How to Budget for Your Wedding

Weddings can be expensive – making the prospect of planning one daunting

In the United States, couples spend between $19K and $33K on their wedding – on average $26,444 – while most couples spend less than $10,000 and some spend more than even seems possible. Budgeting for your dream wedding is possible, despite any initial sticker shock you’re likely to experience. However, it is a good idea to due some exploratory work prior to deciding on a budget so when it comes down to how much you can spend your vision does not exceed your wallet. Consider the following recommendations to help create a workable budget for your wedding.

Where to start?

Before you overwhelm yourselves with dollar signs it is a good idea to do your due diligence; it’s important to know what you both want and what that means in the context of what is available. Is your vision similar to your partner’s? What compromises might you need to make? Are there options in your area that provide what you’re looking for?

Discuss your vision

Let’s be honest – some of us have been thinking about the details of our wedding since we were young kids, others haven’t given it more than a passing thought. Either way, it is important to know what each other’s vision is, and to discuss them, compromising if necessary to devise a wedding vision that makes you both happy.

Do your research

With a clear vision of what you both want you can more effectively research venues and vendors, and present a united front when meeting with them. Come up with a vendor list that meets your criteria and schedule tours and tastings. While interviewing potential vendors ask probing questions to get the best idea possible of what your wedding would look like working with them. No question is a silly or dumb question – gathering as much information as you can to form a clear idea of what they offer will help you later when trying to decide who to move forward with.

Compare apples to apples

Once you’re done touring and tasting go through all of the service and pricing information you received and take the time to put it together into a comprehensive format that makes sense to you. Whether that is a spreadsheet or a handwritten table it is very helpful to have all of the information in one place so you can compare all of it at a glance. Set it up item by item so that you’re comparing apples to apples. For example, if one venue offers a per-person package and another offers the space plus an la carte option, add up the space/a la carte option to arrive at a per-person price that includes the same services as the package to see how it compares. Often venues that offer a per-person package will bundle discounted services together making it a more affordable option; it’s worth it to delve into pricing, not taking anything at face value to make sure you are getting the most for each dollar.

Along those lines – be sure to ask each vendor if service charges and tax are already included in their pricing or if it will be added on later. Those additional costs can be between 20% and 30%, seriously increasing your total cost and causing quite a shock when you realize you need to add a lot more money to your budget.

Discuss your vision again

Armed with your newfound knowledge of wedding vendors and supported by spreadsheets and brochures, discuss your vision with your partner again. Your idea of a perfect wedding very well could have changed with the process of learning what holding a wedding entails. Maybe those must-have special touches don’t seem so important anymore after learning how much they cost. Maybe after touring venues you prefer a mountain venue rather than urban one, having previously been set on a downtown venue. Overall, this is a good opportunity to make sure your visions still align.

Consider concessions

You’ve agreed on the what, where, when and how, but the final number is causing you to second guess everything you’ve worked so hard to decide on. Many vendors have a pricing structure meant to address different budgets. If the final number is scary but you’re in love with your venue, ask them if their pricing varies at all. Many have different pricing that depends on whether you marry in-season or in the off-season, and the day of the week. If your dream wedding occurs on a Saturday, but your newfound dream venue is too expensive on a Saturday, consider a Friday or Sunday wedding, or even marrying during the week. There are pros and cons to moving your wedding to a day other than a Saturday – make a list of them to help you visualize the implications. You’ll be surprised – often after going through this exercise it doesn’t seem like as big of a deal to move the date if you get your dream venue. Read more about planning a Sunday wedding to help you start your pros/cons list.

It’s budget time!

Agree how to save

Now that you have a final number build a detailed budget and agree on how you will save for it. Not sure how to build a detailed budget, or does the idea give you hives? Use this online budget calculator. Make sure you are clear on your vendor’s payment policies and work those requirements into your plan. Some vendors require a deposit up front then a lump sum payment closer to your wedding date, some require installments, knowing this information up front will help you devise a plan. Chat with your partner about how he or she is comfortable saving the money. If your ideas of saving are different it could be a source of tension once you’re trying to save; it’s best to know ahead of time so that you can work out any differences in ideology so that you’re on the same page and can meet your goals with the least amount of stress possible.

Make sacrifices if necessary

If it is going to be hard to save then consider making small, temporary sacrifices until after the wedding. Make a list of all of the disposable income purchases you each make, noting how much each is worth, then add it up to see how much money you would have if you gave them up until after the wedding. We all love specialty coffee and happy hour drinks, but man can they add up fast! If your average coffee is $3.50 and your average cocktail is $8, and you are buying a coffee every weekday morning and two drinks every Friday, that adds up to close to $34 dollars a week. Doesn’t sound like much until you consider you’re spending that much every week: if there is a year until your wedding date that is $1,768 you could have to spend on your dream wedding. If you both make similar sacrifices you could have $3,536. Hello dream wedding!


Regarding knowing your vendor’s payment policies, if they don’t work for you, don’t be afraid to ask if they’re willing to work with you. Most venues have a policy but are willing to work with couples if they ask. Before you ask them be sure to clearly work out what terms would work for you so that you have something to propose when you speak with them. That way they have a concrete idea of what your needs and abilities are; it will make it easier for them to consider the proposal and will be more well received.

Use online tools

No matter which way you look at budgeting, there are a lot of variables to consider and keep track of. There are a multitude of tools on the web that aim to help you with just that. Take a look at this wedding cost estimator that takes you through a detailed list of typical wedding services and purchases and then gives you an estimated costs complete with a graph of cost broken out by category. If you’re more the pencil and paper type, check out this PDF worksheet you can print out and fill in. The Knot and Wedding Wire have budget calculators as well.

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