woman working on a wedding budget

How to Create a Wedding Budget: Your Step-by-Step Guide

Oct 16, 2023
By Wedding Spot

Planning a wedding is an exciting and joyful journey, but it can also be financially overwhelming. A well-structured wedding budget can be your roadmap to a beautiful celebration without breaking the bank. In this in-depth guide, we’ll explore the essential steps to creating a wedding budget that ensures every detail is accounted for while keeping costs in check.

How to create a wedding budget: one step at a time

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1. Determine your financial resources

The first step in building your wedding budget is understanding your financial resources. Consider all potential funding sources—think personal savings, contributions from family members, starting a dedicated wedding fund, and more—and come up with a ballpark figure. Open a new bank account solely for wedding expenses, which will help you track your spending and avoid any confusion.

2. Allocate your budget

Before diving into the specific expenses, it's crucial to determine the overall amount you're comfortable spending on your wedding. This will set the structure for allocating funds to various aspects of the celebration.

Then, divide your budget into percentages for each spending category. For example, allocate 40% for the venue and catering, 10% for photography and flowers, and so on. This approach gives you a clear picture of how much to spend on each aspect.

3. Consider outside influences

Various factors can influence the total cost of your wedding. These include your location, whether it's a local or destination wedding, the number of guests, and the wedding traditions you choose to follow.

Remember, you can adapt traditional rules to match your circumstances, taking into
account income disparities or individual savings.

4. Set-up your guest list considerations

Your guest list plays a crucial role in determining your expenses. A larger guest list means more invitations, seating, favors, and most importantly, food, which often constitutes the single biggest expense a couple will spend. Trim the list to include only your nearest and dearest if you’re looking to keep costs in check.

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5. Anticipate other wedding-related events

In addition to the wedding day itself, there are often other events to consider, such as the engagement party, bridal shower, and rehearsal dinner. Discuss with the family members who traditionally host these events and determine if they'll contribute financially.


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6. Breakdown your wedding expenses into categories

Here are the basics you’ll need to include:

  • Venue and decorations: Venue costs often consume a significant portion of the budget. Think about what type of venue you’re looking for, but remember that there is a wide range of attached costs. A hotel in the downtown of a major city will be more expensive than a ballroom in the suburbs. Depending on the time of year and day of the week, costs can vary at a single venue. Budget accordingly, setting aside more money if you think you’ll look for a more expensive venue.
  • Catering: Food and beverages are often the largest single expense in a wedding. Again, catering can span a wide range of costs, with an in-house caterer potentially more expensive than an external company and seated service more expensive than buffet-style. Generally speaking, venue, catering, and other related costs for your reception make up half of your wedding budget.
  • Attire: Wedding attire can be a considerable expense, often about ten percent of your overall budget. These costs will depend on what type of dress you go with—something that’s heavily beaded or detailed will cost more than a more simplistic style—the brand you purchase, and whether or not the groom is buying or renting his attire.
  • Photography and videography: Photo and video can be a large chunk of your wedding expenses, also typically about ten percent of the budget. Most offer a variety of packages with varying service levels, including extra shooters, editing, albums, and videos of different lengths and styles. Pulling together an a la carte package might be cheaper in the long run, if the packages don’t suit your needs.
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  • Music and entertainment: Music, whether live or a DJ, can eat up another chunk of your budget (again, often about five to ten percent). A larger band will be more expensive, but might provide the party atmosphere you’re looking for. DJ companies often also supply A/V equipment and lighting, which could save you money elsewhere in the budget.
  • Invitations and stationery: Save-the-dates, invitations, and day-of stationary can be expensive, even up to five percent of your total budget. If you go to a stationer for custom designs, you’ll likely face a per-piece cost that can range from a dollar to $10 each. If you download a design from a company like Etsy, you’ll have to print, address, and send the stationary on your own, which means purchasing supplies and stamps. After the big day, don’t forget about thank you notes.
  • Wedding cake: Sometimes wedding cakes are offered by the caterer you select, but you can also find them at an independent bakery. If it’s not included in your catering costs, the cake can sometimes eat up to five percent of your budget. More tiers and more design mean higher expenses, while streamlined decoration will likely reduce the price.
  • Miscellaneous expenses: There are always a few extra costs to consider, like ceremony decorations, a guest book, favors, transportation, and gifts for your bridal party. These don’t have to be expensive on their own, but they can add up if you’re not careful. You can safely budget about five percent for these expenses. And as we mention below, don’t forget to think about gratuities for your vendors! Those can be a sneaky hidden expense in your budget.

7. Plan for your tipping etiquette

Gratuities for vendors, such as the officiant, caterers, and hairstylists, can be an unexpected expense. Plan for these gratuities in your budget to avoid last-minute stress. Typically, having the best man or one of your parents have the tip in envelopes to be delivered on the day can keep you stress-free.

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8. Communicate properly on who pays for what

Traditionally, the bride's family has covered the ceremony and reception expenses, while the groom's family pays for the rehearsal dinner. However, modern weddings have various financial arrangements, often including a large contribution from the couple themselves. Communicate openly with both families to understand their expectations and how much they might chip in. Don’t forget to think through not just the amount they’re willing to offer, but if they’d like to pay for something specific (or if there are any strings attached, like getting to invite some guests you wouldn’t have otherwise extended an invitation to).

9. Set a monthly spending limit ASAP

Assess your monthly budget and determine how much you can save each month. Make sure this is something you think you can stick to. While it’s not the end of the world, if your available funds fall short, you might have to consider options like downsizing the wedding or seeking additional sources of income.

10. Create shared money habits

Creating a wedding budget is about more than just making a spreadsheet. Use the wedding planning process as an opportunity to hone your skills in discussing and negotiating important financial decisions together to get the most out of this experience.

Frequently asked questions about how to create a wedding budget

How do I start creating a wedding budget?

Begin by discussing the budget with your partner and anyone else contributing financially. List all potential income sources, like savings, contributions from family, etc. Then, decide on an overall budget figure that you are comfortable spending.

What percentage of the wedding budget should be allocated to each category?

While percentages can vary depending on personal preferences, a common breakdown is as follows: venue and catering (40-50%), attire (10-15%), photography and videography (10-15%), entertainment (5-10%), flowers and decor (10%), invitations (2-3%), transportation (2-3%), and miscellaneous (5%).

How can I save money on the wedding venue?

Consider booking the venue during the off-season or on weekdays, as prices are often lower. You can also opt for a non-traditional venue, like a park or backyard, which can be more cost-effective. WeddingSpot allows you to get a basic estimate from a venue before you’ve reached out to them, so you know whether they fit your budget or not.

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What are some tips for cutting costs on wedding attire?

Look for sample sales, trunk shows, or consider renting outfits instead of purchasing. You can also explore pre-owned wedding dresses or consider non-traditional options that may be more budget-friendly. Ask around and see if beloved family members have wedding outfits they’d let you borrow for an extra special touch!

How can I find affordable photographers and videographers without compromising on quality?

Research local photographers and videographers, read reviews, and ask to see their portfolios. Consider hiring a newer professional who may offer competitive rates but still provides excellent service. Even photography students might be looking for work to add to their portfolio, so it’s worth a look.

What are some creative ideas for budget-friendly wedding decorations?

Utilize DIY decorations, seasonal flowers, and incorporate candles and string lights for an elegant yet affordable ambiance. Consider borrowing or renting decor items from friends or family.

Keep in mind that not every DIY option is necessarily cheaper or makes sense to spend your time and energy on, so do a cost analysis beforehand. Trust us on this!

How can I save money on wedding invitations and stationery?

Opt for digital invitations or create your own using online templates. Alternatively, limit the number of printed inserts and consider postcard-style RSVPs to save on postage. Or even have an online RSVP option to give people a fully free way to let you know if they’ll attend—not to mention, it’s easy for you to track who has said yes.

Are there any less expensive options for wedding transportation?

Look into local transportation companies that offer hourly rates or consider using ridesharing services if the distance is short. If the venue is nearby, you can even arrange for guests to walk or carpool. Sometimes, even buying tickets to the local public transportation systems can be a low-cost option.

What are some general tips for sticking to the wedding budget?

Create a detailed spreadsheet to track expenses, prioritize your must-haves, and be open to making adjustments as needed. It's essential to communicate openly with all involved parties about budget constraints to avoid overspending. And don’t forget, just because you budgeted a certain amount for a specific element, doesn’t mean you have to spend it. If you thought you’d spend $3000 on a photographer but only spent $2500, you can pocket those savings or reallocate them for an area where you might want to spend more than you originally budgeted for.

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Celebrate with peace of mind

Creating a wedding budget is a vital aspect of the wedding planning process. It allows you to envision your dream wedding while staying within financial boundaries.

By considering all funding sources, allocating your budget wisely, and making informed choices, you can craft a memorable and beautiful celebration without incurring unnecessary debt. Remember, a well-planned budget is the foundation for your special day, ensuring you can focus on making lifelong memories with your loved ones!

Up next, check out these helpful wedding budget tips and tricks for engaged couples!

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Wedding Spot

The Wedding Spot blog is designed to help couples navigate every step of the wedding planning journey. From before the engagement to after you say “I do,” our goal is to give you the tips, ideas, and inspiration to prepare for your big day — and all that comes with it.