Keep track of these important due dates.
Wedding Planning Checklist and Laptop
Credit: Milkos / Getty Images

For most couples, it's probably fair to say that the least exciting part of planning a wedding is paying for it. Whether you and your partner are funding your big day on your own or you're receiving financial help from your families, keeping track of the payment schedules is rarely as interesting and exciting as choosing flowers, tasting cakes, or checking out local bands—but knowing when your deposits and balances are due is key to a successful day. "It is so important that payments get scheduled correctly," says planner Piper Hatfield of Piper & Muse Events. "A wedding can be affordable—even if you're spending $100,000, divide that over 12 months and potentially two salaries—but payment plans have to reflect that."

When you book your vendors, most will require a substantial deposit to reserve your date; expect this to be anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent of the total cost based on the event proposal you've approved. The timing for this and subsequent payments varies based on when you sign your contracts, so you'll spread them out over the course of your planning, submitting the deposits anywhere from months to a year or more before your wedding. Be wary of smaller deposits—$500 or $1,000—says Hatfield: While it doesn't necessarily signify anything about the quality of their work, it does mean you'll have a much larger payoff at the end when money feels tighter, so you may end up cutting some of those dream elements you had budgeted for in the beginning. "Clients may have overspent on some things, and then they're hit with this bigger balance," she says, "so we end up cutting back on design."

Most of the final payments for vendors—including the venue, caterer, band, florist, and photographer—will be due during the month before your wedding, which can put a strain on even the most money-savvy couple. "If we're talking about a $100,000 budget, in that last month we are spending about $50,000 where the rest was spread out over a year," says Hatfield. "The more we can spread out those final payments, the better." For vendors whose prices won't change—like the band, photographer, and venue—she suggests asking for a third payment deadline to lessen the total due at your wedding, or paying those balances in full whenever you can (even up to three months before your big day).

Vendors whose costs vary based on your number of guests—like the caterer, cake designer, and rental companies—won't require a final payment until after your RSVPs come back, but you can wait until the deadline to make those payments in case your numbers change. A florist's total bill may also change closer to your wedding depending on what blooms they can source or how many centerpieces you need; if you've already paid in advance, says Hatfield, ask if they can make up the difference by adding another arrangement to the sign-in table or ceremony backdrop, or by upgrading the flowers in the centerpieces. "It's hard for people to save but it's easy for them to spend," says Hatfield, "so if you're spending money up front instead of saving it all for the month of the wedding, it's really helpful."


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