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How to create a wedding budget (that you can keep to!)

It's one of the most difficult things to get right when planning your wedding. Where do you start? How do you know how much you need? And how do you prioritise? This article should answer all of these questions and help you get your wedding budget off right from the start.

A lovely wedding that's personal and perfect for you should be achievable on most budgets, but you may need to get creative if you have Beyonce aspirations on a B&M budget. I was a 'budget' bride so you have my sympathies if this is you, but I still had an amazing day that I wouldn't change for anything.

1) It sounds obvious but know what you've got to play with

Start off with what money you have available right now and where it (and any extra) is coming from; savings, family, friends? What do you think you will have available to save each month? This will give you your base amount of budget. If someone else is paying, they may not want to give you an exact figure, but you'll need at least a ball park so have that difficult conversation ASAP. You may be able to add to this along the way but we'll get to that. One reason that wedding spending gets out of control is because no-one actually knows what the budget is, so they spend like money is no object. If you have some flexibility or are prepared to make cut backs as you go, you still need to know what you're starting out with. The main point of this, and you'll hear it said on those TV wedding dress shows because it's true is, don't go looking at things you can't afford. If you don't know what your wedding budget is, you'll go to venues/suppliers that you'll never be able to afford and then everything else seems boring and ordinary.

2) Do Your Research

Before you go running off to your favourite place to book a date, do some research on-line. Most venues, from high end to budget, will have some indications of their prices available on-line or by email. Speak to any friends and family who you know have used that venue and find out what they thought - was it money well spent, did they have any regrets, would they change anything? Many of the suppliers you'll need are the same, they will often have ballpark prices on their website. This is the time to start that spreadsheet. Use a search service like Bridebook, Weddingly or County Weddings to get suppliers to send their information to you.

3) Write down what you think you want

Make a list of what you absolutely have-to-have on your wedding day (venue, outfits, food, drink), and start whittling off the things you really aren't interested in. Some things will naturally drop from the potential costs, like if you're getting ready and having your ceremony and reception in one venue you won't need a wedding car/vehicle. There are lots of downloadable lists (I have one you can have free if you sign up to my monthly updates ;-) ) if you need some help getting started. Some things can be added back in later if budget allows so keep a wish list or back-up list.

4) Be prepared to Negotiate

This is where I can really help. There are things that wedding venues and suppliers might include as standard in the hire fee, like chair covers, but if you like the chairs on offer and don't want the covers you should be able to negotiate with them, they'll probably offer some other item for the equivalent value rather than a discount but it all adds up to a saving. Just be aware that independent suppliers have their prices set as they are for a reason and don't expect a massive drop in cost because they just won't be able to offer you the same service. NB if someone does offer a massive drop in their costs be very wary, in my experience the charlatans exist here so think of the phrase 'if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is'.

5) Finding extra budget

If you really must have something that can't be met by your base budget you might want to think about creative ways you can access additional funds. NO I'm not talking about robbing anyone, I'm talking about cut backs. Do you buy lunch at work? Do you buy lots of magazines, papers, cups of coffee? Are there things that you can live without for a short time? Are there other ways you can create income? If you're an avid crafter could you sell some of what you make? If you really love make-up/jewellery could you sign up to become a distributor/tester for a product you love? Have you reviewed your insurance, phone, gas or electricity supplier, could you negotiate a better deal or change suppliers to make savings? All or some of these might take a bit of time to sort out but you could make enough to buy you that extra thing for your wedding that you had on your wish list.

6) Keep Your Checklist up-to-date

Again it may sound obvious to some and like a pain in the bum for others, but it's important to keep your budget list up-to-date. On average most people spend about a 50% of their budget on venue, food/drink and the rest on everything else. But it's not a hard and fast rule, and if you find a bargain you might want to redistribute some of that cash to areas that need it. I'll be going into more depth on wedding budget distribution on another blog soon. X