bride trying on gown with designerI tell all of my brides and grooms that I will be their Budget Nazi, and help them avoid choosing things for their weddings that will definitely put them over budget. They can have whatever they want, as long as they can afford it. It’s my responsibility to make sure they make educated decisions when they add things that weren’t included in the initial estimate.

While your wedding planner should absolutely help you keep track of where you stand with your budget, you should bear the responsibility for watching your spending. In fact, the vast majority of my brides who blow their budgets do it by spending money on little add-ons that have nothing to do with planning the actual wedding.

True Story: I had a client who was an accountant in the U.S. Army. She was a captain, and in her late 30s, so I expected her to be a pretty reasonable bride when it came to the budget. I was wrong.

We would have actually brought in the entire wedding — including gratuities — just under the predicted budget if they hadn’t had added a lot of last-minute guests, taking them 20 heads above what we had initially budgeted. That’s the facts of life — each guest costs you incrementally more, and it adds up quickly.

She had a complete and total meltdown. She called me, looking at the spreadsheet I’d sent her, and sobbed that she was $10,000 over budget. I didn’t understand — the budget spreadsheet I was looking at put her just a little less than $2,000 over budget. Certainly nothing to sneeze at, but also nothing to get hysterical about. She had, after all, emailed me the previous evening to add 18 names to the final guest list.

When I questioned her math, she exploded, I was taken aback completely. Her reaction was disproportionate to the size of the problem. And I still didn’t know where she was getting the other $8,000 in expenses. I let her rant and rave at me, and eventually she revealed the problem. She hadn’t spent all that other money on her actual wedding, she had bought THREE WEDDING GOWNS!

Lots of my clients buy a second, less expensive wedding evening dresses to wear for their trash-the-dress shoots if they don’t have the heart to destroy the dress of their dreams. But this bride had spent $5,000 on the first dress she bought (in the budget we’d planned), and then she spent another $8,000 on two more dresses. And she wasn’t even doing a trash-the-dress shoot. She just wanted to have one for the ceremony, one for before the luncheon, and a third for dancing and partying. Seriously.

Every bride is certainly entitled to as many gowns as she wants (no matter how crazy it may seem). However, you can’t count all that extra spending as part of the original budget estimate unless you warn your wedding planner in advance.

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