It's early April 2014, and we're one month away from our wedding. My partner and I are in the home stretch of juggling five jobs between the two of us, and each morning, I dive into my budget sheet to figure out how the hell this is all going to somehow magically line up. Because it's not just the wedding were preparing to pay for, but also massive bill we owe on the 15th. We also have our standard expenses: credit card bills, student loans, rent, and you know, food. Instead of writing my vows and celebrating with my bridesmaids, I'm picking apart a budget every morning. Pinterest suggestions of pampering yourself and getting fancy cocktails the week before the wedding make me laugh at this point. But since wedding culture looks down on a stressed bride, I keep it to myself.
This whole experience was a major wake-up call. Don't get me wrong, we had a beautiful, wonderful wedding, and I am so grateful for the corners we chose to cut as well as the ones we didn't. I am also aware, and deeply thankful, that we were in a place to have a wedding of this size at all. But today, after three years of catching up and entirely overhauling our finances, I can see all the places we went wrong. Whenever people ask how we knew it was time to restructure our finances, I answer with one thing — our wedding. This one event clarified a world of issues with our financial well-being, or lack thereof. And so, in addition to the standard simplifying and DIY projects that helped me through the process, here is some invaluable advice with which we walked away…
Choose the best date for your bills
If you're hoping to land on the side of sane, consider your bills as well.
Choosing a wedding date can be just as personal as picking a dress or building the guest list. There are family schedules to consider, seasons, work accommodations. But if you're hoping to land on the side of sane, consider your bills as well. It's less romantic, but it has a massive effect on your well-being. Although many wedding expenses are paid in deposits leading up to the big day, the wedding week itself requires a large amount of cash on hand—for tips, final payments, last-minute details, and for some, travel and accommodations. If you have large bills during the year (taxes, medical payments, moving deposits), give yourself a buffer. Things like scheduled loan payments and rent cannot wait, and addressing these payments early on will make the wedding week smoother and calmer.
Go back to basics
One of the biggest takeaways I discovered during the planning process was how to let go of unnecessary purchases. The more money we spent on small details, the more items we had to transport, and the more financially stressed we became. At the end of the day, figure out which details truly shed light on your relationship and new life together. For example, for us, it was more important to have our large families present than use professional florist or DJ. This may not be the case for others, but it was about knowing what was right for us. Prioritize your personal needs, and only add the extra details (crafts, special cocktails, expensive pastries), when they add to the emotional experience of the day.
Start with a bare-bones budget
This is the tricky part — take an honest look at your finances.
In the same theme, start basic. What do you need to literally be married? A license, an officiant, a time and a place, and something to wear. Then check out your priorities list. Add the people, details, and experiences that you cannot live without. Next — and this is the tricky part — take an honest look at your finances. Consider how much you can save before the date, whether your income and expenses may fluctuate, and factor in conversations with family members contributing to the budget. Then head back to your necessaries list.
Discovering that perfect equilibrium between your financial situation and your wedding list is a massive accomplishment, and an excellent way to head into the planning process with confidence. This will also ease relations and tricky financial conversations with family members.
Never jeopardize your emergency fund
In the final weeks, the wedding world may bombard you with the temptation of last-minute purchases. This is when staying on track with your budget is the most challenging. But the money you have set aside for rent, emergencies, and simply living your life post-wedding, is just as important, if not more, as the money spent on the event itself. In the moment however, it can be very hard to see out from under the craft pile. You are celebrating your life together; being financially calm the week after is a great first step.
Be kind to yourself
An event like this is a very large purchase, but it's all for a beautiful purpose. When I look back at those exhausting months leading up to the day, yes, I would have done some things differently. But the wedding planning process is also a great time to address financial guilt and allow yourself to celebrate your hard work and planning. If you have your budget and money in place, consider what truly matters to you, and feel good about these choices, try to avoid the contrasting advice that will hit you from all angles. You've worked for this. Take the time you need to build the event you dream of, and respect the patience and time this all takes. Knowing that you've come through this process together as a team will make the day itself even more extraordinary.