One of the questions I'm sometimes asked by both potential clients and newly engaged friends is, "How much should my wedding cost?" The obvious answer is that it should cost no more than you're comfortable spending on it, but of course, that's not what people are usually asking. What they're really asking is how much they should expect to spend on all the things that go into a wedding celebration, and the answer involves a lot more questions:
What kind of wedding do you envision? Are you planning a lavish party for everyone you and your families have ever known, or are you more a backyard barbecue kind of couple (not that backyard barbecues are always less expensive...)? Do you see peonies or carnations on your dinner tables? Will you be wearing bespoke or off-the-rack?
Okay, so the questions aren't really as black-or-white as I've made them out to be, but you get the idea. The price of your wedding will depend largely on the products and services you choose for your big day. It'll also depend on the number of people you invite to share your day with you. A smaller guestlist usually means a smaller cash outlay as well.
Every couple has different priorities, but unless you have an unlimited wedding budget, you will have to rank those priorities and compromise on some of your details. Few couples can afford to go all-out on every part of their wedding. And that's okay! You're not just planning a wedding; you're starting a marriage. Learning to compromise and negotiate with one another during the wedding planning process is pretty good practice for the rest of your married life. Approach your wedding with a sense of humor and some creativity and you'll be surprised how much fun compromise can be.
The advice I give to everyone who asks me this question is the same: Don't spend more than you can comfortably afford. I think there's a very real temptation to build your wedding up unrealistically. Haven't we all been told that our wedding day is supposed to be the Best Day of Our Lives? And if it's supposed to be all that, then shouldn't we spend lavishly on it and worry about the bills later? I don't think so.
I think one of the worst things you can do for your new marriage is set yourselves up to begin with a heavy load of debt. The first year of marriage is stressful enough as it is, and one of the leading stressors is learning to deal with your money as a couple. Why would you want to add anything to your new marriage that could potentially jeopardize it? Spending lavishly on your wedding isn't a bad thing at all, if you have the money to do so. But really, it's a wedding; it's not a college education or a house. It isn't going to appreciate in value. Spend accordingly.
And as for that Best Day of Your Life thing, I'm not a big fan of that one either. Your wedding day is very, very special. It's special to you, and, especially if you're my client, it's special to me. But you know what's even more special? The rest of your marriage. The sweet everyday moments you'll enjoy with your spouse. Having children and watching them grow. Learning to truly work as a team. Trusting one another completely. At least in our marriage, Mr. Husband and I have had many days that we agree were way better than our wedding day, and we really loved our wedding. Don't set your wedding day up to be more than it should be. Do everything you can to make it special and enjoy every moment of it, then strive to find something in each day of your marriage that's even better.
So how much should you spend on your wedding? Spend what you're comfortable spending. It doesn't matter if that's $200,000 or $2000; your wedding will be wonderful regardless of the price tag. You and the person you love will be joining your lives. It's gonna be great!
You probably have specific questions about how much wedding services in your area typically cost, and how you can make the most of the money you plan to spend. To get answers to those questions, schedule some time with a local wedding professional. Most wedding planners offer free initial consultations to prospective clients, and may be able to answer some of your budget questions at that time. Many planners also offer budgeting services if you need more in-depth help. And we can help you put your priorities in order and spend on the stuff that really matters to you.
Not planning to use the services of a wedding planner? Then call other wedding professionals. Start gathering information from venues, caterers, florists, rental companies, musicians... You get the idea. You'll soon get a feel for how much these things cost in your area.
Regardless of how much you spend on your wedding, enjoy the ride. Planning a wedding is supposed to be fun. Have a happy engagement, not a stressed-out engagement. And most importantly, have a very happy marriage.