How We’re Budgeting for our Wedding

(A two year long engagement x paying for 99% of the wedding ourselves) – a down payment on a home = ???

Let’s Cut the Cake is our newest series on AJ and I planning our own wedding as a pair of wedding photographers! Over the next year, we’ll be sharing our process and inviting you in on our decision making and witnessing trial + errors! It’s called Let’s Cut the Cake because that’s what AJ and I will be doing on May 16th, 2020!! Can’t wait to have you all along on this crazy long, messy path that is actually planning a wedding.

Today we’re talking about how exactly we’ll be budgeting and paying for this wedding ourselves!

Creating a wedding budget was our first task a year ago and while we thought we were prepared, we totally weren’t. There’s a difference between knowing the average price of vendors in Austin, understanding the investment and then adding it all up and realizing you have to pay for it all. Who knew?? But we knew we had to start with the absolute basics – even as wedding vendors ourselves there was so much we had to figure out!

There were three parts to our thought process on how we could swallow it all. First, we really assessed the market price of a wedding in Austin and compared that to our priorities. Then, we sat down and really talked about what sort of experience was important to us. Finally, we took those numbers and came up with a plan.

We are in no way experts at how to come up with a budget. We, like almost everyone our age, have never planned and paid for a wedding ourselves before. Really, the only upper hand we had in this is not having the sticker shock someone outside the wedding industry might have.

That said, here’s our best advice when you start budgeting for your wedding!

Know Your Priorities and Be Aware of the Market

The most important thing is to start with your priorities as they relate to your vendors. Figure out what sort of celebration you want. What are your expectations visually (decor, florals, rentals, etc.) and experience-wise (band or DJ, open bar, photo booth, etc.). These are all integral to the vibe or overall feel of your wedding day, so deciding what’s most important to you early-on will be helpful as you work through the process.

Next week we’ll go into our own priorities for our wedding and where we started!

We have barely dipped our toe into actual wedding planning, but I’m already so grateful to have a planner. Ashley with Much Ado Austin has really helped us start this process out. So far I have had zero stress and I owe that all to her!

She helped us sort out our priorities by ranking our vendors from most to least important. That’s not to say every vendor isn’t important – everyone you work with will have a tangible impact on your wedding day and it’s important that you trust and value them, but some will impact more than others. From that, she took our overall spend (more on that in a sec) and divided it up based on our ranking and the average market price of each vendor.

Let me just say, that while a planner is an additional cost to your wedding, we would argue that it will help you save money in the long run.

One, because Ashley knows the wedding industry market better than we do. And two, she can help us navigate our expectations against our priorities. She’ll allow us to have the wedding we’re envisioning with a budget we can afford.

While we’re talking averages…

The average 2018-2019 wedding in the greater Austin area costs about $35,000. That’s just the average. Once you swallow that (take your time – it’s hard to imagine), go vendor by vendor.

Once you figure out the average for each vendor, you start with the essentials. Then you can add on the ones that are not necessities as you go until you hit that overall cap. If you know your vendor priorities you know what to sacrifice to reduce your total spend once you get closer and closer to that number.

Come Up with That Number

So this is how we came up with our own cap number.

We took our standard monthly budget, and figured out the remainder after our monthly expenses.

Then we analyzed how long we’d like our engagement to be and how long we’d be comfortable paying off the wedding post-wedding day.

Our monthly remainder times (our months over engagement + comfortable months of debt) = our overall cap! Of course, the goal would be to come away with no debt at all, but we’ll see how that shakes out. What’s important is that we’re doing what we are ultimately comfortable with in order to have our dream wedding.

Okay so now you might be running into the same problem we did. Our priorities x the market price did not equal our overall cap.

So what do you do?

Honestly, paying for a wedding by yourself is a huge cost. Especially in Austin. The Hill Country is technically a destination in Texas and surrounding states because it’s so dang beautiful. This is nice because we’re close, but not so nice because it means things are in high demand.

There are ways you can cut corners so easily and still have a traditional, 2019 modern wedding. You should start by trying to cut your guest list (plus there is absolutely nothing wrong with eloping!),  a brunch wedding, doing most decor yourself. Honestly just picking a venue farther away from the hill country (or somewhere not traditionally a wedding venue) will save you a lot of money!

Like I touched on last week, a long engagement was always in our cards. It made just as much sense as emotionally as it did financially.

A two year engagement really worked to our advantage because that meant we could double that month to month number for the long haul.

The Specifics

So the month to month thing works because…! We got a credit card specifically for wedding expenses! Sorry mom and dad, I know this is the last thing you want me to say, but stick with me.

If you don’t have a credit card by the time you’re getting married I would strongly advise it for many many reasons. It also stresses me out that you don’t have credit yet, please do the adult thing and just sign up for one right now, thank you.

But here’s what we did: We found a credit card that has 0% interest for the first year. This was our saving grace.

This is how we booked our venue, planner, photographer, and band (IMHO the most in demand vendors!) all within one month and didn’t die under a sea of debt while getting the most important bookings out of the way. It also allowed us to spread out our expenses over an amount of time that we were comfortable with.

So every month, we chip away at what we can afford to spend each month without adding a bunch of interest! Because believe it or not we are not spending money on wedding expenses each month!

Last bit of advice…

Obviously we have just started this whole plan! But my best advice starting out is to get a planner. Not a day of coordinator, but someone who can really take care of you. And take 85% of the stress out of budgeting for you. Ashley has been such a life saver.

My second piece of advice is don’t buy a house in the middle of paying for a wedding. I mean do. We did. But. It makes things harder.

If you’re married or getting married – how did you budget? Do you have any tips for us moving forward that might help us out? 🙂  

Next week’s addition of Let’s Cut the Cake will be all about our priorities and which vendors we picked first! See you next Wednesday!

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