After you talk with your parents, or whoever is helping pay for it, or if it's you-(major props) and you establish a reasonable budget let the wedding planning officially begin. A good way to help you keep track of how much money you're spending, and where you're spending it is on an Excel spreadsheet. You should also think about making a wedding account so you can easily keep track of all the wedding expenses. Make sure you also save all your receipts.
Some people don't think of hidden expenses, I know I didn't. I didn't budget for overtime costs, which wasn't good when my photographer came up and told me she was out of time and needs more money if I want her to stay the rest of the time at my reception. Hidden costs always show up whether you like it or not.
Another hidden expense is tips. You should plan on tipping for hair/nails/makeup, the officiant, bartenders, parking attendants, caterer/waitstaff, delivery people, etc. Also, if you want to experiment with your hair a few different times, or if you keep making changes to your flowers, and you have your florist keep bringing you new samples they may start charging you.
Wedding licenses cost money, stamps for RSVP cards cost money, it all adds up and before you know it you've overspent. To ensure this won't be the case, take 5% of your total budget and put it towards random things like this.
Where you can cut back
- Your guest list-Food and drinks are expensive for each guest. This will easily be your largest expense. Cutting guests will also cut on stationery, favors, decor etc.
- Wedding Setting-Big cities just flat out cost more. A good alternative is small towns outside the city. Different venues are more expensive, and some make sure you have a certain amount of guests or they won't allow you to book. Depending on the time of year it can also be more, especially if you're getting married over a busy weekend. Also the time of day- Evening receptions are going to cost more than in the afternoon.
- The more formal you go, the more expensive it will be. You will have to match food, entertainment, decor, etc. For decor be sure to bargain hunt.
Here is a rough breakdown of each category and how much you should plan on spending. Keep in mind that not everything is on here. If you are paying for your own honeymoon add that in, as well as if you are going to pay for the bridesmaids outfits.
Reception/Venue: Food, drinks, rentals, decor-40-50%
Photographer/Videographer-15% (I had a friend take our engagement pictures and they turned out great and then got a good package deal on a professional photographer for our wedding day)
Wedding Planner-10-15% (Highly recommend getting a planner. It will relieve so much stress and be worth it, especially if you go with me)
Flowers-10% (Buy in-season flowers so they cost less)
Misc.: Favors, transportation etc.-10%
Bride & Groom's Attire: Wedding dress, Groom's tux, jewelry, hairpieces, shoes, nails/hair/makeup-5-10% (I rented my wedding dress)
Music/Entertainment-5-10% (I didn't have a DJ, I just had a playlist on an iPod and it worked out great)
Wedding Rings-2-3% (Jewelers have specials-we got a free men's ring with my engagement ring)
Stationery-2-3% (I had a friend design my wedding announcements)
If you get going and realize that you are running out of your budget faster, then prioritize and decide what you want most. You can also recruit friends and family to help out, that's what I did. People love to help and be involved in weddings.