What’s the best way to budget for my wedding?
The best way to budget for your wedding is to prioritize which things are the most important to you. From there, you can assign monetary value according to which factors are high on the list.
Remember, each person’s list will be unique to them so it’s important to be honest about what you want on your big day.
Repeat after me, budgeting for your wedding does not have to be stressful.
Today, I’ll show you how to budget for your wedding by prioritizing each category and creating a mini-budget from there.
How Do I Get Started Budgeting for My Wedding?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with wedding planning; wondering if you should invest in a professional planner or stick to ideas on Pinterest feels risky.
Take a deep breath, and grab a pen and paper. Today we’ll organize and budget your wedding in the easiest way possible, you’ll wonder why you ever worried to begin with.
What You’ll Need to Create A Wedding Budget
Let’s start by writing down the important budget factors, and see what you’ve got to work with in the end.
- Outside Sources – Write down if there are any people in your circle contributing to the final budget. If a family member is pitching in for the venue, or covering the cost of the dress, it’s time to write down those figures now.
- Your Final Budget – Even if it’s just a rough estimate for now, write down a roundabout number so we can get an idea.
Now that you’ve got those two numbers add them together. From here, we’ll divide the categories into simple percentages, it’s as simple as that.
- Venue – The venue should account for about 40% of the final budget.
- Attire – This includes the dresses, tuxedos, hair, makeup and rings. Try to keep this number to about 10% of the final budget.
- Food & Alcohol – Of course, this will vary based on your guest count but will come in at about 15% of your budget.
- Decoration – Later we’ll touch upon the various DIY options, which are cheaper, but usually decor costs around 8% of the budget.
- Photographer – This very important expense will cost around 10% of the budget.
- Music & Entertainment – whether you hire a DJ, or rent arcade games for guests, you’ll need to reserve about 10% for this category.
- Officiant/Documents – The officiant you hire and the legal documents prices will vary, but shouldn’t cost more than 5% of the final budget.
- Miscellaneous – Save around 2% for miscellaneous, spur-of-the-moment things like attire tailoring, ring resizing, transportation, etc.
Wedding Budget Breakdown
Now that we’ve gotten the first step out of the way we can focus on fine-tuning what you want your special day to be like.
Use the percentages above as a general guideline, but remember this is your day and you can personalize it however you want.
While the venue is generally the biggest expense, costing around 40% of the budget, lots of people decide to have their ceremony at a free, public location. This option will save you tons of cash that you can use to hire a better photographer, or maybe get that pricier dress you had saved on Pinterest.
Keep in mind, there are several items that will need to be purchased from each category, so be sure to budget accordingly.
- Venue – Don’t forget, you’ll need a place for the ceremony and reception, as well as a place for all wedding members to get dressed and prepare.
- Attire – Attire is not limited to the bride’s dress and the groom’s tux in all situations. Also remember to factor in all the accessories, the rings, any alterations, as well as headpieces and shoes.
- Food & Alcohol – Keep in mind that some guests may require certain dietary restrictions, such as gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan. It’s often cheaper to serve the food buffet style than to hire catering that will serve each plate individually.
- Decoration – Decorations also include things like the bouquet that will be thrown after the reception, as well as any corsages or floral wreaths. These can be surprisingly expensive, are time sensitive, and cannot be resold, so consider if it’s worth investing in.
- Photographer – If there is anything that you should cut the budget on too much, it’s the quality of the photographer. Now is not the time to hire an amateur from Fiverr, these pictures will last a lifetime so it’s important to get them right.
- Music & Entertainment – Unlike the photographer, the DJ can easily be budgeted. If you have a friend who can hook up their Spotify to the venue’s speakers, then you’ve got yourself a free DJ. Most people will be focused on showing off their dance floor moves to even notice where the music is coming from.
How to Budget for Your Wedding While Keeping What You Want
If you are on a tighter budget, you’ll need to be really honest with yourself about what can stay and what can go.
Can you cut back on the guest list at all? If you can, that’ll save you hundreds if not thousands.
The list below has some budget friendly wedding options, even just swapping out a few of these will help your wallet out a lot.
If you’ve ever scrolled Pinterest you’ll know the endless amount of wedding DIY options available.
For a fraction of the regular price, you can create stunning decorations that will be just as photogenic as the expensive ones. It’s amazing what some fairy lights from Amazon and a few stencils will do.
2. Free Venue Options
While the super cute barn weddings are very cute, they often cost upwards of $10,000 per day.
Take some time to scope out your local botanical gardens, parks, waterfronts, and beaches to see which free venues are available.
It will be an original venue idea, plus you can use the location money for something that matters more.
Here are some more free venue options:
- At Someone’s Home/Backyard – This is a sentimental and cozy option, if you or relatives have a beautiful backyard or garden then it’ll accommodate your special day beautifully. You won’t have to worry about the party running late, and probably most of your guests will live nearby as well.
- A Local Park – Hundreds of people get married in New York’s Central Park every year, and even prefer it to a pricey venue. Parks have a perfect blend of nature and people walking by at the same time, imagine being congratulated by dozens of onlookers after your ceremony.
- Museums – If there’s a museum that’s near and dear to you then what better place to say your vows. Museums always have a special calming energy to them, and being surrounded by hundreds of years of art and history is such a unique option.
- Beaches – This is quite possibly the most photogenic venue of them all. The sound of soft waves in the background, accompanied by the fresh scent of salt water and sea breeze will be a memory forever. There are also lots of restaurants nearby for the after party so transportation will be effortless.
3. Go Alcohol-Free
If alcohol has never really been your thing, then consider limiting or removing it from your big day. The cost quickly adds up, and let’s be honest guests are already having enough fun celebrating your new nuptials.
Opt for guests paying for their own drinks after a certain limit, or just serve mocktails made with juice and ornaments instead.
4. Guest List Limits
It’s tempting to want to celebrate the happiest day of your life with everyone, but keep in mind each guest racks up the bill by a few hundred dollars each.
Just by removing five to ten guests you can save a couple thousand dollars. Plus, a smaller guest list means you can reserve a smaller venue, and bonus points for having less thank you cards to write after.
5. Attire Cutbacks
Cutting back on the attire budget doesn’t mean giving up your dream dress or tux. Try to consider which articles are practical to invest in, and which ones aren’t. For example, if the train of your dress will cover your shoes all day, do you really need the pricier shoes?
Renting is an excellent option for the groom’s tux, bridesmaids and groomsmen. Save your money for the rings, dress and veil.
Most salons love to rack up their prices when they hear wedding bells, even if you’re getting the same service it’s likely to be more expensive.
Consider only doing partial makeup at the salon for half price, have them do the tricky winged eyeliner and do the rest yourself. Or, have all the bridesmaids do their hair together for some pre-wedding bonding time with mimosas.
5 Ways to Trim Down Your Wedding Budget
Try not to think of “setting a budget” as limiting yourself, instead think of it as prioritizing your special day and leaving out unnecessary things.
A significant amount of brides end up not even enjoying their wedding day because they’re too focused on making sure everything goes according to plan.
Instead of falling down that rabbit hole, let’s examine all things that can be removed from your wedding so we can free up the budget and have more fun.
1. Rent As Much As You Can
You may winge at the thought of renting clothes that are seemingly sentimental, but you’d be surprised how much your attire loses its importance after the big day.
Wedding dresses usually start at about $500-$2,000, however renting a dress only costs around $50-$200.
Don’t forget, if you do want to keep the dress you’ve purchased you’ll have to buy a preservation kit which starts at $250-$300. Without this kit the dress will turn yellow, fray and be affected by insects and the elements.
Renting isn’t just for the venue and dress though, you can also rent things like decorations, centerpieces, lights, chair covers, etc.
If you end up renting all the dresses and tuxedos, plus decorations, you’ll save thousands and thousands.
2. DIYs Are A Game Changer
DIYs are not only very budget friendly, they also help to personalize the wedding in a way that overpriced decorations could never.
Get your immediate family and friends together for a day of DIYs and appetizers. This will make the decorations so much more meaningful and create bonding time while making them.
- Stamps & Stencils – We love this complete stamp collection from Michael’s Crafts for wedding DIYs. Now you can use the stamps for you and your partner’s initials, as well as the guests’ initials.
Monogrammed invitations and seating cards look so much more meaningful than ones that were just printed off at Staples.
- Use What’s in Nature – Depending on the season of course, you can harvest all natural decorations right outside your yard.
If it’s a spring wedding then pick fresh lilacs and magnolias for your centerpieces. If it’s a fall wedding, harvest red berries and cedar logs for the ultimate autumnal look.
- Lights/Candles/Sparkler – Nothing sets a celebratory mood like special lights, we love to use fireworks to celebrate special holidays but if those are out of your budget replace them with sparklers. Leave them out for guests in a decorative Mason jar and have them light them after the ceremony is over.
Additionally Amazon and Target have an abundance of fairy lights and votive candles that can be strewn about the venue for a perfect rustic atmosphere.
- Reduce/Reuse/Recycle – The best budget friendly decorating advice is to only purchase things that you can reuse, resell, or gift to someone else.
Try to buy centerpieces that you would love to see in your own home, like a classic clear vase or Mason jar lanterns. When the ceremony is over you can actually use your own wedding decor around the house.
Reselling is also a popular option, places like Facebook Marketplace or Ebay allow you to resell used items at a discounted price. Since you only used the decorations for one day and they’re likely in great condition, you can earn back up to 75% of the original price.
3. Choose Your Date Carefully
As shocking as it sounds, venue prices can double or even triple depending on the day or month.
Between November until April most barn venues will cost between $3,000-$5,000 per day. However from May until October the prices go up to over $10,000.
Likewise, weekend weddings will cost a couple thousand more than weekday weddings, so it’s important to decide if the date is flexible for you.
If you have an intimate wedding with very few guests, then choosing an off season or weekday may be plausible. If you live in a warmer state where the winter months allow you to stay outside without freezing, then you could cut your venue budget in half by choosing a different month.
4. Be Prepared for Extras
Earlier we advised to set aside about 2% of your total budget for miscellaneous things, this will make things so much more stress-free in the end.
Unfortunately, it feels like nearly everything has hidden fees these days. Even services like Airbnb slap on a surprise cleaning fee right before you check out.
By setting aside money for surprise fees, like taxes, deposits, reservations, cleaning fees, or service fees you’ll be prepared when they pop up.
There are some fees though, that you can sneak your way out of if you’re willing to put in a little extra research and effort. For example, state taxes vary greatly depending on each state. A bottle of Sprite that costs $1.00 even in New Hampshire will cost $1.07 right next door in Maine.
Use this to your advantage and check out which state taxes are the lowest, you can then purchase your pricier items from there. Plus, it’s a great excuse for a fun pre-wedding road trip.
5. Go Easy on the Invites
The novelty of receiving a fancy wedding invitation is short-lived, so instead of sending them out to each individual person, opt for sending one per family instead.
If you invite 150 guests to your wedding, and the invites cost between $.50-$3.00 each, you’ll end up with a price tag of about $75-$450.
Let’s say there are only 10 individual homes the invites need to be sent to, now it’ll only cost you $5-$30. Keep all the invitees names listed on the single invitation, then ask everyone to rsvp online. This method also ensures that no one can use the “my invite must have gotten lost in the mail” excuse for not rsvping on time.
The most important thing to remember when budgeting for your wedding is to choose what is important to you.
Start by writing down your total budget, then from there you can start trimming off things that don’t bring you joy.
If you want to splurge on the venue, but use Spotify as a free DJ, then it’s totally up to you. If you want to invite 20 guests instead of 50 and have an even more extravagant day, that’s the right choice for you.
Thank you for these awesome tips!!
I love all the tips! Thank you!
There were things that I wanted but couldn’t fit in to the budget and it really made me stop and think about if it was what I wanted or what other people told me I should want.
Thank you for this amazing insight!
Everyone knows weddings are expensive, but until you really start searching and paying for everything, it’s crazy!!
Thank you for so many great tips.
The budgeting section was helpful to get me started.
100% agree with figuring out who is paying for what for your wedding. If you and your fiancé are paying for everything, it allows you to have everything the way YOU want it, not anyone else. If someone is contributing to your wedding it makes them feel entitled to having lots of say in YOUR wedding. Establish boundaries early on, even if people are contributing to your wedding money wise.
Love this information!
Love these tips! One thing that we did was pick an “off season-ish” date for our venue. It’s next November, but weddings are pretty popular during that time now. We still saved lots of money through our specific venue, which was so nice!
My other concern for our budget is food! The cheapest option we found was $22.50 per plate, which I know is cheaper than most options in todays wedding world, but is still a high cost for a wedding with a large number of guests.
One thing we are doing is we are not hosting alcohol to save on some money as well.
My concern is getting what I want without breaking the bank. Thinking a lot of DIYS will happen
Wow I can tell you put a lot of thought and research into writing this article, Kate! Thank you so much 🙂 Sticking to the budget is very important to us, especially with how the economy is doing right now.
That’s one of my main concerns–our wedding will be late next year, and I hope the costs of goods will not go up too much. Of course I always want to support our vendors as I’m a small business owner too — I just hope we all won’t be too affected.
These are awesome tips – Thank you!
Great tips; thank you! We have been working on our vision and what’s most important to us, so we can spend money on those things. It’s hard because once you say, “wedding” in front of anything, the price goes up.
I still feel so overwhelmed but I’m taking everything in!
I love the free options described and I love the detail that the article goes into about how to break down everything I should think about
We’re actually considering electronic/emailed invites to save on postage and printing! We’ve found some websites that do a really nice job of still making the invite more than just another email.