love’ or ‘Mr & Mrs’ etc, mirror balls or even LED glittery dancefloors.

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Then there are other hidden elements that you may not have considered, like venue dressing or photo booths. And don’t forget the venue will often have additional charges for renting things from them that aren’t covered in the contract, so make sure you ask for these early to avoid being hit with an unexpected bill weeks before the big day.

Realistically no one likes being restricted by a budget, especially when planning your wedding, but it probably is one of the most important elements to consider and something that you need to be thinking about all the time. 

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Here are my top tops for setting your wedding budget:

  1. Use an online tool or app to help you keep track of it all, this will make it so much easier.
  2. Set your budget for less than you want to spend to allow for flex and unexpected costs (which there definitely will be).
  3. Estimate things using the most expensive scenario, then anything less feels like a saving.
  4. Remember to allocate budget for the ‘novelty extras’ – you will undoubtedly fall in love with something you see at a wedding show, on Pinterest or on Instagram (like me with the festoon chandelier) and will simply have to have it. So set a little aside for this so that you can indulge in your dream wedding without breaking the budget.

Next month, I talk 'shredding for the wedding'; I've already lost three stone but have another two stone to go to reach my target weight. Stay tuned...

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