If you’re recently engaged and planning a wedding, congratulations! But after the excitement has worn off, the reality of wedding planning and the exorbitant costs of every detail are quick to bring future brides and grooms back to reality.
“The wedding industry has turned into this big giant beast,” says Deborah DeFrancesco, a wedding planner and founder of the site, Bitchless Bride.
As a wedding planner, DeFrancesco has seen couples max out multiple credit cards and borrow money from family, something she says can lead to conflicts and stress throughout the planning process.
“Save the fighting for when you’re married,” DeFrancesco jokes. “For your wedding, you should have a set budget and you should do everything in your power to make sure that you don’t go over it because you will fight your way through your wedding planning.”
DeFrancesco shared her six tips to avoid debt while wedding planning.
TIP 1: Figure out what you can afford
DeFrancesco says the first thing an engaged couple should do when they start to tackle wedding planning it to sit down and talk.
“You have to have a very honest conversation with your significant other to find out what you can afford—not just today and not just for your wedding day but also, what do you want from the next five or 10 years,” she says.
Setting your expectations for your life ahead will help set your priorities for your wedding, and will help you think of saving for your longer future together.
“Everything will feel very big to you if you don’t save a little as you go,” she says.
TIP 2: Make a realistic guest list
DeFrancesco says the easiest way to figure out your budget is to look at your guest list.
“If you attach a dollar amount to each person coming, that’s essentially your budget,” she says. “The more people you have, the more money you’re going to spend: it’s very simple math.”
By setting a number for your guest list and sticking to it, you’re on your way to keeping your wedding in the budget you’ve set with your partner.
TIP 3: Prioritize your must-haves
DeFrancesco says she often has to sit down with clients and help them rein in their expectations to get them to match their budget.
“I need to sit them down and say, ‘You have champagne tastes, your budget is kind of a beer level, so we need to find a happy medium,’” she says. “We talk a lot about prioritizing what is important to them.”
If food is your priority, DeFrancesco says you might need to cut back on decor, or have an open bar for only part of the reception in order to splurge on top-notch catering.
“Once you prioritize, you can allocate where everything else goes,” she says.
TIP 4: Don’t DIY
While DIY may be a popular way to save money on wedding decor, DeFrancesco says it’s just not worth it.
“Remember that your time is money,” she says. “Know that any project you start is probably going to take about double than you think it will, and you’ll probably end up buying it anyway.”
DeFrancesco may have a more discerning eye, but she also says most people can tell when items are hand-made, so skip the crafts and allocate your money—and time—elsewhere.
TIP 5: Consider a short-term wedding planner
DeFrancesco says you’ll be spending money on your wedding anyway, so it’s important you’re spending it in the right places and trying to remain as stress-free as possible. She recommends hiring a month-of planner to help you to the finish line.
“They’re basically there to hold your hand and act as a liaison,” she says. “If you are someone who is extremely organized, you might just want a month-of planner to help you finish things so on that day you can truly enjoy yourself.
TIP 6: Keep it in perspective
While it’s easy to get wrapped up in the wallet-busting must-haves you think you need for your wedding, DeFrancesco says it’s important to step back and remember what the day is about.
“Take a step back from the entire situation and say, Who are you marrying and what kind of life do you want to build together,” she says. “The wedding day will be the start of that.”