Weddings can be emotive subjects for key participants and personal preferences more strongly felt than usual. Money doesn’t have to be a tense subject, so long as discussions happen at an early date and in an open fashion. Respect, clarity, flexibility and being prepared to listen are all vital during these discussions.
A realistic budget should be decided upon at the outset, and frank discussion is therefore imperative. It may burst the bubble of excitement, but an early decision on the budget will smooth the planning stages. Once the budget is set, negotiations can start.
A first step may be for the couple to have a discussion with their parents. Traditionally, the bride’s father bears the cost, but this is by no means expected today; parents on both sides may be keen to help out. If the in-laws do not contribute towards the wedding, they may wish to host a pre- or post-wedding dinner or lunch.
Alternatively, the couple may wish to pay for the entire day themselves. As couples nowadays often marry later in life, and both men and women enjoy financial independence, the old norms aren’t always applicable.
Whatever the financial situation, just because someone is contributing towards the wedding does not mean that they control it. This is tricky ground – open discussion before accepting generous parental donations may save a lot of trouble further down the line.
By recording all estimated and real costs, an overall picture of expenditure levels can be monitored – most couples change their mind several times as to exactly what they want and how much they are willing to allocate to any given aspect, so a concrete budget right at the beginning is unrealistic.
Everyone involved in planning the wedding will have different ideas about spending priorities. This is an area where the generation gap often shows, so exercising a little understanding and patience is advisable. Involve as few people as possible, set a budget and work towards it.
There are two key mantras to bear in mind: prioritise and compromise. Think about what is essential, what is unnecessary, and the areas where costs can be cut. Be assured that however much the budget is, it will never be enough, so even those with large amounts of money to spend will be restricted. Costs should never be underestimated.
It is a good idea to identify the most important elements of the day at the outset – for example, the reception venue, the dress, and the quality of the wine. Ensuring there is an ample supply of wine and investing in great entertainment might be considered far more crucial than investing in thousands of pounds’ worth of flowers to decorate the venue.
Elaborate food will make a dent in even the most generous budgets, but as a bad dinner will be something that guests remember, the answer may be to choose quality over quantity. A delicious simple main course and pudding will be much more enjoyable than a mediocre five-course lunch.
Preparing the provisional budget
First, agree on a total provisional cost. Where parents are contributing, their input should be taken into account.
Next, the time-consuming research needs to be done: shop around and record the estimated amount to be allocated to each feature of the wedding.
Finalising the Budget
As costs are finalised, a record should be kept of the total sum plus any deposit paid. Now it is simply a matter of balancing the books. When a saving is made, the amount saved can be allocated to a different area, and likewise wherever the budget is exceeded, a saving must be made in another area, or extra cash found.
Quotations and Costs
Most suppliers of services will provide the customer with an estimate for their services. It is important to be aware of the difference between an estimate (just that) and a quotation (the real amount to be paid, which is set in stone). The final budget should, of course, be prepared only after acquiring quotations, rather than relying on estimates that may no longer reflect the extent of the service being provided.
A large event such as a wedding requires careful organisation; chaotic paperwork will only add to pre-wedding stress. All correspondence, quotations and receipts should be kept, and a note made of deposits paid, when balances are due, and sums outstanding. Be aware that most suppliers’ quotes exclude VAT, so allow for the extra percentage to be added on.
The ‘W’ Word
Any goods or services associated with the word ‘wedding’ will automatically be marked up in price. Ways of achieving the same result without falling into this trap – perhaps using friends, acquaintances, or personal recommendations – should be investigated. Areas where it might be possible to bypass the big wedding suppliers include the cake, bridesmaids’ dresses and flowers.
Tips are not usually made to companies or individuals that supply services at ‘wedding rates’. Friends or acquaintances who give special rates – for example a florist who supplies flowers at cost and does the arranging for free – may be better rewarded with a thoughtful present rather than the host insisting on paying market rates.
Equally, friends who go beyond the call of duty for the wedding day deserve a thank-you present. Costs add up, so these extra add-ons must not be forgotten.