Budget and Save

The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Wedding Budget

Erin Palmer

February 19, 2018

Two newlyweds smile for the camera

Congratulations – you’re engaged! After the engagement excitement calms down, it’s time for you and your love to get down to details and plan for your big day. But before you start choosing color schemes and appetizers, it’s important to create a wedding budget.

Every wedding decision should stem from your budget. If you start booking things first without figuring out how much you can reasonably spend, you’re likely to spend way more money and experience way more stress throughout the process.

So let’s make it easy! Follow this guide to create a wedding budget that works for you. No debt, no drama!

Where to Begin: Who is Paying and What’s the Budget

First thing you need to determine is what you have to spend. This means you’ll need to know who is paying for the wedding and set expectations on how to avoid debt.

Plenty of couples pay for their own weddings. Sometimes you may have parents or other family members who are able to contribute or even pay for the whole thing.

Your first step is to sit down with each family and talk about what (if anything) they plan to contribute.

  • If family members plan to contribute money toward the wedding, find out the set amount so you can include it in your budget
  • If they want to cover a particular part of the wedding, like the catering or photographer, find out their maximum budget for that item
  • If they offer to pay for the entire wedding, find out their budget so you can plan accordingly
Expert Tip

Open an account specifically for your wedding and set up direct deposits for the amount you decide on. This will let you save each month without needing to move funds around or add another thing to your to-do list.

Once you know how much money you can expect from family members, it’s time to figure out how much the two of you can afford.

  • Look at your savings and see how much of it you can use, keeping in mind that you always want to have enough in savings to cover life emergencies
  • Look at your combined monthly income and figure out how much you can contribute to the wedding fund each month after bills

When you have all of the final numbers, combine what you can afford to spend with any family contributions, and voilà! You have a wedding budget!

If you want to make it easier to have a cushion for unexpected expenses, you can take your final budget number and cut it by 10%. That will provide a cushion if a cost runs over budget.

What’s Next: Setting Priorities

Now that you know what you have to spend, you need to figure out how much to spend on each area of the wedding. Before you jump in, take time to figure out what is the most important to you.

Each of you should write your own list of your top three priorities, whatever they may be. It could be making sure all of your loved ones are there, having amazing food or really great music.

Once you each have your list, share and compare them. This will help you find common ground and decide what elements are most important to you as a couple. These priorities will make it easier to determine how to allocate your budget.

Expert Tip

If having a stress-free wedding is your goal, consider a wedding insurance plan. Get covered for everything from severe weather to ruined photos so you can enjoy your day without stressing out about the things that may go wrong.

For example, if one list has “stress-free day” as a priority and the other has “fun reception” as a priority, you can decide to invest in a reception venue that handles all the details for you, which will help make the day less stressful and make sure that the party is fantastic.

Use your combined top priorities to determine what parts of the wedding you are willing to spend a little more on.

Before You Itemize the Budget: Decide on Your Guest List

With your priorities in mind and your overall budget figured out, your guest list is the last piece of the budgeting puzzle. Before you can begin calling vendors and getting estimates, you need to know how many people you will invite.

Remember that while you can’t guarantee everyone you invite will be able to attend, you also don’t want to assume that they won’t be able to make it.

Often couples will invite a surplus of guests because they expect a certain amount of invitations to be declined. But keep in mind that if there’s even a chance that the guest will attend, you should absolutely include them in the budget.

Your guest list and budget go hand in hand. You may want to have a lavish wedding for 250 people, but if your budget won’t support that, you will need to decide how you want to adjust.

Break Down Your Costs: Start Making Plans

Now the research begins. Based on your budget, priorities and expected guest list, start looking for vendors that meet your needs.

Keep track of every estimate you get and use this to help refine the rest of the list. Make notes of areas where expenses can be combined, like if a photographer also offers videography or if a reception venue provides all of the décor.

As you itemize your budget, make sure to keep a running balance of your whole budget, including expenses and contributions from other resources, like your parents. And always leave some extra room in the budget for unexpected costs, like cake-cutting fees or other expenses that vary by venue.

Expert Tip

If you plan on having a longer engagement, you can save more money by getting a savings certificate or opening a money market account that can earn more interest on your deposits. Just make sure you let them know when you’ll need to withdraw the money before you open the account so you can avoid paying penalties.

Make It Easier: Look for Opportunities to Save

Anything that can save you money is a positive thing, especially while planning a wedding. Look for ways to cut costs without sacrificing your dreams.

  • Consider off-peak seasons or days other than Saturday
  • If you have any friends or family with wedding-friendly skills (like photography or calligraphy), consider asking them to do your wedding instead of giving a wedding gift
  • Look into ordering and printing your own paper products, like invites, place cards and table numbers
  • See if you can hold the wedding and reception at the same place to cut costs
  • Find vendors that include multiple services, like a venue that includes décor or a DJ that also does lighting

No matter what your budget is, you can create a wedding that meets your needs. The most important thing is to celebrate your love, start your life together and enjoy your dream day.

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