Your wedding day should be magical and perfect. It is also a very expensive event, however, and creating that special day can be costly.
Nowadays, many couples pay for their wedding on their own, as opposed to the old-fashioned practice of the bride’s family paying. If you’re paying for your own wedding or getting help, it’s important to create a budget that fits your financial situation and stick to it.
Follow these steps to create the perfect wedding budget for your big day.
Wedding planning is exciting, but the wedding budget comes first. Figure out what your wedding will cost before you dive into specifics with a wedding planner. Take these 6 steps to determine your wedding budget!
Figure Out Who’s Contributing
In the past, it was expected that the bride’s family would pay for the wedding. This old tradition of the bride’s parents paying the total budget is less common these days.
The bride’s parents, or the groom’s parents, may be willing to cover some wedding costs, however. Whether it’s a monetary contribution or they offer to pay for one part of the wedding, like the venue cost or the caterer, your parents may be willing to chip in.
This may be an awkward conversation, but it is worthwhile to check in and see if family members plan to contribute to the cost of the wedding. Figure out who is chipping in and how much they can offer.
Keep in mind that any family contributions are voluntary, and quite a generous gift. If your family does help out with wedding expenses, be sure to thank them.
Set a Maximum Price
Once you know how much your families may or may not chip in, figure out how much you, as a couple, can afford to put towards your wedding budget. This should be a combination of both partners’ savings that they’re willing to part with, as well as and some percentage of your income.
Figure out how much of your regular paycheck you can put towards the wedding. It may be a percentage or a dollar amount, but commit to saving up for your wedding bit by bit in each paycheck.
Together with family donations, this makes up the total amount you can afford to spend on your wedding. It isn’t always easy to stick to a number set at the beginning of planning, so try to pick a goal budget range, keeping in mind the maximum amount you can afford to spend if you go a little over your target.
Be smart about how much you can feasibly spend. Life happens, and unexpected events such as loss of employment, hospital stays, or other sudden expenses may come up. Make sure that you budget for your dream wedding while also leaving enough in the bank to live comfortably.
Consider Your Wedding Goals
What kind of wedding do you want to have? Some couples opt for intimate, small affairs, and others throw huge dance parties.
Deciding on what type of wedding you want to have, especially considering venue and number of guests, is a necessity start to budgeting. The venue tends to be the most expensive item in your budget breakdown. The larger the guest list, the more room you’ll need at that venue, as well as more food and other costs per guest.
Figuring out the size of your wedding and what kind of wedding you’re looking for in terms of big-picture items like the venue is a good start to ballpark how much your plans will cost.
Prioritize what is most important to you about your wedding and allocate funds following those priorities. Maybe you don’t care about a formal dinner, but you really want live music, so you can splurge on that instead. Your budget is specific to you, so figure out what matters most to you and budget accordingly.
That being said, certain items will naturally be more expensive than others. The venue cost is usually the greatest, so even if you want to splurge on flowers, you’ll need to save a significant amount for the necessities.
Use our wedding budget breakdown below to see what percentage of budgets typically go towards what costs. This breakdown can make it easier to figure out how much of your budget you should spend on specific details and vendors.
Account for Surprises
Keep some wiggle room in your budget for surprise expenses. You may encounter unexpected fees or realize you forgot something, so leave a little room for error in your budget.
One expense that you may forget is tips – you’ll have to tip vendors, caterers, photographers, etc. Some contracts have gratuity included, so make sure you read before you sign and budget extra for tips where necessary.
There will likely be other costs that pop-up during the wedding planning process, whether it’s a hidden fee or a last-minute decoration purchase. Save money in your budget for possible unexpected costs.
Track Your Spending
Create a spreadsheet or use a budgeting app to track all of your wedding expenses. Many popular wedding planning apps feature budget tools to keep you on track.
Check yourself – if something is way over budget, cut it, or find other places in your budget that you’re willing to sacrifice. Your expected costs may not line up with what you actually spend, so make sure you watch where you’re deviating from expected costs.
Use a spreadsheet or another tool to track every purchase you make towards the wedding. Some couples also create a separate checking account, or get a separate credit card to use solely for wedding expenses. This makes it easier to track what you’ve spent. If you put your wedding funds into a separate bank account, you can easily see how much you have left to spend.
To organize your spreadsheet, categorize each purchase. You can create a “Category” column, or color-code rows based on what part of the wedding that expense is for. Categories may include ceremony, reception, venue, entertainment, attire, and so on.
Wedding Budget Breakdown
Many brides and grooms begin wedding planning and realize they aren’t sure how much to spend on each specific element of the big day. We’ve compiled a breakdown to show how much of your wedding budget should be put towards each part of your wedding.
This breakdown is by percentage of your budget, not by dollar amount, so it can work with any budget. We also created a range, so you can give and take some of your budget to fit your priorities.
Whether you’re planning an elaborate black tie affair or a casual, intimate wedding, use this wedding cost guide to allocate money.
40-50% – Venue, Catering, Rentals
As we’ve mentioned before, the venue is likely to be your largest cost. We’ve combined venue, catering, and rental costs as they are often connected, or included in a package deal.
The cost of your venue is dependent on factors like the type of venue you want and the number of guests it needs to fit. Larger venues will be more expensive, especially since there is typically a cost per head. Fancier, more formal venues, or trendy venues in high demand will also likely cost more.
The venue itself costs a certain amount to rent on your wedding date, but there are added costs involved. You will most likely have to rent tables, chairs, linens, dinnerware, and other items at your venue. This is often included in the total cost of your venue agreement – be sure to ask the venue questions about what is or is not included before booking anything.
Some venues may appear to be cheaper, but if they do not include necessary rentals like tables and chairs, their total price may add up in the end.
Many venues also use in-house catering. Even if you are bringing in an outside caterer, you may need to use the venue’s waitstaff, kitchen equipment, and more. For this reason, we like to combine the venue and catering costs in your budget breakdown to make things easier.
This portion of the budget also includes the bar and bartender costs. If you’re planning on a wedding with an open bar and plenty of drinks flowing, make sure to account for the bar costs.
Your wedding cake also falls under the catering umbrella, even though many couples buy their cakes from separate bakers or bakeries. If your cake is important to you, be sure to budget a little more for wedding cake costs.
10-15% – Photography and Videography
For some couples, photos are one of the most important parts of their wedding day. For others, they are a nice memory but less vital.
Budget about 10-15% of your total budget for photography and videography at your wedding, depending on how important it is to capture the day. You can find budget photographers, enlist photographer friends, or ask guests to simply use their smartphones to save money on photography.
5-10% – Wedding Attire, Hair, Beauty
Every couple is different, and how much you choose to spend on your wedding day “look” will differ as well. Plan to spend between 5 and 10 percent of your budget on hair, makeup, other beauty treatments, and, of course, wedding gowns and menswear.
Some brides may want to splurge on their dream dress, while others would be happier wearing something off the rack of a consignment store. You know yourself, so consider your wedding dress budget as well as how much (if anything) you want to spend on hair and makeup. Keep in mind other details like shoes, veils, and accessories.
Fashion and beauty isn’t all about the bride – don’t forget to account for the groom’s suit or tuxedo, or whatever else he may wear at the end of the aisle. Finally, don’t forget the wedding bands!
10-15% – Decorations
How much couples spend on decor can vary drastically based on their style, wedding theme, and more. Some couples opt for a minimalist look, or they use the natural backdrop of their venue as decoration. Others may find themselves overspending on decor items, as this is one of the fun, creative parts of designing your wedding.
We recommend allocating between 10-15% of your budget on decorations, including flowers. That includes bouquets and boutonnieres as well. As always, feel free to dedicate more or less of your wedding budget towards decor if that’s what is important to your vision.
Decorating on a budget is very possible, with lots of DIY decoration ideas and other creative ways to save money, like using items from home.
5-10% – Entertainment
Music is essential for a good wedding reception. Some couples also hire someone to sing or perform at their ceremony. Plan to spend 5-10% of your total wedding budget on entertainment.
You may choose to hire a DJ or a live band for your wedding reception. Keep in mind that prices can vary dramatically between these two options, and even between two different bands or DJs.
If a live band is a must at your wedding, plan to spend a bit more and account for setup and takedown fees, time, and effort. As always, review your venue’s policies before booking entertainment!
2-5% – Stationary
Between save the dates, wedding invitations, ceremony programs, menus, thank you cards, and any other printed signs at your wedding, stationary can add up. Budget out 2-5% for printed goods, depending on how much you expect to print.
2% – Officiant
Don’t forget to book an officiant for your wedding! Wedding officiant costs vary, but these costs can include more than you bargained for, like counseling or rehearsal charges.
To save money on your officiant, consider asking a friend to officiate. Secular wedding ceremonies often include a close personal friend as the officiant rather than a religious figure.
2% – Wedding Favors
If you plan to send your guests home with favors, don’t forget to account for them in your list of expenses. There are plenty of useful wedding favors that guests will enjoy for a low cost, so you can send guests home with a gift without breaking the bank.
2% – Transportation
Not all couples need to worry about booking transportation, but it’s something to consider. If guests will need a ride to the venue from their hotel or the closest parking lot, consider booking a shuttle or other means of transportation.
You may also consider a limo for the wedding party, or a getaway car for the newlyweds at the end of the night. If you don’t find a need for transportation, you can use this put this part of your budget towards something else!
2-3% – Wedding Planner
A wedding planner is totally optional. Plenty of couples plan weddings all on their own, but it’s worth mentioning a wedding planner. You may also consider hiring a wedding designer, or a day-of coordinator to make sure things run smoothly.
If you plan to do it all on your own, you can disregard this part of the budget. Otherwise, set aside 2-3 percent of your budget to pay a wedding professional.
How To Cut Costs in Your Budget and Spend Wisely
If you find yourself over-budget, or you realize that some of your desires are out of your price range, there are ways to cut costs. Consider these options to make room in your wedding budget.
Cut the Guest List
Cutting the guest list is the easiest way to lower the overall costs of your wedding. While a big wedding may sound fun, it may not be feasible unless you’re willing to make cuts elsewhere.
Consider tinkering with your guest list and cutting out unnecessary invites like work colleagues or plus ones.
Change the Venue
Unless your heart is totally set on a venue, consider switching it up. Some gorgeous venues are simply too expensive for smaller budgets, or you may find hidden costs adding up at a venue that appeared to be cheap.
Account for the full cost of your venue – including table, chair, and other rentals and service staff. If your venue does not come in a package that includes these items already, make sure you’re accounting for them in your venue budget.
If you’re looking to save money, switch to a less expensive venue, or even consider a backyard wedding at home. The money you save on the venue itself can be put towards decorating a normal space to turn it into something magical.
Consider Your Wedding Date
Peak wedding season and peak wedding days, like Saturday, will be more expensive for all vendors. To save some money, consider getting married during a less popular season, like winter, or on an off-day like a Sunday or a weekday.
Do it yourself. Not everything about a wedding can be reasonably DIY’d, but many things can be done at home.
For example, print your own invitations and address them yourself – you could learn calligraphy as a hobby! It’s also possible to DIY a lot of the decorations around your wedding. Figure out what can be done at home, and ask close friends and family for help!
Host the Ceremony and Reception at One Location
Keeping everything at one location can help you cut costs. If you get married at your reception venue, you can forego the cost of using a church or other ceremony space. You’ll also save on any possible transportation costs between the ceremony and reception.
Give Yourself Time
If you aren’t in a huge rush to tie the knot, give yourself time to plan, save, and research. The more time you have between engagement and marriage, the more time you have to save money for the big day.
With more time, you can also take your time researching vendors and finding the best prices. If you’re on a time crunch, you may not have as much wiggle room to negotiate. You’ll also have more options available if you’re booking vendors further in advance.
Spending Tips to Consider
Experts recommend direct depositing 10% (or whatever you can afford) of your monthly income into your wedding account so that you actually save from each paycheck, rather than leaving it up to you to remember to save.
Don’t max out your credit cards! No one wants their marriage to start with shared debt, so don’t spend more than you can pay off within 30 days as a rule of thumb.
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