Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wedding Wednesday: Setting the Budget

Even though you're supposed to have a budget conversation with all the relevant parties (your fiancé, of course, plus both sets of parents) before you start planning your wedding, we didn't.  Jon and I dove right into our venue search even before knowing what we could afford.  To be honest, I wouldn't recommend this method, but it was the only way we could get a handle on any sort of financial window.  You see, there are a few US-based websites that tell you how much weddings cost in different parts of the country - for instance, an August wedding in DC costs an average of $29,732 while in NYC it's $37,037, but the UK wedding industry is only just catching up.  I was able to find some estimates for the price of getting married in London, but there's nothing online about how much it costs to have a wedding in the English countryside.

So, while Jon and I were researching our options for a wedding venue, we also did a basic search of other suppliers and vendors in the area.  We put together a proposal for my parents, who are very generously paying for our celebration, that included a cost window; they then considered our research alongside their own financial capabilities and came back to us with a figure.

Because I am an Excel goddess, I decided the wise thing to do would be to make a supersophisticated budget spreadsheet. First, we again turned to the internet to see what, on average, couples spent on different aspects of their weddings.  (Find some here: Real Simple, Martha Stewart, The Knot, and Wedding Wire; Wedding Chicks just posted an excellent infographic today about this.)  I put those averages in the spreadsheet as percentages alongside our total budget and calculated the corresponding cost breakdown.  Once I'd finished that in the abstract, I tweaked some of the percentages based on what we'd be spending on the pieces we knew we wanted - at this point, we had reserved Bruisyard Hall and we had figured out what a civil ceremony cost in the county, which changed the averages slightly.

As you can see, we're going to have to deal with an issue that most couples can't even imagine: planning a wedding in two currencies.  Our budget is in dollars, but most of our money will be spent in pounds sterling.  This is trickier than just doing consistent multiplication and/or division across the spreadsheet because of the fluctuating exchange rate, which means that what we have to spend in pounds sterling changes constantly.

Let's say my budget is $10,000.  On July 12, I would have had £6,480.46 to spend.  On July 19, it would have dropped to £6,362.51.  That's a difference of £117.95 within a week.  Yikes!  What this means is that we're having to be more flexible than usual, I think, in saying "I want" about the smaller pieces of the wedding.  The big pieces - like the venue and the catering and the photography - are non-negotiable, price-wise; we just have to hope that we pay off the balance of their fees when the exchange rate is favorable.  But we're going to have to find other ways to prepare for unexpected changes in our budget.  For instance, I have two ideas to talk through with potential florists: one that involves lots of flowers, if the exchange rate drops, and, if the exchange rate rises, one that involves strategic flowers but relies on other decorations to maximize their impact.  It's certainly keeping us on our toes!

I'd love to hear if anyone else has planned a wedding in two currencies - and even if you haven't, I'm always open to financial tips or suggestions!  This is a lot to keep a handle on, and we are grateful for all the help we can get.


  1. Way to go! You seem super organised. My parents paid for most of the wedding.. we made a spreadsheet early on to get an idea for approx. how much the wedding would cost, then they transferred over a big bulk of the money to my UK bank account because we were afraid the exchange rate would go up.

  2. Hi Betsy,

    Maybe too simple, but could you just physically stick all of your USD wedding budget into a sterling-denominated account to lock in a given rate? (This is obviously only be favourable if sterling continued to rise in value against the dollar.) Otherwise, it might be worth getting some advice about putting a forex hedge in place.

    good luck!


  4. Hey Annie and Jackie - not too simple at all! Unfortunately, though, we don't have the lump sum to transfer at the moment. If we did, we'd exchange it at a low point in a heartbeat! We have to pay for things gradually due to cash flow. But I don't know what this "forex hedge" is that you speak of... I will look it up! Thank you :)

  5. Oh wow this looks super complicated!!! It kind of makes my head hurt and reminds me of being in International Finance. Once upon a time I was amaaaazing at that stuff... but since that was 3 years ago in college... not so sure about that anymore :)

  6. Wow, I do not envy you right now...but I'm proud of you for creating this spreadsheet and sticking to a budget! I can't tell you how many people don't even think about their budget until halfway through the planning, which can be a complete disaster! I hope it all works out for you though, and that the currency doesn't change too much! Your venue looks absolutely incredible, by the way. What a beautiful place to get married!

    Thanks so much for linking up today Betsy!


  7. I know an American Girl who lives here in London that owns her own wedding planning/event company. Most of her clients are American but the weddings are here in the UK. If youd like for me to give you her contact info or introduce you two via email just let me know. Shes a really nice girl.

  8. Wow That NY price is a big tag. I have to admit I would end up eloping and spending all the money on a honeymoon and a photographer. Not everyone's cup of tea though.

  9. hey i've had to deal with what you're going through. If you need any help let me know I'll be more than happy to help . I married in the English countryside and it was more affordable than getting married in NJ . I also didn't really stick to a budget but I managed to get the best deals on everything. Good luck!

  10. @BHB - I too laugh at the $29,000 for a DC wedding!! Let's just say my March DC wedding was well over $40,000. March is not even high wedding season and we cut out a lot!

    My biggest advice is to prepare yourself to spend more than you planned. Things will inevitably pop up and there.


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