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You've Been Planning Your Wedding Backwards - Here's The Fix

Photo: @alishatovasiegel

I want to talk about a question I see asked all the time in wedding planning Facebook groups, and why it lets me know that many of you are actually planning your weddings backwards.

Just about every day I see multiple posts in wedding planning FB groups asking some form of the question; "How much should we spend on blank for our wedding," filling in the blank with flowers, DJ photographer, etc. Or maybe it sounds a little bit like, "we're going to have 150 guests. How much should we budget for our catering or centerpieces or the bar or whatnot?"

This means those couples are actually planning their wedding backwards, which is the easiest way to let the budget get out of control right from the beginning. While there's nothing wrong with getting information on what the average couple spends on certain things for their wedding, there are so many variables that come into play for every wedding. And there's no way to compare apples to apples.

When asking for general numbers, if you're creating your budget by asking others what they spent in various areas, you're allowing other people to tell you what your budget is - not basing it off of the amount of money you have to put towards the wedding. Now I do recognize that there are some couples that are lucky enough to have significant budgets for their wedding that allows them to make the decisions without great consideration to the numbers. If this is you, I still recommend you follow the steps I'm about to outline, to make sure that you're still keeping focus on the wedding priorities we discussed previously, and that your budget doesn't get out of control like the majority of couples out there. However, we'll need to keep a closer eye on the budget. So let me tell you how to get started.

The first thing we need to do is to get your big picture number. If you start out by deciding how much money you can dedicate towards the wedding, not how much money your dream wedding will cost, it will ensure that you don't end up deep in a financial hole as the wedding day gets closer. Let's backtrack a little bit though, and talk about tradition. Who contributes to the budget and how do you come up with this big picture number?

Traditionally speaking, the groom's family is responsible for the rehearsal and welcome dinner, the bar at the reception, and the personal flowers for the wedding party only. So that's the bouquets, corsages, and boutonnieres, not the centerpieces or other floral items. The bride's family would be responsible for everything else. Now this is obviously not going to work with every couple financially. And of course it doesn't even address same sex couples in creating the budget.

You'll find that I tend to toss most traditions to the side and recommend you do what works best for your specific situation. Today, I see that it's often a combination of both sides of the family contributing with the couple themselves paying for majority, if not all of the wedding expenses on their own. So how do you figure out who's going to contribute to your wedding budget and what your big picture number is?

The best piece of advice I can give you is to have an honest conversation with anyone that you think might be contributing. So both sides of your family, friends, whoever it might be in your life that you think would be contributing to your wedding budget. Sit down with them and ask them what their thoughts are. You can host a dinner or invite them over, but let them know that the wedding budget is on the agenda. This way they can come prepared and have already had a chance to look at their finances and pull some details together.

If they haven't already discussed specifics, try to avoid vague answers. Be clear when talking actual dollar amounts. I know this can be super awkward. We're all trained from such a young age not to talk about money. And it's rude to ask about certain things, but it is very important because I find a lot of family members will give general answers like, "Oh, don't worry about it. We'll make sure to cover it. We've got some money set aside." But they won't talk about specific numbers.

And while the intentions are always good behind these comments, it leaves a lot of things open to interpretation. And once things are reserved and booked, contracts are assigned, deposits are down, you can't backtrack. If you're both thinking about different numbers, if we're not all on the same page and you don't want to find out that their version of what they're able to contribute is a lot different than what you thought it was by over committing yourself to certain vendors.

Keep in mind when you're hosting this dinner or gathering to talk about the budget, your families may have only met a handful of times, or maybe they're more reserved about talking about finances than the other side. So you might need to host these separately or even just on your own with your fiancé and family not present. It might make your family feel more comfortable or the other way around.

Again, some families are just a little bit more conservative about these conversations than others. So think about those things ahead of time so that everybody can be as comfortable as possible. Having these conversations after you've had the conversation with your family members and looked at what you might be able to contribute to the budget yourselves, you're going to have your big picture number.

You'll use this to break down what you'll spend in various categories for your wedding. If you're interested in learning more about how to break it down by category and to get access to the budget workbook, I go into detail on it in the Wedding Planning Blueprint Course. This is also where I'm going to give you some more tips.

If you have some stubborn family members that don't want to give you exact numbers or you're having a harder time coming up with that big picture number, you can get more details on that and other free wedding planning resources over at So remember, we're not going to plan our weddings backwards. We're going to start with our big picture number and break things down from there.

Have you already been working on your plans and you've been doing it maybe a little bit backwards? Don't worry about it. It's never too late to get back on track, sit down and look at your numbers to make sure that they are on track with what that big picture number is. Head over to the Wedding Planning Collective Facebook Group, and let me know what you're struggling with.

We'll make sure to get you unstuck.

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