How to plan your wedding budget
You just got engaged? Congratulations!!! Welcome to one of the most exciting times of your lives and the start of a new journey for you and your fiancé! Engagement photos, bridal showers, dress shopping, bachelorette parties, planning your dream wedding and your dream honeymoon…so many memories that you will cherish forever!
Just to clarify, I’m not a wedding planner. I’m a wedding and engagement photographer with a goal to help newly engaged couples by providing wedding tips and advice from my own past experiences as a bride and from experiences as a wedding photographer.
In this post I’ll share why creating a wedding budget is important, how to actually create a wedding budget, which things are worth splurging vs. saving, and a few tips to help you get the most for your money.
Why do I need a wedding budget?
- Being prepared is key – I’m assuming that if you’re reading this post you have a desire or a need to keep your wedding within a certain price range. If that’s the case you’ve already mastered the first step…acknowledge the need for a budget. It’s very easy to let your emotions take over when you’re planning your wedding and to write off certain purchases as “essential” because of it.
- When you have a budget it is easier to move money from one category to another. So when you spend a little extra money towards your perfect wedding dress or towards the perfect wedding and engagement photographer, you know exactly where you can make up the difference.
- Debt can last a very long time – Thankfully, our families were able to help pay for some of our wedding, but we did spend extra out of our own pockets on our wedding photographer because having a high quality professional wedding photographer was one of the most important parts of our wedding to me.
Your wedding is one of the most incredible days of your life and of course you want it to be perfect! Who doesn’t?! But you also want your new life to be perfect, and not full of debt. It is easy to think that you will make those credit card balances a priority after you get married, but down-payments, kids, and many other adult priorities will likely need to come first.
Steps to create your wedding budget:
- Step 1 – Come up with a number. Look at your bank account and see exactly how much you have in savings. Then come up with a total amount that you cannot go over. Figure out how much others plan to contribute. You’ll probably need to ask them directly ask them, which is always awkward. Most likely if it’s your parents or future in-laws who will be contributing, they will have had a calculated wedding cost in their heads from the cost of their own wedding way back in the day. When I told my parents the average amount spent on a wedding in the twenty first century was around $30,000, my parents and future in-laws thought I was insane. But none the less, it’s the reality of it.
- Step 2 – Look at the prices in your area for big-ticket purchases. Wedding photographers, venues, DJ’s, caterers, etc. If you have your heart set on a certain wedding and engagement photographer or a certain wedding venue, make sure you know exactly how much it will cost you. If you know which photographers you want already, contact them for pricing. You need as much information on costs up front. (Psst! I’d love to chat, contact me HERE!!!)
- Step 3 – Make a list of everything that you will need to plan your wedding. Even the littlest details. Everything adds up and will have an affect on your budget. Creating this list will help you keep track of costs. You can make a binder, spreadsheet, chart, or poster too. Whatever will help you keep a running total of all of your expenses.
- Step 4 – Make some decisions. Now that you’ve listed every potential cost and you know your total budget, start putting numbers in each category. Knowing what percentage most people spend on a particular category was very helpful for me, since this was my first time planning a wedding.
- Step 5 – Start doing the math. Add up all the categories and see if you’re even close to your budget. If you are, great! Now add 10% to each category. EVERYTHING costs more than you expect. I know from experience how important this is. You may think that you know exactly how much a certain category will cost you, but trust me, it will be more. Unexpected expenses will come up, despite your best efforts to think of everything.
If you’re way over budget already I’d suggest sitting down with your fiancé and re-evaluating what kind of wedding you want vs. what you can afford. Don’t try to increase your budget, that will only get you stressing about every single purchase. Not worth it. Instead take a good hard look at the areas of your wedding that are post important to you and what areas aren’t as important. Adjust it accordingly. For me, having a high quality professional wedding and engagement photographer who’s work I LOVED, was the most important thing to me, so I adjusted the other areas of my budget to work around that.
Splurging vs Saving For Your Wedding Budget
- The venue: Splurge a little. My dream venue I had gotten married in Southern California instead of Minnesota I would have chosen the beautiful outdoor venue, Circle Oaks Ranch in Fallbrook, CA! The beautiful country setting, the acres of grassland, the beautiful grove of trees, and the great patio area with rustic tables and twinkly lights overhead. It’s beautiful and absolutely perfect!
Check out this blog post I wrote with Tips on How to Choose the Perfect Wedding Venue!
- The photographer: Splurge. So I know that everyone says this and I know I’m a wedding photographer myself, but we say it because it’s true. Don’t skimp on your photographer. Don’t hire a cheap amateur photographer or have a family member or a friend photograph your wedding day! Don’t cut the number of shooting hours down and end up missing part of the day either.
The one thing you’ll have after your wedding day is over is your photographs. Not the food, not the music, not the decor, not the flowers. Your wedding photos are EXTREMELY important to have!!! Even for you non photo loving couples out there!
Figure out what style of wedding or elopement photography you love, research the photographers in your area to find a handful that you’d love to work with, meet with them to get to know them, and then choose the photographer that will work best for you from there. (Psst! I’d love to chat about your wedding photography!!! Contact me HERE!!!)
- The food: Save. This is a tough one, mostly because the importance of food varies from couple to couple. David and I love to eat, but we’re not really foodies. We wanted the food to taste good, and fit the overall theme of the day. It was important to us to be able to provide a great tasting meal to all of our guests but we didn’t want to spend half of our wedding budget on it. So we opted for something more simple.
- The drinks: Save. If you have the option of choosing a venue that allows you to bring your own alcohol, do it. We didn’t have that option at our wedding venue, so instead we set a time limit on the open bar for our guests to drink mixed drinks or hard alcohol and purchased kegs of beer through the venue that were unlimited drinks to the guests until the kegs ran out. We still had some beer left over and the guests still had a great experience!
- The decor: Save, save, save. Do not spend a ton of money on decor that you will never use again. If you think you’ll be able to sell it all and get your money back, I hate to break it to you, but you won’t. I tried to sell our wedding decor after our wedding and we maybe got $100 back. Each couple has their own unique vision for their decor so your decor more than likely won’t match that vision. So buy used when you can, borrow from others, or rent what you can.
- The dress: Splurge, within reason. When I bought my dress I loved it. I loved how I looked in it and how it made me feel. You want a dress that you’re going to absolutely LOVE wearing on your wedding day and one that makes you feel drop dead gorgeous, but I wouldn’t advice spending $5,000 on a dress unless you HAVE the budget for it!
- The entertainment: Save. I would’ve loved to have a live band, and that would’ve been a splurge. But we saved by hiring a DJ. Let’s be honest, no one expects to see Keith Urban or Taylor Swift perform at your wedding. What they do expect is to be entertained with music that they know, and dance to songs that they love. But also keep in mind that you want to find the right DJ that plays the popular music everyone loves and keeps the guests entertained. Not someone who uses Pandora or plays only oldies. (Unless that’s what you’re into.)
A Few Money-Saving Tips For Your Wedding Budget
- Look into hiring students. You might be able to find your ceremony musicians this way.
- Hire a day-of coordinator at least if you’re not able to budget for a full wedding and event planner. One of the things I regret is not hiring at least a day-of wedding coordinator. I cannot tell you how much I wished that we had someone available for logistics and day-of emergencies. Your wedding will fly by, don’t waste any time worrying about logistics.
- Decide what is better to rent vs buy. Silverware, sequin tablecloths and drapery all cost us less to buy.
- DIY what you can.
- Borrow, borrow, borrow. Ask your friends and family if they have any of the things you need for your wedding day! Chances are some of them do! This will REALLY help save you on your budget and you won’t have to worry about what to do with them after the wedding.
- Buy things used. Chances are, it has only been used once. Websites like Recycle Your Wedding are awesome or you can join your local Facebook wedding exchange resale pages.
I hope that you feel inspired about planning your wedding on a budget. We were able to have the wedding of our dreams by following the advice listed above, and you can too. By getting the whole budget situation figured out now, you’ll give yourself the ability to not stress about not knowing if you’re going over budget and just enjoy the rest of the process. So soak it all in, it’s an amazing time in your life!
What worries you most about creating a wedding budget? What money-saving tips can you share from your big day? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!
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