THE WEDDING BUDGET
You have decided to have a wedding, and that the first thing you need to do decide on is a wedding date. So you settle for December 20, 2014 because everyone is on holiday and your overseas guests will be able to travel to Zimbabwe. You then decide how many guests you will invite to the wedding so that you can choose a venue that can accommodate everyone. You have decided that it has to be a garden wedding, and you will not spend any more than USD 10 000.00 on everything. You decide that 300 guests is a manageable number.
So, you start hunting for a venue. You find the venue that you want, and it will cost you USD 2 000.00 to hire. They will let you bring in a caterer of your choice, but they insist that your tent comes from a specific hiring company. It sounds reasonable. So you pay the venue hiring fee in full. Now you can really start planning your wedding…right?
Wrong!! Many couples come to me as a wedding planner to find out what services I can offer them, when they have already settled on a venue, a wedding date, a budget, and their expected number of guests. The first thing that you need to do when you decide to have a wedding is to consult a wedding planner. As a wedding planner what I will tell you is, you need to put together your wedding vision, do an initial guest list, and work out your full budget estimate. Once you have an idea of how much you are about to invest into this special day, you will be able to set an appropriate date, and to decide on a realistic guest number. When you book a wedding venue, there are always certain terms and conditions that you have to adhere to. For example, a wedding venue may insist that you use the best hiring company in Zimbabwe for your marquee. The best does not come cheap and is very rarely negotiable. So if you tie yourself to that venue without considering this compulsory cost in your budget, you will go out of pocket. Other venues insist that you use their in-house catering team for your food. What if the entry-level menu costs USD 30.00 per head? With your 300 expected guests, that’s already USD 9 000.00 on food. Did you say your total wedding budget is USD 10 000.00?
Granted, some couples have an unlimited amount of cash to spend on their wedding day, but the truth is, the average Zimbabwean, whether based overseas or in Zimbabwe, has a ceiling on the amount of money they are able to spend on a wedding.
The Wedding Vision
Sit down as a couple, and decide what type of wedding you would like to have – and be as specific as possible. Hire a professional to take you through this process, or find a comprehensive wedding checklist that you can use to ensure that you cover everything, and work through it item by item. If you have a specific venue, florist, or photographer that you want, include this in your vision. Write it all down, because this is what you will use to build your full wedding budget.
The Guest List
This is not a fun way to begin your planning process, but how will you decide on an expected number of guests without drafting an initial guest list? It is dangerous to “thumb-suck” a figure because you may end up like a friend of mine who left out her mother’s side of the family, and found herself with an extra 100 guests that could not be ignored! This list is not final, it’s a starting point.
The Initial Budget Estimate
This process requires quite a bit of groundwork, especially if you decide to do it on your own. It requires you to get in touch with your potential wedding service providers for their rates, and input those figures into one consolidated spread sheet. You will need to give yourself time to go through this process.
This is where your reality check comes in. How are you funding your wedding? Are you taking out a loan against your house? Are you relying on your own monthly earnings? Do you have family who have made pledges to assist you financially? Are you hoping to win the lotto? It is important for you to be realistic about how much money you will be able to raise, or to set aside for your wedding.
If you take the time to follow these steps, you will save yourselves a lot of stress, panic, and disappointment leading up to your wedding day. I have come across couples who have not budgeted properly, and have ended up postponing their wedding at the last minute, or compromising the quality of their special day due to inadequate funds. Some couples have ended up borrowing against their anticipated wedding day cash gifts, and have been disappointed when their gift takings do not even come close to covering their debt. Remember that your wedding day signifies the start of your marriage, and no one wants to begin this life journey in debt, or barely talking to their spouse. When you have a rough idea of your budget, you can make decisions based on it. For example, how much money can you put aside on a monthly basis? And given that amount, how many months would you need to cover the cost of this wedding? With this info you can set a practical wedding date. You can also decide whether you should cut down your guests list to get to a more practical budget figure, or whether you should look for another venue, or widen the search for service providers in order to stay within a realistic budget figure. Then, and only then, can you seriously consider securing a venue for your wedding day. Start from the start.
Written by Ms Rufaro Mushonga, and originally published in The Standard Style Magazine