You’ve got your ring, and you are officially engaged. You are as excited as you can possibly be. You have met your one true love and expect to spend the rest of your lives together. BUT, did you know that an engagement ring isn’t a gift to keep …. legally in the United States of America, it is considered an “anticipated gift”…. in other words, it doesn’t really become yours until the marriage contract is signed. And, in the summer of 1997 US courts upheld this as a legal statute.
In other words, it has become law. Until then it was merely “custom’ that if the groom called off the wedding, the bride got to keep the ring; if the bride called off the wedding, the ring was returned to the groom. But now the courts of law have intervened. If this isn’t enough to upset the ring bearer’s pillow, get ready for other important factors that can make or break your wedding day. For years wedding magazines and books refused to write about the realities of planning a wedding. They felt that talking about money and costs to put on a wedding would detract from the dreamy fantasies that a lady has in thinking about her wedding. That has changed.
Today’s contemporary wedding periodicals and books are more realistic and thus provide a greater service to the consumer in the sense that they are writing about budgets and costs. But, they still are not writing about realistic costs. They are taking averages of costs of weddings that might involve pot-luck in a town with a population of 5,000 people and averaging that with the cost of a wedding in a fancy-smantsy city like San Francisco or Chicago or New York. Most magazines and books state that the average wedding in the USA costs about $ 17,000 for 125 – 150 people. Actually, the more accurate amount is closer to $ 25,000 to $ 35,000. So, let’s talk about money and realism because it should be the first topic of conversation after the happy tears of new a engagement dry up.
When beginning to plan a wedding, sit down with your fiancée and talk about the wedding you want, the wedding of your dreams, and the wedding that will relate to your friends and relatives who you are and what you are becoming. Make a list of categories that are necessary for a wedding (ceremony and reception sites, florist, photographer, cake, etc… Beside each category, write out what you want to have. Next to that make three columns: the first column (label this column “Budget”) is what you think you are able to spend in each category. The second column will be what we call “Realistic Costs” and a third column labeled “Actual Costs….. and we’ll come back to these below. Add up the first column.
Does it match what you have budgeted? Remember, you are giving a party for 50, 100, 150 or 200 people. Remember also, unless you have given parties for 50, 100, 150 or 200 people, you may not know what some things cost.
To determine what things (photographer, caterer, flowers, limousines, videographers, ceremony/reception sites, etc …. we call these people “vendors”) really do cost, begin making lists of reputable and professional vendors in the area where the wedding will be held, This is easier than you might thing. Start by asking your friends who have recently had a wedding. Next, ask some of your corporate/professional friends who have hired vendors for corporate or other social parties/events. Then, get on the telephone and call vendors in your neighborhood or even from the yellow pages. Let them know who you are and the date of your wedding, and ask them for the following to be sent by mail or fax: a price list, a copy of their brochure and other business materials, how long they have been in business, a copy of their business license and a certificate of insurance. Ask them for a list of referrals …. it’s important to ask for other professional referrals …. not just brides (recognize that no smart business person is going to give you an unhappy referral), so you want to know what others in the industry think about these people you are about to interview.
Recognize that some costs with certain vendors are going to be similar (for instance, professional and reputable photographers are going to have similar packages; the same with videographers and limousines). However, caterers, florists, and cake professionals may vary considerably in costs, and this has more to do with the quality of their work or service or what you are desirous of having for your wedding. Also, ask the vendors you talk with on the telephone, what other vendors they like to work with. Make a note of these and call them to get information. If a vendor is not willing to give you most of the above information on the telephone or send you the material by fax or mail, then think twice about scheduling an appointment. But, in fairness to the vendor, recognize also that most wedding professionals are small businesses and especially regarding weddings, prefer to meet the bride and groom in the flesh so as to be able to show them their products or services firsthand.
Take all the information that you have gathered, look at their costs (even if these are ranges), and then put them into your “Realistic Costs” column.
Once you have gathered the above information, then you can begin making appointments to interview vendors. Start interviewing the vendor who seems to be the most pleasant and closest to matching your budget and what you want. Remember when interviewing vendors, you must compare apples to apples and not apples to oranges. This means, just because one photographer might have a lower price, doesn’t mean that he or she is offering the same thing. Again, when interviewing vendors, ask what other vendors they like to work with. Make a note to interview those vendors. A successful wedding has a good team behind the scenes. And a good team is made up of people who have worked well together.
At the end of the interview with each vendor, ask them to commit to a price according to what you have explained you want. if the rate is over your budget, then talk to the vendor and ask if there are ways they work, products or services that can be tailored so that you can stay within your budget. Leave with some concept of “Actual Cost” for that vendor. Take all of these costs and put them into your “Actual Cost” column. Now, for the first time, you have a realistic concept of what the wedding of your dreams will cost. But also, you should have an idea of the cost of your wedding that might be more streamlined and cut back so that you are not going over your budget but at the same time not compromising too much on what your dreams are.
Now that you have a realistic budget, determine if you can afford to present your desired wedding. Find out from one another and the sets of parents where the money is going to come from. Total the amounts and compare them to your “Realistic Cost” column. Call the vendors that you best like, that you think will best do what you want, and get a contract sent to you. If a vendor is unwilling to get a contract then at least get everything in writing …. you may have to draft the letter yourself, send the letter to him and have his/her signature and yours with the date and amount contracted. If the person isn’t able to do this, then don’t even think of firing that person to do your wedding.
My most important advice: Figure out your budget and stay with it. This means: first, figure out a budget for the wedding of your dreams, and secondly, figure out a wedding according to your budget. A lot of money is going to be spent on your wedding day; make sure you are getting your money’s worth, but most of all, don’t go into debt over this most important day in your two lives.