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Part Two

In our first installment, we dealt with the tendency for wedding expenses to spiral out of control. Among our recommendations so far: Get lists from people in your income bracket with experience, set a budget, and itemize anticipated expenses. 

Now, we will address how to avoid pitfalls and how to set priorities in wedding budgeting.

Don’t make budgetary adjustments under stress.

Adjustments to your budget should not be made on the spur of the moment or under stress. “Under stress” can mean when you are in a store and have limited time, or at the last minute, when you simply must pick up a certain item. It can mean when you are feeling tired and emotionally drained or are excited and on a high.

In such situations, people tend to make poor decisions, without thinking them through Instead, they say, “A wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime-experience,” or “My child deserves only the best.” These statements may be true, but are generally not a good excuse for spending more than you planned.

If you followed our previous advice and formulated an itemized budget, that will help you avoid such rash decisions. For instance, if you go shopping with your daughter, knowing that you need two sets of dishes and have allocated $300 for each, you will know right away that the sets starting at $500 are out of your price range. This way, you will not leave the store wondering how the saleslady sweet-talked you into walking out with a whole extra set of serving pieces that you never planned to buy.

Manage your time wisely.

To avoid the time crunch, along with planning your financial framework, you should also budget your time in a way that allows you to accomplish everything, while keeping stress to a minimum.

Money and time are often inversely proportional: the less time you have, the more money you spend. If you have time, you can research, comparison shop, and get the most for your money. But if you don’t have time, you will find yourself spending more and getting less value in return.

Keep in mind that not everything has to be purchased before the wedding. In fact, the kallah might even appreciate some things more if she gets them later on, when she actually has a use for them or knows better what she wants. Prioritizing what needs to be done now and what can be done later will help you use your time more efficiently.

You can’t have everything.

Making a wedding involves maintaining a delicate balance between the kallah, the chassan, the mechutanim, social norms, and what you can afford.

You want to ensure the future happiness of the young couple. You also want to please — and perhaps impress — the mechutanim. Finally, you want to marry off your daughter in a way that conforms to community standards.

The problem is that it is often not possible to meet all these criteria without overextending yourselves financially. Therefore, acknowledge — and explain to your daughter — that you will not be able to have everything, and that you and she will have to choose how to best use the money you have at your disposal. If the kallah understands this, she will be able to decide what really matters to her and make her choices accordingly.

During the frenzy of the wedding preparations, it is easy to lose sight of priorities. Keep in mind, however, that expenses that seem extremely important when planning the wedding often seem trivial the day after the wedding. How many people remember whether the flowers at the wedding were fresh or artificial? And does it really make a difference whether the gowns were borrowed or bought?

Focusing on the overall picture, rather than fixating on details, will help you to direct your money in a way that reflects your real priorities. For instance, you may decide that it is worth going with a simpler wedding menu and investing more in the couple’s furniture and appliances, since the wedding lasts only one night, and furniture and appliances should last many years. Or you may decide that you would rather put more money toward the couple’s financial support, or toward a house, than toward gifts or sheva brachos.

A wedding budget is not supposed to force you into a strait jacket; it is supposed to serve as a guide that lends financial structure to your preparations. Yes, it takes effort and self-discipline to build a wedding budget, but if you do, you will be rewarded with the peace of mind that will make your wedding a true simchah in every respect.

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