Get married, not bankrupt

Too many couples contract a case of 'the ever-expanding budget bug' when planning their nuptials.

You just got engaged – congratulations! Once you’ve had a chance to enjoy that initial glass of bubbly, it’s time to get down to business and plan the big day. Here are some tips to ensure you enjoy not just the wedding, but also the planning process.

Plan well ahead of time

For a run-of-the-mill party, one month advance preparation usually works fine, but for a wedding, start planning a year to a year-and-a-half ahead of time. This might sound extreme, but the sooner you start planning, the more likely you’ll be able to find options that will fit within your budget.

Figure out what you want and who is contributing

Sit down with your fiancé and other “stakeholders” and agree on the scope and style of your wedding. What are your key priorities? What are you willing to compromise on to curtail costs? Tensions can arise when emotions and costs come into the picture at the same time. So establish early on who will be contributing to the costs of the wedding, how much they will be contributing and what their conditions and expectations for contributing are. Do your parents expect to have a say in particular aspects of planning? Find out now.

Nail down your budget

Before you buy a cake or rent a venue, establish a budget that you and your family can afford. Do your costs research. Your budget should account for every little detail, including a contingency reserve of about 10 per cent of your total costs, or more. Look into each part of the wedding to-do list and figure out what details will go into making it happen. Be generous in your initial cost estimates to avoid a larger-than-expected bill. Also, make sure vendors quote you their prices including all extra fees, insurance, travel costs, extra materials needed, and taxes. If you need to curtail your spending, refer to that initial discussion with your fiancé and consider what’s really important to you. Non-essential items can always be cut.

Organize your saving and spending

Discuss with your fiancé how you’ll be paying for the wedding and speak to your financial institution for advice. Saving up for your wedding, rather than getting into debt, will help you start life as a married couple with a clean financial slate. Create a savings plan to help you reach your financial goal. You may want to open a joint account with your fiancé, which you can use just for wedding savings and expenses.

Track your spending to stay on budget

Keep an eye on your spending throughout the process by keeping a budget tracking document outlining what you’ve spent compared to what you’ve budgeted. This will allow you to pinpoint where you’ve gone over-budget and where you still have wiggle room. This way you can readjust your budget as you go along.

Many couples contract a case of “the ever-expanding budget bug.” This can arise when couples are hit with costs that were impossible to predict, such as if your moving truck broke down and you had to rent one at extra cost. But the ever-expanding budget usually arises from things you could have foreseen. You can avoid this by taking all your costs into account from the beginning and agreeing on hard limits.

One final tip – relax. Plan as well as you can in advance, but don’t let financial worries cloud what should be one of the brightest days in your life. By applying sound financial planning, you can enjoy that honeymoon – and many years of marital bliss – without stressing about debt.

Kathy McGarrigle is chief operating officer for Coast Capital Savings.

Surrey North Delta Leader

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