Wedding budgets are probably the least exciting things to think about when it comes to tying the knot.
But while they might not be as exciting as picking an outfit or writing your wedding hashtag, they’re incredibly useful for organizing your expenses, saving money, and optimizing your spending to make the most out of your wedding day.
Wedding budgets will likely vary greatly from couple to couple. While some people prefer more casual weddings with smaller guest lists and DIY decorations, others prefer luxurious venues, fancy menus and cocktails, and a killer wedding band. Studies estimate that the average cost of weddings in the U.S. is around $20,000. This price includes venue, dresses and suits, food and drink caterers, and rings among other expenses.
But that price is just the average. It’s entirely possible to throw a beautiful ceremony on a very small budget. It’s also possible to spend over $100 million like Prince Charles and Princess Diana did—their record for most expensive wedding ever has still yet to be broken 30 years later.
Regardless of how much you spend, you’ll still want to create a wedding budget. Of course, just like planning a wedding, creating a budget can be a daunting task. It can be overwhelming to compare prices between venues, caterers, photographers, and more. But, if done correctly, wedding budgets can help you save a ton of time—and money. That’s why we’re here to help you learn everything you need to know about wedding budgeting.
What Does A Wedding Budget Look Like?
Every wedding budget looks different in terms of costs and expenses. However, most budgets follow a typical breakdown in terms of where money is being allocated. Here’s a breakdown of the average wedding budget.
Venue And Catering (45%)
Food, drinks, and venues will likely be the most expensive items on your budget. These costs include things like tables, tents, and other equipment that you need to host your guests. Obviously, this cost will greatly depend on the number of guests that attend your wedding, which means if you’re looking to save money, it can be a great place to cut costs.
Photographer And Videographer (15%)
A good photographer or videographer will generally be the next most expensive thing on your budget. While they can be expensive, it can be worth finding a photographer that you like working with. Your photographer will be present for a lot of the biggest moments of your ceremony, so you want to make sure you not only like their work, but also their personality.
Decorations And Flowers (10%)
Good lighting, decorations, and beautiful flowers can transform any place into a magical wedding venue. Of course, they can also be expensive. You’ll want to set aside around 10% of your budget for flowers.
Music And Entertainment (10%)
What’s a wedding without music? Between the speakers, dancefloor, DJ, and live band, music and entertainment will likely be a significant part of your wedding experience. So make sure to set a significant portion of your budget aside for it.
Dresses, Attire, And Makeup (10%)
Next on the list is clothing. Dresses and suits are some of the most exciting things to buy in advance of your wedding. Of course, they also come with a price tag. Generally, you can set aside 10% of your budget for wedding attire. And if you’re reusing a family dress or already have a snazzy tux, then you’re in luck and can save money on these expenses!
Wedding invites are essential! Not only do you want them to be memorable and stylish to build hype for your big day, but you also want to make sure they get to where they need to go in a timely fashion. Set aside around 3% of your budget for these expenses!
Favors And Gifts (3%)
Your guests are already in for a treat when they attend your wedding. But to top it all off, you can also make custom wedding party favors so that they never forget your epic day. While these will be a minor expense for your wedding, make sure you budget for it so that you can give your guests something they really like!
Transportation costs can greatly vary between weddings, especially if you’re hosting a destination wedding in an exotic location. People are often so caught up in the exciting details about their wedding that they forget about how they’re getting there! Don’t make the same mistake and set aside a bit for travel!
Last, but definitely not least, is your cake. While not the most expensive item on your budget, it’s still one of the most important. Make sure to budget for it!
Now that you have a sense of what a wedding budget can look like, let’s go over how to create your own.
How To Create Your Wedding Budget
1. Create a savings strategy to get a realistic sense of your budget
The first step in creating a wedding budget is getting a realistic sense of how much money you’ll be able to save for your wedding. This can help you create a realistic budget that you can execute.
One way to get a realistic sense of how much you can spend on your wedding is to calculate how much money you’ll be able to save in the months leading up to your wedding. Sit down with your significant other and calculate how much extra income you have after your normal expenses like rent, loans, subscriptions, car payments, and food. Then choose a percentage of that extra income to set aside for your wedding. A typical amount to save for your wedding ranges between 10% and 20% of that disposable income. But if you know you want to have a more extravagant wedding, then you might want to save more! And don’t forget to include your honeymoon costs in that budget, too!
2. Estimate your total budget
Once you have an idea of how much money you’ll be able to save for your wedding, you can create an estimate for your total budget. Make sure to include any extra money that you may have already saved up or maybe getting from family members. It’s important to remember that this number will be an estimate, and so it may be hard to stick to exactly. The more diligent you can be about setting a realistic budget, the more likely you’ll be able to follow your budget.
3. Think big picture
Once you have an estimate, you can start to answer some big picture questions about your wedding.
- What’s your maximum spending limit?
- What kind of wedding do you want to have? Big or small? Destination or backyard?
- Which expenses (i.e., venue, food, attire) are most important to you?
- Are you willing to cut costs anywhere?
- Do you want to get married during peak wedding season or off-season?
Make sure to answer these questions collaboratively and transparently with your significant other to ensure that you both are on the same page. The key to creating a successful budget is to make sure you’re being realistic when you answer these questions.
4. Start thinking through the big expenses
This next stage will require some research, but it’s also one of the most important steps of the process. As you start to envision your perfect wedding, take the time to research how much each of those components will cost. This will allow you to know if you have extra wiggle room in your budget to spend more on the parts of your wedding that you want to be perfect. Here are some of the big expenses to think about:
- Food catering and wedding food trucks
- Dresses, suits, and attire
5. Create a guest list
Guests are part of the reason that weddings are so magical. They also cost money. To create an accurate budget, you need to get a realistic sense of how many people will attend your wedding. In general, around 15% of your invitees will be unable to attend your wedding. For destination weddings that percentage goes up to 20% – 30%. To get the most accurate list though, send out your RSVPs early!
6. Get organized
As you start to gather information on the different costs of things, you’ll want to make sure you keep it organized. There are many ways to stay organized, so you want to make sure you pick a system that works for you. Some people prefer to write things down in a notebook, others prefer to excel or google sheets. We like to recommend wedding budgeting apps. There are tons of them out there to choose from. Here’s a list of some of our favorites.
7. Compare suppliers
One of the biggest tips for saving money on your costs on your wedding expenses is to compare prices. Make sure to compare wedding caterers, different venue prices, and band prices. Of course, there may be some parts of your wedding that you have your heart set on, and you don’t need to compromise those things. But creating a list of wedding suppliers and comparing prices you’ll not only get a better sense of the cost-landscape, but you’ll also be able to optimize so you save where you can and spend where you want.
8. Set priorities and make adjustments
It can also be helpful to set your priorities before you start making purchases. Then when it comes down to choosing your venue and your flowers and your band, you can use your priority list to help you stay on track. You’ll know exactly what to cut if you have to make some sacrifices for your budget. Generally, venues, food, drinks, and photographers get priority. But if you have your heart set on a wedding dress or a certain flower, then make sure you set that as a priority!
Of course, it’s equally important to incorporate some flexibility into your budget. You’ll likely have to adjust your budget—venues and bands get booked, things get sold out. Don’t let yourself stray too far from your budget. But don’t be hard on yourself when you have to make changes—they’re inevitable.
9. Stick to your budget!
It’s easy to get carried away with spending on a wedding. After all, it’s one of the biggest days of your life, and you deserve to make it perfect! That being said, budgeting is an important piece of planning a wedding and you’ll have an easier time executing your wedding vision if you stick to your budget. Remember, at the end of the day, the most special part of your wedding is you and your spouse—your love is priceless!
It’s Time To Create Your Wedding Budget
There’s no right way to create a wedding budget. The most important thing is to create something that feels realistic and manageable. Setting these realistic expectations from the beginning is the best way to create a budget that you’ll be able to stick to. Moreover, budgeting is a great way to start thinking through the details of your wedding—so in addition to saving you money, your budget will also help you stay organized! So while it may not be the most exciting part of your wedding, it can make all the exciting parts that much better.