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Warning: budget hazards ahead! Here, the most common wedding-spending pitfalls and surefire ways to avoid them.
1. Lack of Budget Priorities
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you don’t want to think priorities; you want to revel in dreams! Sorry, sister -- if you don’t wake up, you’ll become mired in bills without really knowing why (um, who thought the Rolls Royce rental was a good idea?!).
The Solution: Start with a realistic overall budget (which will involve planning meetings with your fiancé). Then list, in order of “gotta have it,” your wedding details, says Debi Lilly, owner of A Perfect Event, in Chicago. “That way you can put your dollars on the higher priorities, and spend less on what isn’t so important.” One example: A foodie couple might prefer to host a fabulous dinner for 50 that includes wonderful wine, whereas a couple who loves a party might invite 100 or more for a simple buffet, and splurge on a hot band.
2. Not Reading the Fine Print
Don’t skip reading anything, and if you have questions -- no matter how seemingly insignificant -- ask immediately. This is extra critical when it comes to clarifying payment terms. You want to know exactly when payments or balances are due; if there are any minimum charges, corkage fees for wine, cake-cutting fees -- or any other possibly pricey unknowns. If your wedding is a year or more away, be sure to block in guaranteed prices on catering and liquor.
The Solution: Never ever sign any contract on the spot; always take it home and read over everything, making note of any and all questions and concerns. If a vendor pressures you to sign, take that as your cue to move on to the next vendor. Nothing is so urgent that it can’t wait at least overnight. (Check out how to spot common hidden fees, here.)
3. Falling Prey to Peer Pressure
So you just went to a wedding that featured free-flowing champagne, lobster and filet mignon and a fabulous band. Stop right there -- and refuse to try to keep up with those particular Joneses. Why? They may not have actually paid for all those bells and whistles (credit cards, anyone? wealthy parents, perhaps?). And anyway, even if they could afford to pay for every detail themselves, who says that will make them happy? More importantly, who says copying them will make you happy?
The Solution: Repress the urge to impress other people, says Lilly. Imagine that you’re in a safe little bubble, where you’re unaffected by others’ choices. You’ll be more likely to stick to your budget.
4. Leaping Before Looking
You walk into the first reception venue on your list, fall in love and reach for the pen to write a deposit check. Sometimes that works fine. Other times, it doesn’t. A week later, you may hear about a place that costs less and offers more services. Then you have to cut from your budget in other areas.
The Solution: Spend some time investigating. If you’re the spreadsheet type, go ahead and plug in details -- cost, services, extras, terms -- for every vendor you consider. Even if you end up going back to that love-at-first-sight place, you know you did your due diligence. (Learn how to negotiate with wedding vendors.)
5. Getting Stuck on "Should's"
You must have pricey favors. You need napkins that match the fancy silk tablecloth overlays that, of course, you must have. But to quote the song, all you really need is love (and a wedding license, right?).
The Solution: Ask yourself, as you consider every extra detail, whether it will be something you’ll care about in the future. If you’re convinced you’ll be upset to think back on a wedding without a videographer, then by all means hire one. But if you realize that looking back on a two minute car ride in a snazzy car is unlikely to mean that much to you, feel free to skip it.
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