A lot of different advice about wedding budgets is floating around out there, and for many couples this can be the most difficult part of the planning process. So I thought I'd put together some answers to the when, how and what questions of establishing a budget -- ones I certainly had myself at the start of this crazy/fun process that is wedding planning!
Has he (or have you) popped the question? Yes? Then the answer is now. Before any planning decisions are made, it is important to figure out how much you would like--or are willing--to spend. This will help you put everything into perspective and establish priorities. (More on priorities in the how section.) Additionally, it will make you better prepared to meet with prospective vendors and will help them with their contribution to your wedding, whether your budget is unlimited or on a shoestring.
Those aforementioned priorities.
While I certainly agree that the food is just as important as the photos which are just as important as the music which is just as important as the invitations which are just as important as the honeymoon which is just as important as--oh, wait! We forgot about the dress!
See what I mean?
It's easy to become overwhelmed and a surefire way to avoid this is by stacking your must-haves with your would-likes and a few only-if-there's-money-leftovers into a big, white priority pyramid. If you've always dreamed of lush, extravagant flowers, consider opting for a buffet style meal to save a few dollars at your reception. Has that designer gown you've been eyeing stubbornly situated itself in your must-have column? Choose a honeymoon destination that's a little closer to home and save Bora Bora for your fifth anniversary.
The budget you establish should ultimately be based on what you're comfortable with, not what you've heard is the average cost for a wedding. There's no getting around the fact that the figure will likely end with the word thousand, but what it starts with is entirely up to you, and this will lie somewhere between what you'd like to spend and what you can actually afford to spend. This is the part where I roll out a nifty pie chart that breaks up your total wedding cost into cute, pie-shaped suggestions.
The answer to the budget question is different for everyone, and deciding how to allocate your funds is up to you and how you see your chosen wedding vendors contributing to the overall vision of your wedding day. Make sure you have fun during this process, always remembering that your wedding should be a personal reflection of who you are as a couple. At the end of the day, it's all about the love, amiright?