How to Set Your Wedding Budget
It’s so important to set your wedding budget before you start officially planning your big day. Check out these tips for setting a wedding budget that works for you!
Whether you’re just recently engaged or already immersed in planning, this is our absolute biggest tip and most valuable advice to offer you. The most important thing to know before you start planning anything is… the dreaded B-word… your BUDGET! But do you know how to set your wedding budget? This post will walk you through the steps of setting a budget that is affordable for you!
Our #1 wedding budget tip is to create your budget before you begin the wedding planning process. This is the best way to ensure you don’t go over budget and end up in debt. Your wedding is one day (and a very special one at that!), but it’s important to keep it in perspective. Avoid overextending yourself financially so you’re not paying off your wedding expenses for years into your marriage!
We know what you’re thinking… money talk is generally not fun and can be a little stressful. That’s why it’s best to rip off the band-aid and get those discussions out of the way upfront. You can’t stick to a budget if you don’t know what your budget is, right?
Steps for Setting Your Wedding Budget
Wedding budget planning is a personal exercise. Your wedding budget will likely consist of funds from several different sources, such as you and your partner and maybe your families.
Word to the wise, don’t give too much weight to the reported average wedding cost. Average costs are just that– averages of the general population, whose circumstances and financial situations vary by quite a lot.
A wedding budget should be personal – and it should reflect your unique situation and set of circumstances. The way you spend your budget should reflect your values and/or priorities. What some experts consider must-haves you may choose to skip!
Below you’ll find our step-by-step advice for setting a wedding budget you can actually afford and are happy with! Get your wedding budget spreadsheet ready– we’ll help you get to your final number by following the steps below:
1. Discuss the vision for your day with your partner.
What do you and your partner hope for on your wedding day? Do you envision being surrounded by a large group of family and friends or something more intimate with only your closest loved ones? Do you picture a big, fancy party or something more chilled and low-key? Take the time to chat with your partner about your shared vision for your wedding day. The budget you’ll need to accomplish your vision can vary greatly based on these preferences!
Be sure to also cover how soon you want this shindig to happen, as a shorter engagement means less time to save money for the big day. It’s best to have a rough idea of when you’d like to tie the knot in order to help inform your budget.
How your vision can impact your budget
Your vision can influence the guest list, venue location, size of your wedding party, and whether you want to look for a live band or DJs. You may also decide that you need to hire a professional wedding planner to help plan and execute your event!
The size of budget you’ll need will be impacted by a variety of factors, from the number of guests to the location where you’re planning to tie the knot. The costs involved can change depending on if you get married on a Saturday vs. Sunday. Expenses range from savvy to super high-end, depending on the vibe you’re going for.
You can go luxe and host an open bar with top shelf liquor. Or you could choose to go mid-range and offer wine and beer only. Alternatively, you skip alcohol entirely and host a dry wedding, which is sure to cut down on costs. The choice is up to you, your values and priorities, and how you choose to wield your budget to reflect them.
2. Research in your area to set realistic wedding budget expectations
After you’ve discussed your ideal wedding vision, it’s important to set expectations for costs. For most couples, there are typically two numbers at play when it comes to your wedding budget: The amount of money you are able (and willing) to spend, and the amount of money the wedding you want will actually cost. If you want to get an idea of the average cost of a wedding in your specific area, you can check out Wedding Report to see figures from your region.
Many couples start researching and quickly realize the wedding they’ve dreamed of will cost more than they’d hoped. This is especially true if you have a large guest count. This is where honing in on those priorities comes into play.
Even if there is a disconnect between your desired spend and your wedding vision, you shouldn’t feel compelled to spend more than you are comfortable with. One of our main goals at The Budget Savvy Bride is to present you with doable, affordable alternatives so you can have a wedding you’re happy with at a price you can afford.
A note on pricing research:
As a savvy consumer, it’s important to educate yourself on the true costs of a professionally executed event. Getting familiar with actual costs will help you to set a realistic wedding budget that allows you to have what you want (within reason) at a price you can afford.
“Collect pricing information and proposals from vendors and venues you are interested in. Creating proposals takes a significant amount of time for wedding professionals, so be open and honest with them that you are in a ‘fact-finding’ part of your planning process, so that they understand the proposal is sent in a speculative context.” –Dee Gaubert of No Worries Event Planning.
3. Declare your drop dead, maximum spend.
To decide on a wedding budget that works for you, sit down with your fiancé and discuss an amount you both feel comfortable spending. This is the amount of money you are willing and able to spend without taking on debt. Technically, you may be able to afford to spend more, but decide that you don’t want to spend so much on a one-day party.
This is also the figure you’d be working with should you be funding your entire wedding yourselves. If your families are able and willing to contribute to your wedding fund (we’ll get to that in a minute) then you could either add their contributions on top of your max spend, or save some of your intended spend to go towards other life goals.
4. Decide how much you’ll need to save over time.
After you’ve figured out what sort of wedding you’re looking to plan, discuss your personal finances with your partner. Together, decide how much you are each willing and able to contribute to the day. Do you want to allocate some of your savings to the wedding fund? Can you save money during the course of your engagement to go towards paying for the wedding? If so, how much? Will you set up a new joint bank account for your wedding fund?
Hash out these details as a team. This may be the first of many money talks you’ll have as a couple. For a healthy marriage, it is so important to be on the same page about money. In some cases, this bucket of funds might be all you have to work with. If your families aren’t pitching in financially, you may have to extend the length of your engagement in order to afford the wedding you want.
5. Have “The Talk” with any contributing parties.
If either set of parents are contributing money to the wedding funds, make sure to make time to sit down and discuss how much they will be contributing. Perhaps you and your fiancé are planning to pay for the wedding yourselves, and if that is the case then the conversation will just be the two of you. Either way, it’s important to have a full idea of how much you will have to work with to keep yourselves on budget.
It’s important to note that accepting outside parties or loved ones could come with strings attached. If the two of you want to have creative control without managing others’ opinions and wishes, you may choose to decline outside contributions. It’s definitely a trade-off, so be sure to set boundaries and expectations upfront if you do decide to accept financial assistance from your families.
6. Discuss expectations and timing.
One of the major pain points of planning a wedding with outside funds is the expectations that come along with the money. It may be a little uncomfortable, but it’s important to discuss expectations with all financial contributors to avoid unnecessary stress or hurt feelings.
Major things to cover include estimated expenses and the timing of contributions from all those who are financing the wedding. Will they be giving you a sum up front to work with? Or will they be depositing funds on a rolling basis over the course of your engagement? Do you plan to put the expenses on a points-earning Credit Card when possible? Or will you be paying with cash or check? Will your family members be paying for specific services/vendors directly or giving you funds to use as you see fit? Be sure to cover all your bases to cut down on possible friction with your families.
7. Tally up the final figures.
Add up all the funds from contributing parties to find your total wedding budget. Combine the funds from your families with your own savings and/or monthly contributions along the way. This sum figure should be the absolute max budget for your wedding. It should be the number you look at to guide you through making financial decisions for your day.
Sticking to your budget is a whole other ball game. Check out these tips for sticking to your wedding budget to help keep yourselves on track.
You’ve probably heard it time and time again, prioritize what is most important to you and allocate your budget accordingly. Remember to include room in your budget for tips and gratuities for your wedding vendors! (Check out the wedding vendor tipping guide in this post!) These items tend to be overlooked and can result in significant overspending if you don’t work them into your budget.
Aligning your priorities with your wedding plans will help you plan a day you (and your wallets) will be happy with! Then you can seek out ways to save money on your wedding in the areas that aren’t as important to you.
9. Focus on what matters.
Setting a wedding budget can feel stressful, so it’s important to keep your focus on the aspects of the wedding day that matter most. Often, the most treasured of all are the moments; like hugging a relative you haven’t seen in years, exchanging your vows with your partner, and dancing the night away with your closest friends. Even if you can’t afford the lush flowers or a fancy venue, you can still have the most magical night of your life. Setting a realistic budget for your wedding that fits within your financial means will allow you to do that without stress, guilt, or debt!
Make sure to follow these wedding budget tips to get yourself started on the right track.
What is included in your wedding budget?
What do you include in your total wedding budget? Some couples include items like the engagement ring and wedding bands in their total wedding cost. For the sake of this article, we’ve focused primarily on expenses associated with the wedding day itself. So while that won’t include gifts or the honeymoon, it will include things like the marriage license and anything to do with the ceremony and reception. This includes but isn’t limited to: the wedding cake, venue fee, decor, rentals, wedding attire, caterer, makeup, invitations and other day-of stationery, entertainment, photography, videography, and more.
Whether you want to plan a $5,000 wedding or a $50,000 wedding, we’ve got resources, tips, and recommended suppliers to bring your big day vision to life!
See Real Wedding Budget Breakdowns
View our Real Weddings gallery, where you can view the actual budgets of real couples. Read each couple’s wedding budget breakdown to see how other savvy couples have allocated their budgets for their wedding ceremony and reception!
So you’ve set your wedding budget… now how do you stick to it?
Check out these posts for some additional wedding budget guidance:
- How to Stick to Your Wedding Budget
- What to Do When You First Get Engaged
- How to Avoid Wedding Day Memory Loss
Have you set your wedding budget? How did you come up with your final figure? Join us in the community to chat about all things budgeting!