The first step in determining your budget is to take a financial snapshot, which is just a description of your current financial state. In planning a wedding this snapshot should include the financial situation of both the bride and the groom, but it should also include the total amount of money being contributed by family members. You can't really go anywhere with your planning until you know how much money you have to play with.
Some people dispute this and believe that you should outline your dream wedding before you take your financial snapshot. I wholeheartedly disagree with this because it often leads to making stupid financial sacrifices just to hold on to some aspect of the dream wedding. The wedding should be as special as possible but it should not, I repeat it should not, put the couple in debt!
The wedding planning process is often times a very reliable indicator of the overall chances that this couple will achieve marital success. Taking the snapshot needs to be very open, honest and frank. Planning the wedding will involve the ability to communicate and to compromise. Any difficulties at this point in process are potential red flags regarding the relationship overall.
Once you have an accurate idea of exactly how much money you can spend it is now time to start discussing the details of the wedding. The best method is to make a prioritized list of desires, including any items that are non-negotiable. While I believe in frank and open dialogue in a couple, I do believe that these lists should be created separately and then compared. By doing it separately there is less chance for either party to hold back on their true desires simply to avoid a fight.
Some items to take into consideration are as follows, in no particular order:
- Indoors or outdoors
- Dinner or snacks
- Large wedding or private ceremony
- Attire for each party and their respective supporting cast
- Live music, DJ or nothing
- Professional photography or casual snapshots
- Gifts for supporting cast
- Church oriented or legal oriented ceremony
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it should give you a good point to jump off from.
Once each individual has created their list, they should come together and compare. Again, I must stress that any non-negotiable items need to be clearly indicated as such. While you may be convinced that, while you lay in bed creating your list, you'll stand up for you desire for a live band...that strength may waver when faced with opposition from the love of your life. Too many people compromise on something that is very important to them in the wedding and then end up harboring resentment.