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Dollars, cents and common sense - let's talk budgets!

You've called all your friends and family, changed your Facebook relationship status, and gotten a manicure. But now it's time to begin planning your wedding. Before you begin endlessly scouring Pinterest and designing the fairytale wedding you've always wanted, it's time to talk turkey! Your budget can constrain or expand your wedding options, and you need to know how much money you're working with before you take another step into the world of wedding planning. Sure, talking about your budget might not be that romantic, but it's a necessary prerequisite to your glorious journey down the aisle.

Schedule a budget meeting

Before you begin the process of wedding planning, it's time to talk with everyone who will be contributing to your wedding. Ideally, you should meet with them all at once so you can each nail down how much you're contributing. Come to this meeting prepared with a list of items you'd like to have for your wedding as well as research about the going rate for various services. Your dad is much more likely to shell out the dough for a good photographer if he knows he's paying the same rate as everyone else.

If you're not getting any help paying for your wedding, then it's time to figure out how much you can afford. Look at your current disposable income and consider whether there's anything you can do to make extra money in the coming months. Whatever you do, though, don't take out a loan or put your wedding on a credit card. A life of debt is no way to start a marriage.

Prepare a list of expenses

After you've nailed down how much you can spend, it's time to begin itemizing what you'll spend it on. This makes it much easier to tell your photographer, officiant and venue how much you can afford. Begin with the items you know you want - such as a gown and flowers - then add the items that you'd like to have but can live without. Move things around until you've come up with a budget you can live with, then start shopping!

Build in a cushion

Everything wedding-related tends to cost more than you expect. Your dress can double in cost when you add in alterations, for example. Consequently, it's a good idea to build a cushion into your budget. For example, if your budget is $20,000, only budget $15,000 worth of expenditures. This ensures you've got some money left over if things go haywire, and may mean you have extra cash for your honeymoon - if you can stay within budget.

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