I get frustrated with brides and grooms who overspend on their destination wedding and then look at me like I'm the bad guy when they see their final invoice. Come on, ladies and gentlemen -- you are adults!!! Theoretically, you manage your own personal household budgets. Wedding budgets aren't that hard -- I give you an excel spreadsheet and if you question the data in that, go ahead and add up the information on the contracts you're signing (and have copies of) and double check my numbers. But it makes me absolutely crazy when I've spent months planning a wedding and everything is finished, and the bride and groom act surprised about the grand total.
Most of the time, it's just plain excitement in the beginning that gets them into trouble. Engaged couples get so into the planning that they spend money they never intended. And they know they're overspending (mostly because I'm warning them every step of the way -- do you really need the most expensive chairs available for your wedding ceremony?) but they can't seem to help it. For some clients who have some financial backup (perhaps the BoD -- Bank of Dad), once they evaluate what they have spent, they cool off and pay their bills. Others ask me to help them reduce their overall budget as much as possible before the big day.
That's when I go line-by-line with my clients through every bit of their master budget -- do you really need the fire pit after hours? What about losing the cocktails at your wedding rehearsal? Some of the décor flowers being used and the ceremony and reception can go too. Drop the rum and snacks from the welcome bags. But if you've signed a contract for the service in advance with another vendor, that's something we can't get out of without the bride and groom losing their deposit. And that's the last thing you want to do when you're already over budget and only six weeks out before your wedding. You also want to try to avoid cancelling any events that you've promo'd in your travel info and welcome packet. Look into scaling down the spending if you can instead of taking it off the schedule.
Let me be clear -- unless you have handed your wedding planner a wad of tens of thousands of dollars and given her free reign with your money, she is not responsible for your budget woes at the end of the planning if she has been warning you about your budget from day one. If you're the one signing the contracts, you have the information about what you're spending. I tell my clients when they hire me that I will do my best to keep them on budget, but ultimately, what they spend depends on the decisions they make throughout the planning process.
I say "You are the bride. If you decide you want fireworks at your wedding, I can make that happen. But it's not in the budget we've agreed upon here." Most of them get it. I remember when my client Jen actually absolved me, in writing, of any responsibility for her budget because she was so sick of hearing me say "you can't afford that" when she told me what more she wanted. Fine with me, it's your money and you can spend it however you like. Jen accepted responsibility for her final budget and paid her bills on time. Not every client handles it like that.
There are three ways to blow your wedding budget. If you are over budget, which category do you fall into?
1) Out of Control Guest List. Okay, so I told you how much to budget per person when you hired me, and when you told me your guess on the headcount versus the actual invitation list. I disagreed with you at the time but you know your guests better than I do, so if you really think your 150 invitations is going to garner only 75 acceptances, we'll plan your wedding that way. But if you end up with 100-plus guests at your wedding, you are going to blow the hell out of your budget. And it's totally your own fault. The only way to knock money off your budget is to give up something else, unless you're not planning to feed the extra 25-plus guests that you didn't budget for. Your call.
2) Overshopping at home. I had a bride who was an accountant for the US Army, and we planned her wedding together very carefully. Or so I thought. Til she looked at the final numbers and freaked out because she'd spent so much money. She kept saying a number that was $5,000 more than what the master budget showed, so I was completely confused. Turns out, she'd spent $5k on three wedding gowns. THREE!!! Really? Go cry to somebody else about your budget. I only had one dress. The things you buy at home aren't part of the budget I'm working with here on the island for your wedding, so keep that in mind when you're feeling inspired to buy something you could live without.
3) Do-It-Yourselfers. I've had several lower-budget clients over the years who thought they were saving by being real DIYers. Problem is that you have to ship all that stuff down here to Puerto Rico and that takes time, ingenuity and money. I have several sections on shipping in my client guide to help brides and grooms get things down here safely. It requires ingenuity because anything fragile has to be packed like it's going to be sat on, and it costs more money because shipping boxes and boxes of wedding décor to the Caribbean is freakin expensive. I know. I shipped 32 boxes for my own wedding down here (remember, there was no wedding planner on Vieques then). We can get most things for clients locally for less than it will cost them to ship it all. Some clients must ship a lot of things because they're doing all sorts of customized décor (the graphic designers, etc. in my clientele always send down really cool programs and menus and such), but a lot of brides are mailing me giant boxes of TicTacs and packages of bath beads. Hello -- we can buy TicTacs here and nobody has bathtubs because it's all big tiled showers -- but whatever the brides and grooms send us goes into the welcome bag or wherever it was intended for. The amount of money spent shipping usually exceeds the cost of the items shipped by 200 percent, but that doesn't stop them. It's a snowball effect that can be a huge waste of money but now that they've already bought the stuff, they feel compelled to pay the astronomical fee to mail me giant boxes of stuff we could have acquired down here for less than the shipping. Ay Dios Mio!
What can you do if you find yourself seriously over budget and in real trouble? Talk to your wedding planner candidly and calmly. Accept responsibility but ask for help. He or she will be able to tell you where you can save money so late in the game, and where you cannot. But be prepared to give things up. You don't get anything for free in this life. Even at your wedding.
But there are ways to shave money off your budget, even a little bit. So don't hesitate to ask for guidance. Believe me, I want my clients to be happy with me and not bitter about money when they arrive here on the island. We've spent hundreds of hours preparing for your wedding weekend -- every member of my staff is sunk into your big day both professionally and emotionally -- we all want everything to go smoothly so you can sit back and enjoy your wedding weekend.