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Your Ultimate Wedding Budget Template

Dec 5, 2023
By Wedding Spot

You've likely stumbled upon countless articles about creating a wedding budget, each one promising to be the ultimate guide. But in the vast sea of generic wedding budget templates, we're here to steer you towards a different path: a framework for thinking and effectively planning your wedding budget long term.

Keep reading to discover some unconventional—but we promise useful—advice on how to make a wedding budget template that checks all of the boxes, saves you money, and helps you strategically plan the event of your dreams!

How to create a framework for your wedding budget

Mastering the art of wedding budgeting

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Planning a wedding can be an exciting and joyful experience, but it can also be overwhelming, especially when it comes to managing your budget. Creating a comprehensive framework for your wedding budget is crucial to ensure that you stay financially organized throughout the planning process. By understanding the basics of a wedding budget, setting realistic financial limits, and sticking to your budget, you can make your dream wedding a reality without breaking the bank.

Step 1: Know your limits

Decide the maximum amount you’re both willing to spend for the wedding and who will pay for what. This should be a nice round big picture estimate you can come up with in just a few minutes. Most couples spend between $30,000-$40,000 and pay for the bulk of it themselves. Remember to factor in any contributions you’ll be receiving from family—but keep in mind that accepting money from your parents might mean they want a say in the guest list, venue, or other expenses. Take some time to have a conversation with your families to determine if they want to contribute, what they expect in return, and whether or not you do want their financial help. If you don’t accept financial aid from them, they can still be involved in planning by helping you vet vendors, shopping for attire, creating favors, and much more!

Step 2: List common expense categories

You can use the following wedding budget template for expenses. We’ve included the average amount that couples spend on each listed item to give you a jumping off point, but depending on your location, style, wedding size, and how much you’re willing to put forward for your big day, mileage may vary.

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Ceremony & Reception:

  • Venue: $5,000 - $15,000
  • Catering: $6,000 - $12,000
  • Cake: $500 - $1,000
  • Decorations: $1,000 - $3,000
  • Flowers: $2,000 - $5,000
  • Entertainment: $1,000 - $3,000
  • Officiant: $200 - $500
  • Rental Equipment: $1,000 - $3,000


  • Bride's Dress & Accessories: $1,000 - $3,000
  • Groom's Attire: $500 - $1,500
  • Bridal Party Attire: $100 - $300 per person
  • Hair & Makeup: $200 - $600


  • Invitations: $300 - $800
  • Save-the-Dates: $100 - $300
  • Programs: $150 - $400
  • Thank You Cards: $100 - $300

Photography & Videography:

  • Photographer: $2,000 - $4,000
  • Videographer: $1,500 - $3,000
  • Engagement Photos: $200 - $500


  • Wedding Car: $300 - $800
  • Guest Transportation: $500 - $1,500


  • Hotel for Wedding Night: $150 - $500


  • Gifts & Favors: $500 - $1,000
  • Marriage License: $50 - $150
  • Wedding Rings: $1,000 - $3,000
  • Wedding Planner and/or Day-Of Coordinator: $1,000 - $3,000

Contingency Fund (10% of Total Budget): This is a percentage of your total budget that you set aside for unexpected expenses. For example, if your total budget is $30,000, you would allocate $3,000 for contingency.

Honeymoon: $4,000 - $8,000

Disclaimer: Keep in mind that these figures are approximate averages and can vary significantly. It's important to create a budget that suits your specific preferences, location, and financial situation. Conducting thorough research and obtaining quotes from vendors will help you plan and allocate your budget more accurately later but this can work for now before we move on to the following steps.

Don’t forget that it’s expected to tip 15% to most vendors. This will be part of your all-in costs, so don’t forget to factor that into your budget. Also, make sure you’re thinking about other taxes and fees a venue or vendor might charge, which would increase the total you’re paying and could put you over budget.

Step 3: Negotiate and barter

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A wedding budget is a living document, so treat it like one. Just because you originally listed $1,000 next to wedding flowers doesn’t mean you have to spend that total amount. Wait to finalize your allocated funds until after you’ve had the opportunity to meet with potential vendors and actually negotiate.

Get creative with your budget by negotiating with vendors and bartering for goods and services. If you have skills or your own services to offer, such as graphic design or photography, you might be able to exchange that instead of paying in cash.

Here's a template (below) that you can use as a starting point when negotiating a lower rate with a wedding vendor. It’s best to send something like this after you’ve met in person. Asking for a discount on stated prices in your very first outreach is a turn off to most vendors, so keep this in mind!

Also, make sure to reword this template in your own voice. Vendors appreciate when you’ve made an effort to be friendly and personal.


Hi [Vendor's Name],

I hope this message finds you well!

We've been thoroughly impressed with the services and offerings provided by [Vendor's Business Name] and are excited about the possibility of working together to make our wedding day truly special. As we are in the process of finalizing our budget, we wanted to discuss the pricing and explore the potential for some adjustments that would allow us to move forward with your services.

[Optional: Start by expressing your appreciation for the vendor's work and emphasizing your interest in their services.]

[Specific Details:] We've reviewed the quote you provided, and we're particularly interested in discussing the pricing for [specific services or items]. We believe that these services are essential to our vision for our wedding day, and we are confident in the value they would bring to our celebration.

[Our Budget Constraints:] We have carefully considered our overall wedding budget and are working diligently to ensure that it aligns with our financial goals. We are seeking ways to make the most of our budget without compromising the quality and integrity of our wedding day.

[Open for Discussion:] We value the partnership we can establish with you and your business and are open to discussing any flexible options that might be available. This could include bundle discounts, off-peak pricing, or customized packages that better suit our needs.

[Payment Terms:] We'd also appreciate discussing the payment terms and options that could make it more manageable for us to secure your services within our budget constraints.

[Other Offers/Bartering Offer:] We understand that vendors may offer different packages or promotions at different times. If there are any upcoming offers, deals, or promotions that we should be aware of, we would like to explore those as well. If possible, we’d also be open to discussing trading our [enter skill or expertise] for all or part of [specific service option or package] if you’re interested!

[Incentives:] If there are any incentives you can offer, such as early booking discounts or referrals, we'd love to discuss how we can take advantage of these opportunities.

We value your expertise and the unique contribution your services can make to our wedding day. We are genuinely interested in exploring how we can make this partnership work within our budget, and we believe that finding a mutually beneficial solution is possible.

Could we please schedule a time for a meeting or call to discuss this further? We're open to your suggestions and would appreciate the opportunity to work together to make our wedding day extraordinary while staying within our budget constraints.

Thank you for your understanding, and we look forward to the possibility of collaborating with you to create lasting memories on our special day!


[Your Name]


Although this template is longer than your average email, we do suggest at least using the main points to guide your discussion over the phone or at your next vendor meeting.

Step 4: Utilize cashback and rewards

Use credit cards that offer cashback or rewards for your wedding expenses. If you are 100% confident that you can pay your balance off in full every month no matter what then the opportunities presented by signing bonuses and spending incentives for new card owners might be the strategy for you.

These can help you accumulate points, earn cashback for future purchases, or even cover honeymoon expenses such as flights. Check out this example we found from NerdWallet:

"To get you started, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card comes with a sign-up bonus you could earn just with your wedding expenses. You also have the option of transferring your points to a participating frequent traveler program at a 1:1 ratio. Chase's partners include United, Southwest, British Airways, Air France/KLM, Hyatt and Marriott, among several others. If you're savvy at travel hacking, you could score a couple award tickets to your honeymoon destination for free. This, of course, would really would really help bring down the overall cost of your trip. And if you're thinking of an overseas honeymoon, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card charges no foreign transaction fees."

This is just one of many cards they recommend for newly engaged couples. While it does showcase just how much you can do by joining or taking advantage of your current rewards programs, adding a new line of credit isn’t the best option for every couple, so make sure to carefully weigh your situation before you move forward with this.

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Step 5: Calculate time vs. value

This strategy is great for everyone, but it's especially important for those who leap to DIY as the solution to decreasing wedding costs. Although we absolutely adore handmade cards, table centerpieces, and other wedding decor, your wedding budget template is shaking in fear at the cost of today’s craft supplies.

But materials aren’t the only expense when it comes to DIYing your wedding. There’s also your time.

While DIY projects can save money, they can also be time-consuming and add stress. A general rule of thumb is to choose DIY projects that align with your skills/interests and outsource the rest to professionals. But we suggest a different approach, one that is typically reserved for savvy small business owners.

  • Start by calculating how much your time is worth. If you work full time, you can divide your yearly salary down to your hourly rate. If you work part time or freelance, you may already charge an hourly rate. 
  • Next, divide your hourly rate in half. 
  • Then, calculate approximately how long it will take you to do each DIY project. This should include finding your design inspiration, sourcing materials, and putting the pieces together. 
  • Now multiply half of your hourly rate by the time it would take for you to do that wedding DIY project. If the total time cost is more than what you would pay to buy or rent the item from somewhere else then that DIY is too expensive for your budget.

Moral of the story: It may “just take a little time”. But a little time is actually worth more than you think, especially as the wedding date approaches.

You can easily spend those same five hours you would use to make a garland from scratch (don’t ask us how we know) on researching additional discounts for wedding venues near you or finding a great vacation package for your honeymoon.

Using your time wisely can save hundreds instead of dozens of dollars in the long run even if it means adding it to your expenses.

Step 6: Prioritize experiences

It’s a well-known fact that Millennials prefer to spend on experiences rather than material goods. In terms of wedding budget planning, this may mean trading higher end charger plates for a live band you’ll never forget. Sure, your budget will cost more in the entertainment category. But learning how to strike this balance between spending on things versus experiences that create lasting memories is critical to making your wedding budget work smarter not harder.

This is a great opportunity to revisit your budget and where you’re allocating your money. If you as a couple would prefer to have a live band and are happy to thrift for décor pieces, take 10% of your décor budget and put it towards your music and entertainment budget. The guidelines we added above are just guidelines, and you should feel free to flex your budget to work for you.

Check out our guide to the minimalist wedding trend if you prefer the idea of a simpler but still elegant affair.

Step 7: Go digital

We agree that there’s nothing like holding a beautifully crafted wedding invitation in your hands and placing it in your wedding scrapbook. But sending out 150 physical copies to guests can really rack up your costs. You can save a good chunk of change going digital wherever you can in the wedding budget.

Digital invitations, thank yous, and even save the dates are a cost effective and eco-friendly way to make an impact on your savings goal. Not only are you saving on the cost of materials, but you’ll also have to shell out less on things like postage. Opt to send hard copy invitations and cards to your VIP wedding guest list if you still want to have this as part of your special day.

Step 8: Avoid the wedding markup

Some vendors charge more for wedding-related services than for similar non-wedding events. To get the most out of your wedding budget, consider using general event vendors when possible to avoid this markup. While some specialists (such as wedding cake bakers or photographers) are essential, others may not need to be specifically catered to weddings (think wine and beer bartenders or event valet).

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Create a successful wedding budget

The framework is one of the most important elements of a wedding budget template. Without it, your list of expenses and numbers may get the ball rolling, but it won’t help with decision-making or planning in the same way. Knowing the right budgeting strategies for an event this big sets you up for success long term. That means less time counting pennies and more time actually enjoying one of the most magical days of your life!

Up next, check out even more tips on getting down to the nitty gritty of detailing your wedding budget once you have a template in place. 

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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.