Although Robert Eberhardt and his bride had a guest list of 80 guests they wanted to invite to their reception, the hall they wanted had a 100-person minimum. So they invited more people, which started them down the path to a massive cost overrun. "The logic at the time was we were paying for 20 more people that we planned on inviting anyway by going with that hall," Eberhardt says, "so we invited the extra 20 people. But then those people brought dates, and other people insisted their friends also be invited. It was a mess." Additional dinners and subsequent no-shows cost them an extra $1,200. "We would have been better off just paying for the 20 plates, and not inviting everyone else, or going with a different place," he said.1. Extra guests
(Sad story: He was still paying off the credit card debt from the wedding after the marriage ended 16 months later.)
What to do: To keep the costs of the reception in line, find a space suited to the size of the reception, and learn to say no to extra guests.
The in-laws want to pay for part of the wedding? Great. But do they know how much things cost? Meg Keene, author of "A Practical Wedding" and supporting website, says such gifts frequently come with unrealistic expectations. "Brides are increasingly well-educated going into the process, but their families and their partners aren't," Keene says. "They'll offer the money to pay for the wedding, but then they want something that's four times the amount they're willing to contribute."2. Financial support by in-laws
What to do: Keep in-laws in check by making them a part of the planning, and keeping them informed about prices.
When brides (and grooms) know they're about to be engaged, many start looking at the bridal magazines, envisioning their perfect day, before they've weighed the practicalities of price tags. Keene says that lull can endanger a budget. "If you know you're going to get engaged in the near future, there's this dangerous period of when you think about what you want, but have no idea what the prices really are."3. The lull
What to do: Spend some time re-envisioning what your big day ought to look like. "Find the one thing you really care about and go for it," Keene says. "Cut everything else that you don't care about." Avoid getting sucked into a fairytale wedding with luxury price tags by skipping the glossy bridal magazines in favor of budget-planning websites or non-wedding event planning resources that don't buy into the hype.
Last-minute expenses can range from realizing you've hired a bad photographer whom you have to replace (at a premium) to helping a key guest who needs assistance buying wedding party attire or covering airfare to attend the ceremony. "We flew up two friends to our wedding and paid for hotel rooms of people who needed it," Keene says. "That was the best investment in our wedding we could have made. We would have cut all sorts of thing, but we'd never have cut those costs."4. Last-minute expenses
What to do: Plan for contingencies by keeping a wedding day slush fund. If it's not used, roll it over to splurge on honeymoon treats or invest it for a happily ever after.
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