What to Do When Your Wedding Goes (Seriously) Over Budget

A small table set for a wedding reception with pillows and candles.

Even with excellent planning, it’s not uncommon for couples to go over budget when planning their wedding. In other words—it’s not something you should beat yourself up about too much. However, in all the hype of the process, it’s easy to throw down a thousand dollars here, a couple hundred dollars there, and before you know it you’ve spent significantly more than you can afford. What happens then? Depending on your situation, you might have to make do with your mistake. If you’re lucky, you can undo a few things. But most likely, you can make a few little fixes that will ease the budget burden and get you back on track to reexamine your wedding planning process.

Take It Back

A small white wedding cake.

Just because you’ve booked a venue or hired a photographer doesn’t mean things are set in stone—even if you’ve placed a deposit. For this reason, it’s important to go over all the bookings you’ve already made and determine if they’re really worth the cost. Anything that isn’t a must-have in your books deserves a second look to see if you can back out of the deal or change the terms to be more wallet-friendly.

This is easy to do if your contract allows you the privilege of canceling, even if you pay a small fee. For example, if you find a cheaper venue that’s a third of the price, the 10% down payment you made might be worth the loss.

With venues, you might also be able to negotiate a change of date to a cheaper alternative. Many venues will likely cooperate with you on that end, especially if your new proposal lies on a low-demand day. Similarly, ask other vendors if they can work something out with you. For example, you can request a smaller cake to cut, and get a sheet cake from a cheaper bakery from which to serve your guests. Or, ask your caterers to simply switch to a less expensive package.

Avoid More Surprises

While you’re reading through your contracts, check for any hidden fees on the vendors you do intend on keeping. For example, your photographer may have quoted you for only a four-hour job, and anything after that will be charged extra. You definitely don’t want any additional spending surprises when you’re already cash-strapped.

Salvage Your Spending

Try to get your money back where you can. If you’ve already bought furniture or decor, or even your dress, why not put it back on the market after the event? You’ll be surprised that you can get most of the money back if you advertise things right. And don’t be afraid to sell some unwanted wedding gifts if it comes to that.

For things you can’t sell, consider donating them to a charity. Not only will you be doing a good deed, but you can double down by making it a tax write-off. (Just make sure you get a receipt!) Believe it or not, some charities will even accept fresh flowers as donations—just inquire with them ahead of time about it.

Tighten the Leash

A photographer working with a bride and groom.

After you’ve gone through the bookings already made, take another look at the ones you still have to make and be very conservative about what you spend from this point on. There are plenty of ways to save money on a wedding in every category—just do a bit of research. Some ideas are opting for a student photographer instead of a professional, hiring a DJ (or making your own playlist) in lieu of a live band, or skipping wedding favors. The easiest way to cut costs is to trim the guest list. So, if invitations have not gone out yet, consider crossing some names off your list.

Start Saving Today

If all fails, you might have to find another way to get some cash. This may mean spending less in other categories of your daily life (such as eating out) or getting a side gig to pay things off quicker. If you’ve been using a credit card for all wedding expenses, transfer the balance to one with a low APR. Some credit cards will even give you 0% for a year or more as long as you make the minimum payment per month. A bit here and there could easily save you hundreds a month and you won’t even notice it!

Yes, it is possible to take some immediate remedial action to avoid the post-splurging guilt. Having said that, the best piece of advice you will ever hear is to do everything to avoid being in that situation in the first place. This means making a strict spending plan and sticking to it. You will thank yourself later!

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