Real Brides Spill Their Biggest Budget Mistakes

We asked recent brides to share their biggest money mistakes and — more importantly — what they would do differently today.

Texas newlywed Ava knows what it’s like to be a budget-balancing bride. “Hands down, wedding expenses are the most stressful part of the planning picture,” Ava says. And stress often sparks mistakes, particularly on the financial front: costs get overlooked or miscalculated and immediacy shoves aside diligence and patience as the swirl of wedding energy tramples logic, leading to purchases that will only later be deemed superfluous. Fortunately, experience remains a wise teacher. So we asked recent brides to share some of their key lessons learned.


destination wedding
Photo courtesy of Fairmont Mayakoba

I tried to plan the wedding from start to finish over the course of four months. The more truncated your planning time is, the more money that goes out in a few short months. I did not have much time between a down payment or deposit and the final payments. Over a more extended period of time, our wedding choices would have been much more affordable, alleviated quite a bit of stress and allowed me to manage the budget much more efficiently.”—Christina, Lexington, KY

I didn’t have a proper budget outline, mostly because I initially envisioned my wedding as a ‘simple’ affair. I had a checklist in my head consisting of my major vendors, dress and honeymoon, and I thought I was set. As the planning progressed, I realized I didn’t have a clear vision of all the singular costs. I should have written out a budget for everything, consulting other brides and wedding checklists to ensure I had everything covered. If I did that from the beginning, there would have been no surprises, no stressful, last-minute budget conversations with my groom and I could have avoided some extra tears.” —Ava, Spring, TX

“I spent a lot of time drawing up a budget for big-ticket items, such as flowers and catering, but I forgot to factor in small items like bar napkins and cups, and those things really added up. I also waited until the last minute to purchase those items, so I was caught off guard when I realized how much I’d have to spend. As a result, the wedding total came out a lot higher than I anticipated. I wish that I had spent more time thinking through the details and trying to anticipate every possible expense because it’s amazing how much of an impact small dollar purchases can have on your overall budget.” —Kelly, Corpus Christi, TX

Big-Picture Items

bride and groom
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Messina Photography

My biggest mistake was selecting a venue that was too expensive. I only visited five locations, and I fell in love with the last one we saw. In looking at the different venues, I noticed that they were either inexpensive, but I hated the location or décor, or they were really expensive. Since I knew I’d be devoting a lot of the budget to the venue, I thought why not spend a little more for the place I love. Looking back, I’m certain I could have found a middle ground, getting a more reasonable price point at a venue I liked, if not loved.” —Katy, Montclair, NJ

When budgeting for bridal apparel, I failed to account for everything. Bridal apparel is more than just the dress and alterations; it’s shoes, a bra, Spanx, jewelry, garter and so on. I saw numerous wedding checklists that listed ‘bridal attire,’ but never saw something that listed everything in that category. My advice: Research everything and you’ll be happy you did. The wedding industry can be a crazy business and you want to make sure you’re aware of all the different costs up front to avoid being nickel and dimed.” —Lindsey, Wheaton, IL

I did not shop around enough for a photographer. I found one and we liked her work, so we booked right away. Our pictures were beautiful, but after seeing other friends’ wedding photos, I realized we could have paid a few thousand less for the same quality.” —Katie, Joliet, IL

"Like a lot of women, I’d never had anything tailored before I bought my wedding dress, so it didn’t occur to me to price out alterations. As I bought my dress from a major retailer, it just made sense to have them alter it, and I scheduled my fitting the same day I ordered the dress. Ultimately, I ended up paying 25 percent of the cost of the dress just to have the hem taken up, as well as a ‘designer dress fee’ because of the brand I’d bought. I let the rush of the moment push me into making a spot decision.” —Lori, Frederick, MD

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