Now for the serious post. A budget, though often pushed aside and avoided at all costs, is the most important aspect of the initial step in planning your dream wedding. Whether your budget is small or never ending, it's necessary for you to establish it up front. This document will serve as the foundational guide to the overall feel and details of your big day.
Your wedding can be what you want it to be if you are smart about your spending. Each wedding is variable in this respect as there are an array of line items that affect the scale, and therefore cost, of the occasion. Once that bottom line has been defined begin doing your homework. Seek counsel from friends and family who have planned a wedding recently. Talk to them about vendors they used, particularly their wedding planner, as he or she is your ultimate resource for information and guidance. Create a working document and begin estimating the cost of varying line items. What are you willing to spend on each? This list should be prioritized according to elements that are important to you (check out my previous blog post Planning a Wedding...Where to Start for more details on initial steps of the planning process).
Regardless of your vision, you need to know that the majority of your funds will be needed to cover the costs of your venue, rentals, and catering. Like I've said, every event is different. This may not be the case for you, but it is a general rule of thumb. Since these will more than likely take a chunk of your budget, they should be established first. This will help you allocate funds for other line items appropriately. If you have hired a planner, which I highly recommend, ask her to start generating estimates for these large ticket items. Ask her for suggestions on which vendors will work best within your budget. Begin acquiring quotes from those vendors, but remember, these are simply quotes. Don't become too overwhelmed when you see the bottom line. These numbers can more than likely be adjusted to meet your needs. Maybe you requested pricing for Chivari chairs or custom linens from the rental company. Maybe you told the caterer you wanted an extravagant seafood display. These are things that you may have to compromise on to stick to your budget. Talk to your event planner and/or a vendor representative to see if they have more cost effective options. They are there to work with you! On the flip side, don't become attached to the thought of hiring a particular vendor because your friend said they were a must. If they don't fit in your budget there are other fish in the sea. When vendors become well established in an area they are able to charge heftier prices for their services due to demand. Do your research and ensure yourself that you can't find the same services from a different entity with lower pricing.
Once you have retained the pricier vendors for your wedding start pricing the rest. What are some aspects you are willing to part with? Do you really need that five tier cake? Can you scale back on the floral arrangements or make substitutions for the more expensive flowers? By prioritizing all aspects of your big day you will make decisions that will ensure you are making your vision a reality.