Planning a Wedding on a Budget

Planning a wedding can make finding the person who you want to spend the rest of your life with seem like the easy part. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can host a day to remember without a budget you will always regret.

Planning a wedding can make finding the person who you want to spend the rest of your life with seem like the easy part. There may be a variety of people weighing in with their opinion on such matters as whether you should invite your 30 second cousins once removed whom you never see or if the cake should be chocolate or vanilla. And, of course, there is the little issue of how you are going to pay for the whole affair. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can host a day to remember without a budget you’ll always regret. However, with careful planning, you can have the wedding that you want without starting off married life in financial distress.

  • What can you afford to spend?

The first step of financially-smart wedding planning is determining what you can afford to spend. Some of the money may be coming from you and/or your fiancé’s savings. How much do you have in savings and how much of it do you want to spend on the wedding? Don’t deplete the savings completely, it is a good idea to maintain an emergency fund in case medical bills, car repairs, or other unexpected expenses pop up. You may also be expecting or hoping that your parents or other relatives will be covering some of the cost. If this is the case, it is important to get clarification now on exactly how much they are contributing. You don’t want to sign contracts or start buying things, only to find out later that your parents are not giving you the N100,000 you thought they would provide. List all of your sources of contributions in the Wedding Budget below, and add them together to see what your total budget is. (You can always spend less, of course, but you should not spend more.)

  • Where will your money go?

After you know how much you have to spend, the next step is to determine where you will spend it. Unless you have deep pockets, chances are you will have to make sacrifices somewhere. Think about what is a priority and what is less important. For example, perhaps having good food that your guests will talk about for years to come is a must, but you could care less about the flower arrangements. Or visa versa. There are no wrong or right priorities – it is all about what is important to you and your fiancé (and perhaps assertive relatives!).

Using the Wedding Budget, list how much you plan to spend for each category. Remember, the total for expenses should not exceed the total for contributions. Keep your budget in mind when you do your actual shopping – in fact, you may want to bring it with you. It is not that difficult to get caught up in a moment and spend more than intended. Try to avoid looking at things that you know are above your budget. If your limit for a wedding dress is N50,000, don’t try on a dress that costs N150,000. Also try to create a specific shopping list before you set foot in the store or talk to a vendor.

  • Dealing with vendors

Unless your wedding is a completely do-it-yourself affair, you will probably be hiring vendors to provide services. How can you ensure that transactions go smoothly?

First, it helps to shop around – this allows you to see who provides the services/goods most in line with what you want as well as who offers the best price. Choose at least three vendors to interview for each function (caterer, photographer, band, cake baker, etc). Discuss with them what you want (remember to make a list before the interview) and what their experience is. Also ask them to provide references of past customers. After the initial consultation, each vendor should give you an estimate of the price. Obviously who offers the lowest price is important, but you will also want to consider your impression of them during the interview (Did they seem knowledgeable? Responsive to your desires?) and satisfaction of references.

In order to book them, most wedding vendors require you to make a non-refundable deposit and sign a contract. Before you do, it is important to read the contract carefully and make sure you understand exactly what services and goods the vendor is providing, the cost, and the cancellation and other policies. Get everything that was agreed to in writing – verbal promises can be easily forgotten. Once you find all of your vendors, don’t forget about them! It is a good idea to periodically check in before the wedding to ensure that everything is on track.

In the end, your big day is all about you and your love for each other. The rest is just details, and you don’t need to spend a small fortune on the details. Use the savings to enjoy a nice honeymoon, make a down payment on a house, build an emergency fund together or even create a “baby fund” (if you’re so inclined.)

Here are seven big ways to cut back on costs while still planning a lovely wedding.

  • Wedding Venue: The only two things that are usually decided on before the wedding venue are whether or not to get married and the date. The wedding venue can be costly, but you can save a lot of money by getting married on a day other than Saturday and by finding a place outside the city limits.
  • Reception Food and Drink Menu: The best way to save on food, drink, and desserts for your wedding is to provide your own. Enlist your friends and family to help, and make sure that you don’t overextend yourself with complicated fare. If you don’t want to make your own, consider serving heavy appetizers instead of a sit-down meal, and find a venue that allows you to bring your own beer and wine.
  • Wedding Photographer and Videographer: When your wedding is all said and done, you want to make sure that you have a keepsake that will remind you of every moment and every emotion of that day, which unfortunately can be very expensive. Consider ways to save, like hiring someone that’s just getting started in their career or someone who shoots weddings as a side gig.
  • Wedding Ceremony and Reception Music: It can be expensive to hire a professional musician, a band, or a DJ, but luckily there are many ways to save in this category. You can hire a student musician, or consider a friend or family member to perform. A DJ is cheaper than a live band, Using an MP3 or other music player is even cheaper, especially if you have or know someone that can provide speakers. 

Wedding Decor: It’s easy to go overboard and let the budget get out of control when decorating your venue, but luckily there are many ways to save.

  • Wedding Flowers: Wedding flowers can cost thousands of Naira, but if you are frugal you can easily cut your flower bill down to only a couple of thousands and still have beautiful arrangements. Be smart about what types of flowers you choose, and think about how you can repurpose them throughout the wedding.
  • Ceremony Decorations: Sometimes less is more, and this will help you keep the price of decorating your wedding ceremony venue reasonable. Keep in mind that depending on your venue, the setting itself may be all you need.
  • Reception Decorations: The best way to save money on wedding reception decorations is to have a little fun with it. Get creative and pick a good, solid theme. Once you do that, everything else will fall into place.
  • Reception Table Centerpieces: Similar to the other reception decorations, this is another area where you can have a lot of fun but not have to spend much money, especially if you make all the centerpieces yourself.

Wedding Attire

  • Wedding Dress: It’s easy to get out of control when it comes to spending money on what is usually the bride’s favorite element of the wedding – her wedding dress. Fortunately, it is also easy to save money on the dress if the bride sticks to her budget and shops wisely.
  • Menswear: Even though most people will be looking at the bride, it’s also important that the groom looks good. And luckily, menswear is not nearly as costly as the bride’s dress. Men need to be flexible when choosing what they will wear on the big day and should consider alternatives to tuxedos.
  • Bride’s Hair: Having a stylist come to you on your big day may be convenient, but the big bill may cause unwanted stress. Doing your own hair or going to a cosmetology school are two great ways to avoid spending a fortune on your hairdo.
  • Bride’s Makeup: The same holds true for the bride’s makeup. If you have a professional do your makeup, it can be expensive. Alternatively, you can buy your own makeup and do it yourself, but that also can be costly. Consider ways to cut makeup costs, such as by using coupons to buy makeup or by visiting a department store’s cosmetics counter for a free makeover.
  • Wedding Jewelry: Not only will there be an exchanging of rings during the wedding ceremony, but the bride will most likely want to wear a few pieces of jewelry to complement her wedding gown. The best way to avoid spending above your jewelry budget is to stay out of high-end stores, and borrow from friends and family.