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Wedding budget - resolve to make one and stick to it

Do you have a wedding budget? Not just the overall amount you've allotted for your wedding but an actual, written breakdown of how much you're going to spend and for what.

By creating a written budget, it actually reduces stress. You can negotiate better because you know exactly how much you have to spend. It also will help you to resist temptation to buy something that isn't in your budget or that you haven't allotted enough money to pay for. You can always decide to reallocate funds if there's something you truly want and then cut back on something else, but it has to be in writing. By having a budget, it will help ensure that you don't start off your marriage with a ton of bills left over from your special day because of poor planning.

Here's breakdown of the typical items and percentages of your budget you should allot that you can use as your guideline when creating your budget. You can make it a general breakdown as you'll see in this column or you can do a line-by-line item itemized budget.

There are programs that you can buy that will help you do this, there are free online tools that will allow you to create your budget or you can use a simple Excel spreadsheet. The point is, as your New Year's list of resolutions, make sure you put your wedding budget near the top of your list. And this is one resolution that you really have to keep.

You may decide to spend more or less in some categories but this will give you an idea of how you generally should break it down. Your total, of course, should add up to 100%.

Stationery - 2% to 5%

Save the Date cards, invitations, RSVP cards, thank you cards, postage, guest book, calligrapher, escort cards, place cards, table numbers

Ceremony - 2% to 4%

Ceremony site fees, officiants, licenses, musicians/singers, aisle runner, unity candle, chair rentals, wedding arch/chuppah, pew bows

Bride and Groom Attire - 8% to 12%

Gown, headpiece, accessories for bride and groom (jewelry, cuff links, vest, purse, etc.), tuxedo rental or suit purchase, hair, makeup, shoes, alterations, and specialty undergarments

Wedding Bands - 2% to 3%

Decor and flowers - 8% to 11%

Ceremony flowers (can be brought to reception), bride's bouquets, attendant bouquets, groom and groomsmen, fathers and grandfathers boutonnieres, ring bearer's pillow, flower girl's flowers, tribute items (balloon release, flower petals, bird seed, bubbles, and so forth - things the guests can use to tribute the newlyweds as they leave the ceremony site) mothers and grandmothers corsages, reception decor (purchase and rentals), lighting and centerpieces

Reception - 46% to 50%

Venue fees, catering, bar, cake, dessert bar, after-party items, tent rentals, tips, taxes

Entertainment - 6% to 9%

Cocktail hour, reception, after-party, sound system (if not available through venue or musicians)

Photography/Videography - 10% to 13%

Photographer and videographer fees, prints, CDs, DVDs, albums, pre- and post-portrait photography, disposable cameras, prints

Gifts -2% to 4%

Wedding favors, attendant gifts, personal gifts (bride, groom, parents, special guests), hospitality baskets for rest rooms, welcome baskets for out-of-town guests,

Transportation - 1% to 3%

Wedding party, out-of-town guests, valet service

Tips - 1% to 2%

Miscellaneous -5-8%

There, you have it. With a little pre-planning and making early decisions, you should be able to have a great wedding without a post-wedding-bill hangover.

(Honeymoon expenses will be discussed in a future column. )

Wedding Budget Resources - choose the one that works best for you. This is just a small selection.

Vertex 42 - A free downloadable budget template for Excel

WeddingWire - Budgeting tool

WeddingPlanningOnABudget - Budgeting tool

TheKnot - Printable budget planner

Your Wedding Company - Wedding budget calculator

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