The Incredible Expanding Budget

I once had high hopes for our ability to produce a relatively low-budget wedding. While $10K is by no means a shoestring affair, it matched what we could put aside, and was realistic given the things we wanted to do and how much they cost.

Oh, how naïve and foolish I was to believe I could stick to a budget for something like this. I have a hard enough time not reallocating car repair money to clothing funds in my own personal monthly budget. It’s no different when it comes to the never-ending multitude of STUFF I’ve ended up putting on my “to buy” list.

Miss Magic had an oh-so-apropos blog post on the topic of justifying random wedding purchases that I immediately identified with. I, like so many others, have been quite guilty of nickel and diming our own expenses. While I don’t subject our joint budget to my daily craft whims, I do keep track of all wedding-related purchases in my Mint.com personal account, so that I can look back at the end and get a truly horrifying snapshot of my actual spend on pens, paper, wooden numbers, picture frames, antique bottles, fabric, 3 types of glue… goodness, it never ends.

Personal screenshot

Now, granted, this amount includes checks written to actual vendors we actually needed who were ACTUALLY in the budget. But lots of it does not. Like, oh, the 8 trips to Michaels, and the wedding website I swore we didn’t need to pay for (but we get a vanity URLLLLLLLLL!), and the fabric for the bunting I never planned to make, and the checks for Mr. Ladyfingers’ wedding ring that was SEVEN TIMES the amount I’d originally planned to spend (he loved it so much… how could I say no?).

The one thing I’m incredibly grateful for is that we’re not going into debt for this. For me, at least, I currently can’t hold credit because I made the very useful move of consolidating all my debt into a bank-backed credit program a few years ago to get my interest rate down. The upside is I’ll be 100% debt-free by next summer. The other upside disguised as a downside is that I can’t currently open any new revolving credit lines, nor use what I currently have opened. Fine by me!

So what’s creeped into our budget – and mine – since we originally committed to a hard-and-fast $10K back in January?

  • The venue was more than we’d originally budgeted for, but given that we were saving on invitations (a friend did them as a wedding gift) and photography (a friend-of-a-friend is shooting for hundreds less than a more established pro), and that we get exclusive use of the venue from 9 a.m. to midnight that day, it was a much better value for our dollar, hands down, than anyplace else we looked at. Total over original budget: $1500
  • The caterer was also more than we’d budgeted for, but it includes all rentals, gratuity, and free wedding coordination, plus a DOC and a rehearsal and ceremony coordinator. And even with all that, it was THOUSANDS less than other caterers in the area. For no apparent reason, either, because our choice is delicious and recently won several “best caterer” awards for the area on a number of wedding websites. Total over original budget: $2000
  • The flowers crept into our budget last month, after I decided that I’d drive myself and everybody around me insane by doing them myself. I committed to personally putting more aside to meet this expense I chose on my own. Total over original budget: $1300
  • While our photographer was a total bargain-and-a-half, we ultimately chose to book her for two additional hours so she could shoot the entire event rather than scooting out two hours early and missing cake cutting, garter and bouquet toss, and much more dancing. Total over original budget: $200
  • Then there’s the onslaught of expenses I adamantly refused to spend in the beginning. I added a guestbook, cake topper, and garter, plus the already-mentioned crafting projects. Total over original budget: Uh… 100%. 100% over my original budget. What that number is, I’ll never tell (possibly).

This was all my own personal choice, however. To avoid budget creep in your own wedding, I’d caution you to learn from my lessons.

  • Step away from the wedding blogs! Or, at the very least, window shop once you’ve committed to your own personal plan. I cannot tell you how many DIY projects – and their associated supplies – have made it onto my list just because I saw them on this blog or that. DON’T DO WHAT I DID.
  • Craft-shop with coupons! Michael’s, for one, has so many coupons all the time. I’m not savvy. I would never make it onto one of those “I got 86 boxes of Tide and the store gave me $20 back” shows. Nine times out of 10, I went shopping without a coupon, or failed to plan my purchases around the sales. I easily could have spread one big buy out across five smaller buys to utilize all my coupons… but no, I did not. DON’T DO WHAT I DID.
  • Take something away for every thing you want! I got so hung up on the whole, “Well, we’re saving money here so I can spend money here,” thing that I failed to notice the things I was adding were far outweighing their cousin savings. DON’T DO WHAT I DID.
  • Step away from Etsy! Seriously. DON’T DO WHAT I DID.

In the end, I’m super excited about all the fun things we’re making and the cute things I’m purchasing. I will in no way regret having the cute custom-made guestbook or the adorable custom cake topper or the vintage-modern-sexy garter. But on the other hand, I truly believe I would not have regretted NOT having those things. I don’t want to be a buzz kill – throw the wedding you want, and if it means you go over budget, and you can handle that amount, then by all means. But if you really want to stick to your guns, please. Don’t do what I did. </PSA>

Now I’ve got to add bells and a 3” hold punch to my “to-buy” list because I decided our guests will use bells to send us off. Oops.

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