How not to break your budget on a destination wedding like I did

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How to Set a Wedding Budget

I have a confession.

My husband and I exceeded our destination wedding budget by $3,249. We set two goals during our wedding planning: to pay cash and to keep wedding expenses at or under $10,000. The grand total for our wedding with 56 guests was $13,249. While we still paid for the wedding in cash, I learned valuable lessons that I thought would be useful to share with other budget-conscious brides-to-be.

If you're planning a destination wedding, they have several advantages. It is highly likely that you are choosing your location for its natural beauty and, because of that, your reception site will likely require very little decoration. An added bonus is that it will also be a vacation for you and your guests. Here are some tips to avoid exceeding your destination wedding budget.

1. Review the Off-Site Vendor Policy Beforehand

We chose our wedding location based on the resort reviews and the package options. The package we chose included the cocktail hour hors d'oeuvres, the cake, a steel-pan band, a 30-minute couples massage and more. While we saved money by receiving those items practically free, we paid the price for not exploring the vendor's fee section of the contract.

The resort, like most resorts, works with preferred vendors. If you opt to utilize vendors other than their preferred vendors, the fees can be excessive. We chose an off-site photographer, makeup artist, and decorator and were charged an additional $739 in vendor fees for it. You may choose not to hire off-site vendors, but in our case we did not like the quality of work of their preferred vendors. We were happy that we chose off-site vendors and felt we received more value for our money by working with them.

I encourage you to research the preferred vendors of the resorts. If you are not happy with the quality of their work, request the off-site vendor fee information before making your final decision.

2. Encourage Individuals to Lodge at the Host Resort

In an effort to accommodate guests who are financially strained you may consider allowing people to lodge at nearby properties that are less expensive. If you are hosting your wedding at an all-inclusive resort, off-site guests will likely be charged a day pass fee to receive access to the property. Some brides offer to cover this cost. We decided to cover this expense for our off-site guests. As a result, it cost us an additional $1,400.

To avoid this additional expense, explicitly inform invitees that they will be charged a resort fee for each day they wish to access the property if they decide to lodge anywhere other than your selected hotel. Resist the urge to cover this cost as a courtesy.

3. Ask to Have Fees Waived or Reduced

Don't assume prices are inflexible. Your appointed contact might have the final say in what fees are mandatory. If you are pleasant, there is a possibility they will extend you a discount. My site coordinators waived the open bar fee for our ceremony, which would have cost us an additional $1,600. They also reduced the makeup artist vendor fee, saving us an additional $300.

It doesn't hurt to ask and could possibly save you money in the long run. The larger your guest list, the more likely they will accommodate your requests.

4. Price Plane Tickets Ahead of Time

While airline prices are unpredictable, you can gain a general understanding of the average ticket price by conducting research during the venue selection period. Since we previously traveled to Jamaica, we assumed our ticket prices would be around the same price. We were wrong. Despite declining gas prices, the tickets were $100 more per ticket than we estimated. If you don't have a personal connection with any particular location, choose your top five destinations and compare prices. Since prices fluctuate according to season, make sure you compare choices based on the timeframe of your wedding.

It is very easy to become consumed with the excitement of wedding planning. Remember to pay attention to the fine print, shop around and negotiate to avoid exceeding your wedding budget for your destination wedding.

[Editor's Note: Remember, carrying high levels of debt, due to your wedding or otherwise, could hurt your credit score. You can see where your credit currently stands by viewing your two free scores each month on Credit.com. ]

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