You're likely going to spend a lot of money on your wedding. Here are some mistakes I see a lot of couples making. Hopefully avoiding these five things will help you keep your budget in check!
Not establishing a budget FIRST
I see this all the time. Couples come to me having booked four or five vendors already, and I ask what their overall budget is. They say "we're not sure - we're just going to see what happens". Alarm bells are going off in my head right now!! This is such a scary way to approach what is likely to be a many, many thousands of dollars event. If you don't set a budget first and work top-down, booking vendors that work within your comfort zone, you run the risk of spending A LOT more than you bargained for. Many couples don't know how to set a realistic budget in the first place, and I get that, but do a bit of research first on typical budgets in your area. In London, the average spend I see is between $25000 and $30000, depending on guest count and style of wedding.
Not setting priorities
I'm sorry to break it to you, but you can't have the Cadillac in every wedding category. Sometimes you need to decide what's REALLY important to you, and settle for the Kia in some places. I actually liken this to buying a house. You work with your partner to create a list of must-haves, your realtor shows you everything that's close, and then you have to make compromises, knowing that it's unlikely that you'll get absolutely everything on your list. Weddings are the same. You might prioritize food and drink over something like transportation, or spend more on photography and less on incidentals like favours and stationery. But something's got to give, unless you have an unlimited budget (in which case, yay you!!!).
Looking for the cheapest option, unquestioningly
You get what you pay for. It's a cliche, but it's actually so true in wedding world. The reason I bring this up is because I so often see couples who are just looking at the price tag, and not asking WHY the cost is lower. In the case of a very low cost caterer, what is being sacrificed to make up the cost difference? (Hint: usually it's service - around here, the lowest priced caterer we work with makes good food, but they won't clear anything from your tables other than what they bring, meaning that your tables are left littered with dirty napkins, bar empties, and used glassware). In the case of the cheapest photographer, what are they not doing that others are? Are they less experienced? (Which is NOT always a bad thing; everyone has to start somewhere - just make sure you've seen a LOT of their work, and you like it!!). Are they booking a TON of weddings at a really low cost, and therefore perhaps not as responsive to messages, or as fast with turnaround of your final photos? Make sure you ask questions of ALL vendors that you book to ensure that you have a thorough understanding of the services they provide, and in the case of lower-than-industry-standard vendors, ask yourself (and them) WHY.
Forgetting the little details
Everyone plans to spend money on their food, photography, music, and ceremony, but what about things like a marriage license? How about a seating chart, a card box, pens for the guestbook, paper plates for late night food? There are SOOOOOOOO many little details that most weddings incorporate, and it's important to have an overall budget that incorporates all the little things right from the start, so that you're not surprised at the end. Those little things add up, and they'll end up costing you thousands in the weeks prior to the wedding. If you're working with a comprehensive budget spreadsheet from the beginning, they should be included. (Let me know if you need help creating a budget spreadsheet!).
Not tracking payments and schedules
This is the wedding equivalent of balancing your checkbook. (I'm dating myself here - does anybody even HAVE a checkbook anymore??). Nobody LIKES to do it, but it's a necessary evil if you want to keep track of expenses. Many wedding vendors will take a deposit or retainer, and one or two (or three or four) final payments. It's important that you track the dates that these payments are due, and know the amounts. If you have no idea what a payment amount SHOULD be, you run the risk of overpaying, and not even realizing it. Mistakes happen, even from the vendor end. Read your contracts, and understand the financial breakdown from every vendor. (And ask about additional costs or add-ons from the beginning!). Track your spending and upcoming payments so that you always have a handle on how much you owe, and if the amount requested by a vendor doesn't match your records, ASK WHY! (Also, be aware that some vendors charge a 'processing fee' if you're paying by credit card. They legally have to be upfront about it, but if you're putting things on credit to get the travel points, free groceries, or whatever, be aware that it could end up costing you more!!).
Questions? As always, feel free to shoot them my way! Email firstname.lastname@example.org!