The key to managing a successful wedding budget — no matter how much money you have to work with — is knowing the difference between wedding expenses that are worth the splurge, and ones that you're better off skipping. Despite what magazines and Pinterest boards will tell you, not every wedding element is worth spending all your money on. There are some things you can totally skimp on and still have a perfect wedding day. Some things will be more important to you than others, but generally, there are certain wedding elements that are worth the extra cash, because they are what guests will notice most, or they are what you'll be able to enjoy long after you day "I do."
To get the most for your money, figure out what is most important to you on your special day. Once you pick out a handful of wedding day elements, sketch out a budget and determine how much you can spend on each priority item. You'll need a little extra cushion on each one, because extra fees can be tacked on easily, and they will certainly add up quickly. And don't get sucked into thinking that the wedding cake and the wedding favors need to be top notch (unless that's extremely important to you), because once they are handed out and/or consumed, they will be instantly forgotten. Spend your wedding fund on the following items instead.
1. The dress
You've probably spent a ridiculous amount of money on clothes throughout your life, and this is the most important clothing item you'll wear. Even if you choose to wear a tux instead of a dress, make sure it's tailored to fit your body like the most flattering and gorgeous glove in history. All eyes will be on you, so give them something perfect to admire.
2. The venue
Unless you have a breathtaking space that's family owned and you can use for free, you'll probably have to hunt for a wedding venue. Some places will try to rip you off, and make you hit outrageous minimum dollar amounts for each guest. Check out at least three to compare. Then settle on the one that offers you the most (chairs, table settings, wait staff) with the least amount of money. But make your peace with the fact that the venue will probably take the biggest chunk out of your overall budget.
3. The dinner
This is really a judgement call, because some people don't care as much about offering a lavish three-course meal for their guests — especially if it comes out to $100 per plate. But just know that your guests will be hungry, a bit tipsy from cocktail hour, and will be all keyed up for a delish meal. If you have the wiggle room in your budget to offer some rich and yummy dinner selections, do so.
4. The booze
The price tag on an open bar is a hefty one. However, your guests will be SO PUMPED to not have to pay for drinks all night that if you can swing it, you will definitely get your money's worth. Because... yeah. People get d-runk at weddings.
5. The photographers
These are professionals who will know how to pose you so you look your most beautiful, and will make sure the lighting is always flattering. Their photos will be cherished by you and your family for a very long time, probably even after you've left this world, so make sure you get quality photogs to capture your extreme happiness throughout your wedding day.
6. The transportation
It's nice to offer transportation for your guests after the reception, but it's certainly not a requirement. At the very least though, your ride at the end of the night should be DOPE. This is probably the one time in life when you're actually riding off into the sunset, so don't you deserve a killer ride for this occasion?
7. The gifts for your wedding party
Your bridesmaids and groomsmen have sacrificed their time and money to make your day special, so even though you're filling their bodies with food, cake, and drinks all night on your dime, it's also nice to give them a gift. It's a way to really express your gratitude to the people who matter most to you.
8. The wedding planner
You don't need a wedding planner to do everything, but having someone designated to keep everything from falling apart on your wedding day is absolutely crucial. Most wedding planners offer day-of wedding services, and they are so, so worth it. You will not have time to field last-minute calls from vendors while making sure everything is seamless. To ensure your sanity on your big day, set aside some money for a day-of planner, and you'll be glad you did.