Deciding how much to allocate to your wedding budget can be stressful at first, but don’t worry, we’re here to help! Whether you’re dreaming of a fancy ballroom reception or a rustic garden soiree, following these 10 tips will help you create an overall budget that is perfect for you, without skimping on the fun stuff!
What to consider when building your wedding budget and tips for sticking to it:
We know you’d rather skip these steps and go straight to the fun stuff, but setting (and sticking to) your budget is arguably the most important part of planning a wedding. And whether you’re working with $100 or $100,000, there are some general guidelines that can help you break down the wedding budget planning process— without breaking down. It’s all about organization and communication, so let’s get to it!
1. Start saving early to save big.
As soon as you’re engaged, start setting aside as much of your income as you can for the wedding. Discuss with your fiance how long you both want the engagement to last. The longer the engagement, the more time you’ll have to save. And the sooner you start saving, the greater the payoff will be on your special day!
PC: Evergreen Film Company
Limit your spending on small stuff (e.g., rent movies instead of going to the theater; switch from a latte run to making your coffee at home; go for a run or bike ride instead of taking costly workout classes, etc.). These small changes will hardly affect your quality of life. And after a year, the extra cash will help cover some wedding essentials.
Also, instead of stashing your money in a low-interest savings account, consider buying certificates of deposit (CDs) or opening a money market account. The interest rate can be double that of a savings account.
PC: Taylor Stuck Photography
Next, ask yourself how much you and your fiance can realistically—and comfortably—save given all the real-life expenses you have to cover. Aim to re-purpose 20 percent of your monthly income to put towards your wedding budget. If this seems too high for you, ask yourself what other percentage of your monthly income you can reasonably put aside between now and the wedding.
2. Plan to go over your budget.
PC: Jaimee Morse Photography
Right now, you’re probably thinking, “Um, excuse me?”—but hear us out. If you account for overages on your wedding budget, then you’ll never actually blow your budget. Try to allocate about 3-5 percent of your budget to unexpected or hidden costs.
A few examples of unexpected costs might include last-minute flowers, weather-related expenses, or small accidents. Hidden costs, on the other hand, include service fees, overtime fees, postage stamps, wedding band equipment, taxes, vendor trials, cleanup and breakdown, etc. It’s nearly impossible to plan for all these costs, so it’s best to set aside funds for them when they inevitably come up.
3. Decide who is going to help pay for the wedding.
PC: Chantel Marie Photography
Perhaps it’s just you and your fiance paying for your wedding. Or, maybe your parents or other family members are going to chip in. Whatever the case may be, make sure to discuss your wedding finances with your families. Finding out who’s willing to contribute to your big day is a good first step in calculating your overall wedding budget.
We realize that money conversations can be super awkward, but knowing who your contributors are is essential to figuring out your bottom line. Try to ascertain how much each party is willing to spend, or what particular aspect of the wedding they’d like to take care of.
For example, maybe Grandma has her heart set on buying you a wedding dress. However, if no one has strong opinions, ask each party to contribute to a particular aspect of the wedding (such as the ceremony, honeymoon, or catering).
PC: Love to the Core Photography
So, how should you broach the subject? For many couples, talking to their families separately is the best way to have an open and productive discussion. Just be sure to approach these conversations in a respectful way, and be okay with hearing, “Sorry, I’d love to help, but I can’t.” If both sets of parents agree to commit to a specific dollar amount, add up all the contributions plus your savings to create your overall wedding budget.
4. Figure out who’s going to the wedding.
Now that you’ve got a ballpark budget, you’ll want a ballpark guest count. It’s important to estimate your guest count as the majority of the cost of a wedding is largely based on size. Many factors like your wedding dress budget and entertainment will have a fixed cost, but for core expenses like food and drinks: the higher the head count, the higher the price tag.
PC: Aaron Collett Photography
Looking at your wedding as a “per-person” expenditure will help put the costs into perspective. Your guest count will generate the number of items you’ll need to pay for—including invitations, table and chair rentals, cake slices, and wedding favors.
Being strategic about who you invite is the best way to maximize your wedding budget from the very beginning. If you’re feeling the pressure to invite everyone, including your third cousin twice removed, think about having a separate party or reception later to celebrate with those not invited to the actual wedding. For more info on this, visit our post about micro weddings and minimonies to see if one of these could be right for you.
5. Consider getting married on a weekday or Sunday.
PC: Precious Memories Photography
Here’s where we state the obvious. Since Saturday is the most popular day of the week for weddings, it also tends to be the most expensive. This usually includes Friday as well. The demand for weekend weddings can drive up every cost associated with your wedding—from venues, to food, to vendor packages.
However, weekday weddings (and Sunday weddings) can be a strategic way for couples to have their dream wedding that’s still within their wedding budget. Plus, many wedding vendors provide added incentives to fill these less popular dates. So, you have the potential to get some added value on top of it!
Booking a weekday wedding is an especially good idea if you’ve got a tight budget but don’t want to sacrifice your dream wedding venue. Trust us, you can save a couple thousand dollars on your venue just by pushing your celebration to a Thursday night or Sunday morning!
Hotels and airfare also tend to be less expensive during the week if you plan to leave on your honeymoon right after the wedding. Cue the confetti!
6. Create a honeymoon registry.
Creating a honeymoon registry where friends and family can chip in will help take some of the stress off while planning. You’ll feel way better about wedding-day splurges if you don’t have to worry about paying for a honeymoon the week after.
PC: Sarah and Paul Photography
Plus, if you buy your travel tickets far in advance, you’ll have plenty of time to play with your wedding budget and accommodate your bridal wish-list.
7. Decide which wedding day dreams are non-negotiable.
PC: Todd Collins Photography
What are your “non-negotiables?” You may have dreams of having both an open bar AND a 5-course meal, but it may not be in the best interest of your budget to do both. In this case, you need to determine whether you place a higher priority on getting your guests drunk or dazed on fine dining. In any case, you’ll need to answer this question. “What wedding items are at the very top of my priority list?”
PC: Bridal Musings
If you’ve decided that your dream wedding dress is a non-negotiable, see what other things you can sacrifice so you can splurge on this purchase. (By the way, we wholeheartedly support this decision!) Or, browse our affordable line of Rebecca Ingram wedding gowns that feature gorgeous styles that don’t sacrifice quality for price. We even have several designer wedding dresses under $1,000!
8. Decide what things you don’t need.
On the flip side, decide what things you are willing to sacrifice so you can splurge on the wedding items most important to you. We know this may not sound like tons of fun, but it’s definitely necessary for sticking to your wedding budget.
PC: Alexandra Robyn Photography
Once you decide your top 2-3 priorities, you’ll be able to allocate a bigger percentage of your wedding budget to them. This will also help determine how much you can save on the other items that aren’t as important to you.
At best practice, if budget is the name of the game, opt for intimate. An intimate wedding can be a great way to still have your dream wedding, just on a smaller scale. This will also free up how much you can spend on spoiling your guests! We promise, it’s a win-win for everyone!
9. Itemize everything.
Avoid putting entire wedding components (e.g., catering, food and drink, venue, etc.) on your wedding budget breakdown spread sheet. Instead, list out all the items that go under each component (along with their associated costs) in their own separate rows or columns.
PC: Rachel Laxton Photography
We know this part sounds a little tedious, but hear us out! When you don’t itemize specific costs, you often end up with vague estimates. This makes it easy to be surprised by hidden costs down the line. And no one wants to worry about unexpected fees on their best day ever!
10. Communicate with your partner often about wedding day expectations.
Just as in any relationship dynamic, communication is key. Expressing your likes, dislikes, and wedding budget expectations is all part of the vital wedding planning process. Remember, this is about your dream wedding day!
PC: Seedling Photography
Maybe you’ve openly talked with your fiance about what your wedding budget looks like, but more likely than not, you both currently have slightly different views about how your special day will play out. It’s important to avoid any miscommunications that could cause you to overbook or underbook certain services or necessities.
Furthermore, make sure you’re communicating with vendors and contractors about whether they’re on track to meet established timelines. Having to scramble to book a last minute baker for your wedding cake will cost you a fortune!
PC: Erika Diaz Photography
It’s better for your budget and your brains to check in with your partner from time to time to make sure that everything is still on track. However, don’t fall into the trap of micromanaging. You’ve got a lot on your plate and trying to balance it all at the same time will drive you, your fiance, and everyone else around you crazy.
Plan on dividing and conquering wedding costs as well as the workload, and you’ll be well on your way to sticking to your wedding budget. And remember, a successful wedding relies more on creativity and personality than a roster of expensive items. So, don’t let your “red carpet” dreams sap the energy from your love story!
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