Where to Begin: Creating a Budget

I've never been one of those girls who had their weddings planned from start to finish from age 9. I've been to a total of five weddings in my life, three of which I was under the age of 5 and the other two I was under age 16. I'm pretty green when it comes to weddings. However, this doesn't mean I've never dreamed about getting married or was ever against it. I think it's a very exciting event. My parents have been married for 29 years and still love each other.

Before we got engaged, I would watch various wedding shows on weTV -- Bridezillas, Rich Bride, Poor Bride, and Platinum Weddings. I would have it on in the background, and on an episode of Platinum Weddings, I heard the announcer say that the Mother of the Bride spend $14,000 on her dress. Not the Bride's gown, the MOB dress! I quickly realized that weddings are an expensive and lucrative business (depending on which side of the fence you sit), regardless of a $14,000 dress.

A couple of days following our engagement, I started researching pricing in the San Francisco Bay Area. We had decided to have the wedding in California, near my family, since my side is proportionately much larger than his. My eyes widened as I received pricing quotes from venues. One location nonchalantly told me that they would offer the rental to me for $10,000 instead of the usual $12,000. That's just the space! No food, no drinks, just the room!

When my fiance and I had first started talking about our wedding, we didn't want to go overboard with the spending. We thought maybe $10,000 would do it. Sure, if we were only going to invite 50 people. But with our families, just the family would total over 50 people. As we saw quotes for locations trickle in, we figured that between the two of us, we could make $16,000 happen. With help from our parents, we could definitely come in under our final budget of $22,000. I know he was shocked when he saw this number, but I explained that in the long run, it actually comes out reasonable considering the number of guests we want to invite - 200+.

Excel spreadsheets became my best friend. After finding a couple of templates on WeddingBee (Thanks Miss Canary!), I started pouring in the information to compare each location. So far, with the location we've chosen, we're on-track with our budget. We considered what was most important to us; for me it was photography, for him it was the music/DJ, and decided to spend in those areas and trim elsewhere.

My biggest piece of advice: Talk to your fiance! Hopefully you've had "the talk" about finances before the big question. This would just be an extension of that conversation. Be honest about what you can afford and what you're willing to spend. That includes being honest about what you want your wedding to be. You don't want to do something you don't feel comfortable with. Make sure you are on the same page, remember you are throwing this party to celebrate starting your lives together. It's an event you both want to enjoy and be proud of.

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