Ladies, (gents, hopefully!) we have a moral dilemma on our hands. There’s more to this question than you might think: and the answer isn’t “what you can afford”. It goes a bit deeper.
Let’s get the stock answers out of the way first.
How much should you spend on your wedding?
Stock answer 1. It’s your day, do it your way, spend as much as you can afford.
OK – bit of a cop out answer. You’re about to spend a LOT of money (whichever way you see it, weddings aren’t cheap!) and you can’t sum the whole thing up in a sentence.
Stock answer 2. Average wedding budgets – “here’s what everyone else spends, use it as a guide”. I have problems with this approach. Mainly, where do these average figures come from? I’m not aware of any survey on wedding budgets which has targeted a fair cross section of the population to ask about wedding spending. So the average figures are interesting, but you definitely shouldn’t use them as a guide to what YOU should spend on your wedding. Everyone’s different after all.
It’s all a bit more complicated than that. Before you read this article, get those prescribed answers out of your head. Approach the question with an open mind and you might just get a very different answer.
The real answer! How much you should spend on your wedding
It’s a mixture of two things. There’s practicality and there’s also the emotional side of it – you’ve been investing in your wedding for years and years (emotionally) – as have your parents. That’s really important to think about when you’re considering your wedding spending budget.
1. How important is your wedding?
Think about how important your wedding is to you both, and to your parents.
We’re not talking about your marriage, which is of course the most important bit. When you say “the most important / best day of my life” hopefully it’s getting married you’re talking about. Marriage itself is cheap – £500 or so for the vicar, less than that for the registry office, then you could go home.
What we’re talking about here is how important is your wedding? Remember that’s the party afterwards. All the fluff and excitement surrounding your marriage, from getting dressed up to feeding your friends and family. How important is that bit?
Don’t feel bad that it’s important – on the contrary, you’ve looked forward to this day for years. And you’ll look back on it in years to come. It should be special however you imagine it, however you remember it ten years down the line.
Talking about the future, imagine you can step forward ten years. What would you like to remember about your wedding day? Ask yourself the same question again from this different: how important is your wedding to you?
Now put a number on how important your wedding is. £5k? £20k? Scribble it somewhere.
2. How much can you get away with spending on your wedding?
This is a very different question to ‘how much can you afford’ or even ‘how much have you got to spend?’. Imagine you have £50 in your pocket at dinner time. You could spend it all on lunch if you felt the urge to – but you probably wouldn’t.
The same applies with your wedding: if you have £50k in the bank you shouldn’t be spending it all on your wedding. That would be silly. Flip the coin: if you had a £50k loan available to you would you take out the whole thing to spend on your wedding? No – that would be ridiculous.
Why think about ‘what you can get away with’ when it comes to your wedding budget? Because weddings are stressy! There’s a lot to organise on top of family politics and you’ll be busy, stretched to your limits and working hard. If your budget is stretched to breaking point will your first month or year of marriage be a nightmare?
How much do you really enjoy beans on toast? Could you eat it every night?
This is why the answer to ‘how much should you spend on your wedding’ isn’t ‘as much as you can afford’. You shouldn’t be thinking about how much you’ve got, but about how much money you’ll have left over after your wedding.
How much money do you want to have left over after your wedding day?
Imagine it’s the month after your wedding, and you’re back from your honeymoon and settling into normal (but married!) life again. You’re sat on your verandah, on those rocking chairs they have in the movies, side by side, one of you’s humming a tune, reading the Times* and you’re eating croissants for breakfast with your hubby.*if the Murdoch press survives the next few weeks
It’s an idyllic picture. Quick fire question: how much do you imagine is in your joint bank account at that moment? £2k, £10k maybe?
Put a figure on it – how much do you feel happy having in the bank? What amount makes you feel secure, comfortable? Before payday?
Also think about what you will owe at this (idyllic, imagined post-wedding) time. Any loans? Credit card debt? Anything owed to your family?
A little bit of maths – won’t take you a minute
Bear all of these figures in mind. Now it’s a simple calculation: work out your incomes between now and your wedding day. Subtract your usual outgoings. Include money gifts from your parents if they’re contributing. Subtract what you’d like to have left in the bank after your wedding; add back in you have in the bank today.
That’s the figure you can get away with spending on your wedding.
Does it match the figure you had in mind for how important your wedding was?
a) Yes. Brilliant!
b) No. It’s more. Good! Then stick with your “important” figure. There’s no point spending more than you need to. Your “important” figure is how much you should spend on your wedding.
c) No. It’s less. Ah. Then you need to rethink how much you should spend on your wedding day. Have another look at your priorities. If getting married soon is important, then perhaps you could scale back your guest numbers or reconsider your venue.
With thanks to wedding photographer Ali Lovegrove for the photography, with the exception of Piggy who came from http://polkadotpiggybank.com/purple-elegant-baby/