Unless you have found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, you will probably have to decide on a budget for your wedding. After you determine how much you can spend, you need to prioritize exactly how much to spend on the wedding details.
Start by keeping in mind that everything on the wedding day is documented through photography and videography, so that is a way to preserve the memories and enjoy the flowers, venue, decorations and moments of love caught on camera long after the wedding day has passed by. Therefore, investing heavily in the documentation of the wedding is in a way preserving every detail of the wedding day.
Next you have to consider what is most important to you and the lucky groom when it comes to wedding day details and the amount of money you will lay out.
The Wedding Dress
For most brides the wedding dress is a high priority. Maybe a strapless, classic style was dreamed about from a young age. Wedding magazines focus on the most gorgeous, dreamy dresses and latest bridal fashion trends so it's understandable that a bride would want an epic dress. Start by visiting a bridal studio and trying on lots of different styles. Once you narrow it down you might find a more affordable version online. Sometimes you can get truly lucky and get a bargain by grabbing a second-hand dress online that just needs minor alterations.
A lot of brides will opt to spend a bomb on a beautiful pair of wedding shoes. One great thing about shoes is you will always fit them. Another is that you can wear them again and again. While you might not wear your wedding dress again until your vow renewal a decade later (if you still fit it), the shoes can be worn to dinner, evenings out and to other weddings.
If you choose to wear a veil you might want to consider buying a special one with the intention to create a family heirloom. Veils are fairly timeless and can be easily modified, so could be worn in the future if you have a daughter. Some designers offer a service to sew text or details such as flowers and other designs onto the veil. It can be a subtle, barely visible detail or a feature detail such as model Hayley Bieber's famous veil she wore when she married singer Justin Bieber. If you didn't see it in Vogue, just do an online search and see if you might want a statement veil of your own.
Traditionally the rings were the big ticket item that most couples spent a lot of the wedding budget on. Diamonds are not cheap, after all. However, if you are not overly traditional you might go for an affordable set of wedding rings instead.
The Bridal Party
These are your people, the ones you love dearly and who always have your back. They need to look wonderful too and be gratefully and authentically thanked for their important roles.
Start with the girls and choose a color for their dresses, then consult with them on what they might like to wear. Have a girly fun time looking at dress designs and choose together as part of the planning process, and also bonding process. Match the boys up next. If you are unsure, you can't go wrong with white shirts or stylish linen fabrics.
Be sure to buy gifts to give your bridal party when you are getting ready. Make sure the photographer is there to capture the emotional moment. It doesn't need to be expensive, but should be meaningful. Handwritten thank you notes with spa products, jewelry or luxury food items will be loved by the maid of honor and bridesmaids. The best man and groomsmen may appreciate alcohol with matching accessories such as hip flasks or funky socks or cuff links.
Hair and Make-up
Unless you are an expert at doing your own hair and make-up, you should hire a professional. Even if you do your own well, you might not do the perfect job if you are a jittery bride who has had a few champagnes. Be pampered on your special day.
This is often an area the bride and groom might disagree with. Many grooms don't want to spend too much on flowers, while most brides adore pretty florals. The bride's bouquet should be a feature of the florals, so start with choosing the flowers you will carry. Then match the other flowers to the wedding venue. Maximize your flowers by moving the ceremony flowers to the wedding reception venue.
The Food and Drink
If you are a foodie couple, you will want to put money into the dining experience for your guests, and if you are having fine food you need to have fancy drinks to match. Keep in mind the amount of food you will serve and adjust your budget accordingly. Speak to your caterer, as you don't want a heavy meal if hours of drinks and dancing will follow. But you do need to feed your guests enough so they don't get drunk easily. For cocktail hour go light on the alcohol and make sure everyone eats, to get them all ready for a festive wedding party to remember.
The options are endless for the entertainment, but your budget probably isn't. If you have an epically funny best man you can get away with having him as the entertainment for much of the night, which would be free. A DJ or band for at least a few hours of the wedding reception to get everyone on the dance floor would be a well-made decision.
Affordable entertainment options for cocktail hour include a photo booth - you can go for a DIY style that won't cost much, a caricature artist to draw guests, which is super fun and can double as the wedding favors, or a musician to sing some tunes. At this time you probably will be away having photos taken after the ceremony, so it's nice to have some entertainment for guests while you are not there.
This wasn't even the whole list. But it covered many of the major expenses and essential bridal items most brides want and need. Unless you decide to elope and run away to a tropical place to exchange vows on a sandy beach at sunset, it might be hard to cut this list down.
If you maximize your spending on the items that are most important to you and minimize spending on the ones that aren't so high on your priority list you will find a place of budgeting bliss. You need to achieve your expectations without blowing the budget and then you will feel completely happy with your wedding day costs.