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January 16, 2017

Wedding Planning 101

Wedding Planning 101: Budgeting

I know, I know – making a wedding budget isn’t sexy, fun or easy. But as we’ve mentioned before (and will again): it is extremely necessary. We’re here with some realistic tips to help make it as painless as possible.

Let’s start here: for weddings, events and parties – budgets determine everything. Ev-er-y-thing. Period. All else is window dressing. The fun parts – flowers, pretty dishes, and those amazing letterpress invitations – are all slaves to your budget. It sounds bad, sure, but understanding what you have to spend will help you get what you really want.


First, you’re going to need to figure exactly what you want to spend, what you’re willing to spend, and what you’re realistically going to spend. This involves three steps:

  1. Find out where, who and when your wedding dollars are coming from. This will involve some frank conversations with your partner and both families. Questions to ask: are we paying for this ourselves? Are both families pitching in, and if so, how much? Are we pulling from money we have now, or spreading it out as we save over the course of our engagement?
  2. Set an initial budget. Based on the conversations you have had – set an initial, conservative number that you would like to stick to.
  3. Then, set a realistic budget. After initial research on your venue, wedding costs in your area, a talk with your planner, etc. – set a budget that you feel is a real number that can get you the wedding you want.


Next, you’ll need to have clear conversations with everyone involved exactly what their chunk of the pie will get them. If your parents think paying for everything means they get to have the final say on everything – perhaps it’s time to decide if that is worth it to you. Nothing says you have to stay with tradition either, most of the couples who are drawn to Harmony Creative Studio pay for a large portion if not all of their wedding themselves. If you’re getting married after settling into your career or living with your partner for a while, this may make all the sense in the world. Also, consider all factors. You may be marrying into a very large family, and thus a lot of the catering, rentals and bar cost will be determined by the addition of a larger quest count, and perhaps that side of the family will graciously help with those additional costs. Keep all options on the table – and remember, these are the people you love – don’t start splitting hairs and miss the forest for the trees.

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*A side note on paying for your own wedding: Don’t go into debt! Please, I beg you – don’t do it. If you decide you must have the wedding of your dreams, save as you go and make a plan beforehand on just how to achieve your goal. No one says you have to get married in a year, if you need 18 months (or longer) to make your goal a reality, then that’s how it is.

Then it’s time to decide on your priorities. A lot of well-meaning guidebooks and websites will tell you a proper wedding budget is one that spends x percent on this and y percent on that. Well, I’ve discovered that’s not really the case. With weddings becoming so personalized and non-traditional (and awesome!) here in the last decade or so, I think the best way to divvy up your budget is to decide what’s important to you, and spend accordingly. Yes, there are things that will still ring true: if you live in a large city your venue/catering will eat up a large portion of your budget, yada yada yada. But you may decide that you’re looking for THE perfect photographer to capture your amazing dress and his groovy suit, and cool food from your fave foodtruck is just fine – so the photo and wardrobe slices of the pie go way up, while the catering slice goes way down.

A great example from my own wedding: I love paper goods. Our wedding invitations involved 2 color letterpress + blind embossing, edge painting, vintage stamps, 3 separate vendors and custom everything. So, as you can imagine it was not cheap. But knowing myself as I do, an over the top gown was not really my style, so I went into dress shopping with an open mind but an idea of keeping costs down, and was able to get my wedding dress at a super bargain. Budget win!

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Finally, I remind our clients that no matter the hard-and-fast budgeting they have settled on, there will always be costs they had not factored in. A planner can help with some of these: many of our couples do not come into their initial meetings thinking about valets, vendor meals, chair set-up fees, overtime charges, delivery fees, etc. But even with that, couples inevitably fall in love with things they hadn’t initially planned on: expensive chargers, intricate cake designs, premium wines or liquors, exquisite linens, you name it. Keep this in the back of your mind, and be prepared to have a few arguments along the way. This it normal – I would be concerned about a couple who doesn’t disagree on something over the course of planning. It’s how you get through it that matters, and believe me – making a realistic budget from the start is the best advice I can give on making that easier.

Credits //  Tabletop Photos by Krista Mason Photography, Design + Coordination by Harmony Creative Studio, Tabletop Rentals by Pretty Vintage Rentals, Paper Goods by Tulaloo Stationary Studio. Bridal Moment Photo by Katie Pritchard Photography. Invitation Photo + Creative Direction + Assembly by Harmony Creative Studio, Letterpress Invitation by Steel Petal Press