By Sarah Toulouse
Planning a wedding budget is somewhat like buying a car, in that many people would love to own a Ferrari, but realistically everyone has to spend within their means. Whether you can afford a luxury CL-Class Mercedes, middle-range Volkswagen Passat, or a base model Ford Fiesta, the right choice is going to be the best car (or rather wedding services/goods) that you can afford.
With wedding budgeting it is all about prioritizing. The trick is that your preferences for services may not be at the same level for each category. So this is where you start -- by sitting down with your fiance and deciding what areas are most important to you both. For example, you may want to go with Mercedes quality for catering, photography and the wedding dress, but for other services that are not high on your priority list you may decide that the Passat or Fiesta levels will work just fine.
There are dozens of online sites and even software to help you with budgeting, but below are links to several resources that we often recommend.
Since many of the online calculators assume you have some idea of costs (which is kind of a ridiculous assumption when you are just starting out), it is a good idea to start by researching some ball park figures for average wedding costs in your area.
Real Simple Weddings has listed fairly accurate average costs for each category. You can search by your state, such as Illinois. Their figures are based on research from another good website, Cost of Wedding.com.
Cost of Wedding aims to educate couples on the "real" costs of weddings and how to plan a budget. They have a pretty good Wedding Cost Estimator that has zip code and quality factors for you to select before it makes a calculation for you.
Another one we like a lot is the Party Pop Calculator. It gives you the option to select each category by quality - basic, average, good, better, best - to have an idea of how the cost changes for different quality or experience levels for each type of vendor. Be sure you first have your correct state selected at the top.
When you are ready to start with your own specific budget plan, there are many tools and resources available online. Most sites require free registration, but some good ones are on WeddingWire and Martha Stewart Weddings. Here is also a super cute Real Simple Weddings Budget Worksheet that you can download and print for your own planning notebook.
Finally, talk to friends and family about services they had for their weddings. However, keep in mind that often the best vendors work towards improving and/or expanding their services each year, so prices and offerings may have changed since your friend or relative used any specific vendor.
Overall, remember you are doing all of this hard work now to plan the best wedding possible within your means, so you can relax and enjoy your wedding day......hopefully with the knowledge that afterwards you will not be paying for the debt of your celebration longer than you want or can afford.
Article written by and © Sarah Toulouse