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Is your wedding budget ready for the reception resurgence?
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Is your wedding budget ready for the reception resurgence?

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We've called in the pros to find out what brides and grooms need to know when planning their big day.

Wedding celebrations largely took a hiatus after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in 2020. Among couples who had a set wedding date between March and December 2020, 47% postponed their wedding receptions, according to The Knot's 2020 Real Weddings COVID Study. The trend continued this year.

In March, New York City couple Lindsay Holmes and Sean Brech pushed their wedding date from August 2021 to May 2022. "So many things were unclear at the time," Brech says. "We wanted to push it out to 2022 to have the best possible wedding like how we originally envisioned it."

Now, as the percentage of vaccinated Americans grows and restrictions ease, celebrations are roaring back. If you're moving forward with or modifying wedding plans, here's how to prepare your budget.

CONNECT WITH VENUES AND VENDORS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

The high volume of couples who postponed weddings has created a "pent-up demand" for venues and vendors, says Lauren Kay, executive editor at The Knot. That's restricting availability, and in some cases, leading businesses to raise prices.

If you haven't secured the locations and services you need, start now. The longer you wait, the less flexibility you may have choosing your preferred date or vendors.

Amanda Berg , senior growth marketing manager for the wedding planning and registry website Zola, and fiance Jesse Krieger stress the importance of contacting vendors early. The couple — who plan to wed in Bedminster, New Jersey, next spring — learned how competitive the search was when they began looking into photographers. "Some of them were booked already for May 2022, and we were doing this planning in October, November of 2020," Krieger says. "Fortunately, we got everyone we wanted, partly because we got such a head start."

Couples who've already signed contracts should ask about fees, restrictions or scheduling conflicts before altering plans. You could lose a deposit when you switch to a larger venue or face charges to rent extra chairs.

"Each vendor contract is going to stipulate different things with regard to changes in dates, changes in plans, changes in guest numbers. So it's really important that you know what's in the contract," Kay says.

PRIORITIZE AND PARE DOWN SPENDING

Couples are feeling optimistic about gathering in person and having a larger guest count that feels more like the wedding they imagined pre-pandemic, according to Kay. But as the guest list increases, so do expenses.

"That's going to not only affect the costs for catering, but also for the number of chairs, the centerpieces and number of tables," says Melanie Tindell, owner and event planner of Oak + Honey Event Planning Co . in Cleveland.

These growing expenses aren't compatible with all budgets. If you want a bigger celebration, you might have to make some trade-offs, Kay says. Focus your spending on the elements that matter most to you and scale back others.

Berg and Krieger are allocating more of their budget toward a band and open bar, and less on details they say are "nice, but don't make or break a party," like invitations and floral arrangements.

On The Money NerdWallet Pandemic Wedding Costs

FILE- In this May 10, 2021 file photo, Tom Li, second from right, and his fiancé, Leah Li, right, pose for photos taken by Ella Chang, left, at Gas Works Park in Seattle. The couple, who live in Seattle, are originally from China and have a wedding planned later in the year for September. As COVID-19 cases drop and restrictions ease, many couples are eagerly moving forward with paused wedding plans — or altering existing ones to accommodate more guests. But figuring out where to start and what costs you’ll face can still be tricky during this time. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

BUDGET FOR SAFEGUARDS

The pandemic isn't behind us. Venues or couples may require masks for guests, ample space for social distancing and other precautions to ensure the health and safety of attendees. This often carries additional costs.

"If you're going to need to keep track of who's vaccinated and who's not vaccinated, that could potentially become a cost because you may want an additional vendor to handle that," Tindell says.

Keep up to date on local guidance and set expectations with your venue, vendors and guests.

Plans can change unexpectedly. Consider looking into wedding insurance in case you need to cancel or postpone the event. Tindell says wedding insurance doesn't typically cover coronavirus-related reasons. But it can still reimburse you for disruptions due to circumstances like severe weather or injury. Same goes for travel insurance for honeymoons: Before purchasing a policy, make sure you understand what it covers.

MAP OUT EXPENSES

It's easy to lose track of what you're paying for and when, especially if you switch dates or vendors. Mark down payment due dates as you go to avoid late fees from vendors and credit card issuers.

Engaged couple Holmes and Brech also recommend keeping a running list of expenses. "We created a budgeting doc to track every little thing we could possibly need so we know there aren't going to be a ton of surprises when we actually have to end up paying for something," Holmes says.

Planning out purchases can help you estimate wedding costs and adjust your budget as needed.

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This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Lauren Schwahn is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: lschwahn@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lauren_schwahn.

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