By Raechel Conover, Cheapism.com
Congratulations, you're getting married! Now hand over the credit card. Seriously. USA Today reports that last year the average couple spent $26,989 on their wedding, and that's down from the $28,082 mark in 2008. But there's no reason to take on massive amounts of debt as you begin your life together. Wedding budgets can be kept to a minimum with some help from wedding websites and wedding apps.
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For starters, there are three easy ways to cut costs and stay within your wedding budget. Catey Hill, author of Shoo, Jimmy Choo! The Modern Girl's Guide to Spending Less and Saving More, suggests these:
Limit the guest list. The biggest cost factor is the number of guests. If you haven't already mailed out invitations, Hill says, "think long and hard about who you really want to invite and who you can cut." Make an A list with definite people to invite and a B list with people to invite only if the wedding budget allows.
Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. According to Hill, rates charged by vendors, (e.g., the caterer, the photographer, and the band) are probably negotiable, so negotiate. Get multiple quotes and use those prices to bargain with your first-choice service provider. And don't be afraid to walk away if the vendor can't deliver within your wedding budget.
Prioritize spending. Hill also recommends that you rank order your priorities, from highest to lowest and put the bulk of your wedding budget toward those at the top of the list.
Next, take advantage of the many technological tools that can help keep a wedding budget under control. "I think all brides should use an online wedding tool to help them budget," Hill says. "It's simply so much easier to have a computer program do the math than to try to write it all out yourself."
Wedding Planning Websites.
The Knot: A free wedding planning website, The Knot offers a comprehensive wedding planning checklist, a wedding budget tool, a guest list manager, a tool to create a wedding website and "save the dates," and inspiration boards to collect ideas. Users can also chat with other brides, check wedding vendor reviews, pick up information from posted articles, and so on.
The wedding planning website garners high praise from users who post at SiteJabber, where most call it the best wedding planning website out there. Users report getting help with wedding favors and finding a wedding dress, and many rave about the message boards.
My Event by David's Bridal: A comprehensive, free wedding planning tool from David's Bridal, My Event offers a customizable budgeting tool and to-do list, a shopping list tool, the ability to create "mood boards," and a format for private online communications with the wedding party.
This is Hill's favorite wedding planning tool. She is particularly partial to the wedding budget tool and the feature that lets brides communicate with their wedding party through an invitation-only space. The budgeting feature is crucial for any bride and Hill commends its user-friendly functionality. "You put in the amount you can spend on your wedding and it auto-fills in estimates of what you 'should' spend on each item," Hills explains. It also lets you change the numbers if you want to spend more in one area and add categories you may want in your wedding budget. It also tracks what you're actually spending and shows the impact on the overall wedding budget.
The only part of the wedding planning process David's Bridal's My Event wedding planning tool is missing is a guest list manager, a function that may be considered in the future.
Wedding Planning Apps.
The Knot Ultimate Wedding Planner: This free app complements The Knot wedding planning website and serves as a carry-with-you alternative to a high-priced in-person wedding planner. The iPhone app provides just about everything you need to stick to your wedding budget: a customizable wedding checklist, a wedding budget tool, a place to store and organize ideas and clippings, a registry tool, and more than 1,000 inspirational ideas to get you started. Everything you do through the app is automatically synced with your account on The Knot's website for completely streamlined wedding planning. A guest list manager tool will be added shortly.
At the iTunes store users give the wedding planning app very high marks and say it's the perfect way to keep up with wedding planning on the go. One user considers it an awesome budgeting tool that prevents her getting carried away.
Wedding Plandroid: Specifically designed for Android users, Wedding Plandroid can manage a wedding budget with up to 100 budget components. It helps users manage their guest list and to-do list and track vendors. The app also provides couples with a wedding countdown and timeline for more efficient wedding planning.
Feedback on this wedding planning app in the Google Play store is positive. Users report that the app is well organized, detailed, and very easy to use. One asserts it's especially helpful for budget-minded couples.
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Wedding Party: Not a wedding planning app per se, Wedding Party deserves a mention. This free app for iPhone and Android users comes in handy at your wedding. Create your wedding via the website and then your guests use their smartphones to take, download, and share the images snapped at the big event. The app collects all the candid wedding pictures on one timeline where the guests can toast you, as well. Later you can download all the photos to your computer, which makes this free wedding app the modern version of a disposable camera. More than 350 user reviews on iTunes give the app top ratings, saying it works flawlessly and is fun for one and all.
A Final Note.
Wedding planning websites and apps can be very useful and help eliminate some stress. But, cautions Hill, regardless which budget template you use, "the most important thing to remember is that you have to make a (wedding) budget and stick to it."
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