It's easy to get wrapped up in the Pinterest wedding culture. As soon as you're engaged, there are endless sources of inspiration to get you started on your planning.
Before you know it, your online wedding includes a photo booth, signature drinks, five kinds of desserts, three different wedding dresses, and a string quartet at a French winery.
There’s no requirement that a wedding has to cost the same as a couple of years at a private university, but it can start to feel that way. If you get engaged this season, don’t let your wedding planning get out of hand. Here are some tips on choosing a budget, sticking to it -- and still having a wedding you love to look back on.
Stop the Comparisons and Set a Budget
You know a friend who had an open bar, the hottest band in town, and 300 people at her downtown wedding. How are you going to top that?
Here’s the thing: you don’t need to compete with her big day -- or anyone else’s! Do you even want something extravagant and expensive, or are you getting caught up in someone else’s ideas of what you “should” do?
Be honest with yourself about what you want, and always ask: do you want those things because they matter to you, or because you want to impress people? Don't forget that a wedding is really just about you and your future spouse, and everything else is just extra.
It's nice to throw a party your family and friends will be impressed with, but you also don't want to start your brand-new marriage with a mountain of debt. Consider what you can really afford, what kind of help you are getting, and what you feel comfortable splurging on. Use that information to set a realistic budget.
Do Your Homework
Speaking of realistic, make sure you study up before envisioning your dream day. Go into it understanding average costs of venues and vendors in your area. Don't get hooked on an idea that you could never afford.
Also look into peak times and potential discounts. You can get better rates by having your wedding on a Friday or Sunday rather than Saturday afternoon, or by choosing “off” months that most people overlook.
Prioritize Your Wants and Needs
There's nothing wrong with wanting to splurge on a designer dress or luxe reception venue. But to keep it realistic, you probably want to choose one or two big things that you want to prioritize.
After you know your budget and average costs, then you can determine what matters most to you. If you want the best photographer in town, maybe you forego that photo booth you'd been eyeing. Or if you book the most gorgeous venue, you go easy on the decorations to let the space speak for itself.
You can have what matters most to you if you're willing to be flexible on other areas.
Make Strategic Cuts
The number one area that can save you money is the guest list. If you're wanting to save money, take a hard look at who you're inviting. Are you inviting people because you want them there, or because you feel obligated to include them on the guest list?
You can also look into extras like welcome bags, favors and other sneaky little costs that add up fast. The alcohol you're offering is often an enormous cost -- and it’s not necessary to have a fully stocked, open bar with signature cocktails. Most people are just fine with complimentary beer and wine.
Keep Things in Perspective
Whenever you feel pressured to go over budget on a wedding expense, consider whether that's really going to matter to you ten years down the road. Would that money be better spent elsewhere, like on a down payment for a house or on a honeymoon?
A wedding is ultimately about you and your soon-to-be spouse, so treat it that way. Throw the party you're comfortable with, as big or small as you'd like it to be, in the budget you feel good about.
If you're relaxed and happy on your big day, that is going to matter so much more than extra costs you thought you had to pay. At the end of the day, it's the people you care about most coming together to celebrate your happiness as you start your life together with the one you love.
About the Author: Heather Swick is an author, freelance writer, and editor who has worked for news outlets, national magazines and blogs. She is driven to help others achieve their career and financial goals and share her own experiences along the way.