The most important advice we can offer both you AND your parents is DO NOT GO INTO DEBT! Weddings come in a variety of types and sizes; one is not necessarily better than the other based on the size or how much money you spend. Whatever you do, don't start your married life in debt.
BE REALISTIC WITH YOUR BUDGET
Your wedding budget should be handled like a business budget. If your boss said, "The budget for the Christmas party is $10,000," you would use only those services that would keep you within budget. The same is true for your wedding. Find the services that can accomplish what you want within the budget you've designated. Be realistic about your budget. If you have only $5,000 for your reception, it's unlikely you're going to be able to afford a full sit-down dinner for 150 guests, but a buffet with hot and cold hors d'oeuvres may work very well. Follow your budget allocations as closely as possible. This will eliminate financial stress.
DON'T FORGET TAXES AND GRATUITIES
Be sure to ask if all charges for delivery and setup, taxes, and gratuities have been included in the estimates you get from all the businesses and services you have selected. These additional costs can be a very nasty surprise the week before the wedding!
SAMPLE BUDGET SHEET
Service Budget Actual Deposit Due Balance Due
Caterer $5,000 $5,250 $500 5/5 $4,750 8/6
SETTING UP A BUDGET
It is recommended you set up a separate bank account for your wedding. This way funds can be tracked and kept separate from regular finances. Always pay businesses or services with a check or credit card to better record and track expenses. Allocation of your budget depends on what is most important to the bride, the groom, and the families contributing. Some spend more on music and entertainment or photography than others. The following is a breakdown of average spending by percentage:
Engagement ring - 14%
Reception - 40%
Photography and videography - 15%
Bride's and groom's attire - 5%
Music - 4%
Flowers - 3%
Invitations - 2%
Miscellaneous (clergy fees, rehearsal dinner, attendants gifts, limos) - 7%
Honeymoon - 10%