Before you haggle over the guest list or hunt down your perfect venue, you'll need to determine your total wedding budget. Figuring out a set and solid bottom line before you even start considering the details of your big day is key to ensuring you make financially sound decisions throughout the planning process.
These days, 69 percent of couples pay for part or all of their big day, so chances are your figure will be a combination of the following:
Your savings minus your emergency and retirement funds
Seriously, don't touch those, even if it means compromising on a few of your other wedding wishes!
10 percent of your current monthly income
Or whatever portion you're comfortable putting toward the wedding without going into debt. Consider all of your monthly expenses before you set this number.
That includes anything from your parents or other loved ones.
Is the total a little lower than you'd like? No matter how tempted you are to boost your budget with plastic, don't. "Making minimum payments on a credit card can be ferociously expensive, doubling the price by the time you pay it off," says Manisha Thakor, author of Get Financially Naked: How to Talk Money with Your Honey. So that $500 statement necklace could cost you a cool grand in the end.
Don't forget to pick up our Brides February/March 2015 issue, available on newsstands December 23, for more great budget advice!