Money can be a touchy subject—a subject that can get even touchier when budgeting for a wedding when emotions are already running high. And all that money-related touchiness can lead to a variety of wedding budget conflicts throughout the wedding planning process.
“In our society, talking about money is so taboo, and ironically, wedding planning is so intertwined with finances, so many people experience a lot of anxiety around the planning process since it involves talking about money,” says Denver-based therapist Emmy Crouter.
Running into conflict around your wedding budget happens to a ton of couples. But that doesn’t make it any less stressful. Let’s take a look at some of the most common wedding budget conflicts—and, more importantly, how to navigate them and keep your relationships (and sanity!) intact as you approach your big day.
One of the most common wedding budget conflicts has a tendency to arise pretty early in the wedding planning process—and that’s how much to spend on the wedding.
The average cost of a wedding is over $30K. But that doesn’t mean that you and your soon-to-be-spouse will be on the same page when it comes to setting a wedding budget. For example, you might think $30K is far too much to spend on a wedding—while your spouse is worried $30K won’t scratch the surface for the kind of celebration they have in mind.
If you don’t see eye-to-eye on your wedding budget, it’s important to sit down and agree on a firm number before you get too far into the planning process; otherwise, the budget can quickly get out of control. “There are so many decisions to make during wedding planning and…[those] expenses add up very quickly,” says Kaitlin Kindman, LCSW.
Schedule a time to sit down with your partner and talk about your wedding budget. Talk about:
Try to meet somewhere in the middle—and agree on a budget that will give you a wedding you’re both excited about—without leaving you with a post-wedding mountain of debt.
Once you agree on how much you want to spend on your wedding, the next potential hurdle? Figuring out what to spend that budget on.
“There is [often] conflict around individual perceptions of what is ‘worth the cost,’” says Crouter. “For example, one person might feel that flowers should be the star of the show, while someone else will want top-shelf alcohol. Different people value different things, so it makes sense that varying people will prefer to spend more money on particular items.”
If you and your partner conflict on how to spend your wedding budget, compromise is key. Talk about which items are non-negotiable for you (for example, maybe you want to splurge on the perfect wedding dress while your partner is set on having the best wedding caterer in town)—and then be flexible (and frugal!) on everything else.
It’s also important to get on the same page about how to spend your wedding budget before you start hiring wedding vendors. Otherwise, you could end up spending too much of your budget on what you want and not leave enough cash for your partner’s non-negotiables (or vice versa), which can lead to hurt feelings.
“Decide what you care about before you commit to certain vendors,” says Crouter. “If you know you value an incredible meal and care less about flowers, talk about that before you have kick-off calls with caterers and florists.”
Even if you and your partner are on the same page about your wedding budget, you still might run into conflict—especially if there are family members contributing to the wedding.
If your parents, your soon-to-be-in-laws, or other family members are helping to pay for the wedding, it’s important to have a conversation about money early on in the wedding planning process. That way, you have a clear understanding of how much budget you have to spend—and where that budget is coming from.
“Have a conversation with each family around what they’re able and willing to contribute to the wedding. Then as a couple, you privately discuss what each family reported about their financial contribution potential,” says Crouter. “That way, you can more reasonably plan out a budget knowing what each family can manage, and what you can manage together as a couple.”
It’s also important to let family members know that even though they’re contributing to your wedding fund, ultimately, it’s your wedding—and while you value their input, the final decisions will come from you and your partner.
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries! If your family members give unsolicited advice or get pushy about how you should spend your wedding budget, it’s fine to be firm; say “I appreciate your input and your contribution to the wedding fund, but we’re handling wedding decisions on our own.”
And try not to let any financial conflict with family turn into conflict with your partner. “Try to remind yourself that this is setting the foundation for the rest of your lives, and the relationship to your SO comes first,” says Kindman. “You will likely encounter many future instances of family pressure and family-related conflict and learning to prioritize taking care of each other, is the only way through.”
Wedding budget conflicts can be stressful. But remember, every couple has conflict; the important thing is how you navigate those conflicts with your partner.
“It’s important to keep in mind that conflicts and disagreements around money are completely normal, whether wedding-related or not,” says Crouter. “In any conflict, the repair and reconnection post-argument is more important than the actual conflict.”