How to Build a Wedding Budget You Can Actually Stick To

It’s time to talk about everyone’s least favorite subject, especially when it comes to weddings: money. I know, I know, it stings, but it’s good for you! I promise! While you may hate to put on a price on the day meant to celebrate your priceless love, vendors have costs — and most people’s bank accounts have limits.

If you’re shaking in your slippers over facing your wedding budget, don’t worry! Follow these five simple steps to create a wedding budget that will give you the freedom to choose your perfect vendors without stressing about the cash.

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Know your limits

First things first, be honest about the money you have. If you and your husband-to-be are covering all of the costs, be reasonable about the cost you are willing to put toward your big day. And don’t forget your honeymoon (if you’re planning to take one!) and the fact that you are about to begin a new life together, complete with all new expenses. If the idea of an absolute dream wedding followed by your first six months of marriage spent eating ramen doesn’t interest you, don’t set yourself up for it!

SEE MORE: 9 Wedding Budget Tips That Will Help Keep You Sane

If your parents or another relative are going to be paying for the wedding, ask them for a definitive budget. Talking about money can be difficult, especially when it comes to putting limits on your wedding day, but moving forward with a wishy-washy budget will do no one any favors.

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Find a detailed budgeting worksheet

If, like me, your first stop the day after you got engaged was to a bookstore to snag the most comprehensive wedding planning binder you could find, you already have exactly what you need. If not, the internet is filled with budgeting worksheets like this one from Real Simple. It will walk you through the process of estimating how much you should expect to spend on each vendor. For example, the wedding attire for both the bride and groom should cost about 10 percent of your wedding budget. Using the very definite grand total amount you intend to spend on the wedding, fill out the worksheet exactly as recommended.

SEE MORE: The #1 Thing Brides Don’t Want to Hear When Planning a Wedding…But Should

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Do your research

Now that you’ve got an idea of how much you should expect to spend on each item, you’re ready to start researching local wedding vendors to get a better idea of what the average cost of each item is in your area. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to do this BEFORE you start pinning wedding inspo to your Pinterest board! Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by falling in love with a 10-foot-tall arch made exclusively of lilies only to find out that it is insanely outside your price range.

Once you’ve checked out the possibilities, it’s time to start thinking about what you want your wedding day to be!

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Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize

After completing your budget worksheet following the recommended amounts exactly and investigating the costs of vendors in your area, go through each collection of expenses and rank them in importance. (Pro-tip: be sure to do this with your future spouse. The DJ selection may not matter to you, but it may be his top priority.)

If photography is at the top of your list and flowers are at the bottom, you can scoot some of the allotted budget from flowers up to photography, ensuring that you’ll be able to cover the cost of those stunning, high-quality photos. Be sure that you keep enough budgeted for the item you care less about to cover the costs, however. You may not care much about the flowers, but unless you plan to pick wildflowers from the Interstate median, $50 just isn’t going to cut it.

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Be upfront about your budget

Now that you’ve made a budget that reflects your hopes and dreams for your big day, it’s time to start making those calls and meeting with vendors. While it may seem tacky to roll up into a flower shop and say, “I am willing to spend $1,500 and no more on your services, so how does that sound?” the best thing you can do for both yourself and your potential vendor is to walk in with a firm budget.

By telling a potential vendor upfront the maximum amount you are willing to spend, they can direct you toward choices that will help you stay within that amount. They will also be able to tell you upfront if their services aren’t going to fit your budget, saving you the wasted time and trouble.

Now for the hardest part: sticking to the budget. It is so tempting to fudge a little here and go over budget a little there, but it all adds up quickly. Be firm with yourself and with your vendors, keeping strictly to your budgeted amount. Remember, the event you’re planning isn’t just about a wedding, it’s about a marriage. Spending an extra $5,000 you don’t have on your wedding, only to put strain on your new marriage, just isn’t worth it!

And no matter how much you spend, you are going to end the day married to the love of your life, and that truly is priceless.

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