Establishing a wedding budget is the most important step in the wedding planning process. Your budget guides every decision you make and helps you determine when you can spend more and when you need to cut back. As a rule of thumb taking care of your guests (think the venue, food and drinks) is about 40%. The rest is split between things like photography, transportation, entertainment, and stationery.
But since this is your first wedding, knowing what a realistic budget is for the location of your wedding can be challenging. Wedding costs vary depending on where you are. When you’re setting your budget, you want to be sure you’ve allocated your funds correctly.
Wedding Budget Basics
Use this outline to give you an idea of how the average wedding budget breaks down by vendor category. Remember this is an average and can change depending on your wedding day priorities.
Venue and Catering: 40%
Photography and Videography: 10%
Music and Entertainment: 10%
Wedding Attire and Beauty: 5%
Favors and Gifts: 2%
How to Budget Your Wedding Tips
Once you determine your total budget, it’s time to start crunching the numbers. Here are five wedding budget tips to help you create the best wedding budget for your wedding day.
01. Nail down the basic details.
In order to determine a budget that’s going to work for your wedding day, it’s important to nail down the basic details. Here are a few factors for you to consider.
Guest count: Figure out how many guests you want to invite.
Time of year: Whether it’s in season or off season, plays a role in vendors charge. If having your wedding at a certain venue is important, choose to host it in off season. There’s likely to be more availability and it will be more cost effective.
Time of day: Determine when you want to have your wedding. Saturday evenings are one of the most expensive times. If you’re concerned about venue costs, think about hosting a brunch wedding. They’re usually less expensive and there are so many fun things you can at a brunch wedding.
Style: Do you want something ornate and over the top? Or would you prefer something more simple and understated?
Location: Decide whether you’ll be hosting your wedding at a local venue or doing a destination wedding. If it’s a destination wedding, think about if you want to host multiple events throughout the weekend.
Tip: Destination weddings aren’t always more expensive. Make a list of potential locations for where you might want to get married and research the average cost of a wedding there. You might be surprised to learn it’s more cost effective to do a destination wedding than doing it locally.
02. Determine who’s paying for what.
Traditionally, the bride’s family pays for everything, but the rehearsal dinner. The groom’s parents typically pay for the rehearsal dinner. Couples are also deciding to contribute to their wedding. Talking about money isn’t the most fun, you want to be crystal clear about who’s paying for what.
Have a conversation with each person contributing about the amount and what they’re paying for. It may be awkward, but you don’t make assumptions about your wedding finances. This way you can make sure everyone is clear about what they’re paying for.
Knowing what others’ are contributing helps you know what you need to budget. You don’t want to budget for food if your parents are paying it. You want to know you can use that money for something else.
03. Put it down on paper.
Having your budget written down keeps you accountable. Going through the process of tracking and recording all the transactions allows you to see where your money is going. It’s easy to tell how much you’ve spent and how much you have left. Seeing in on paper keeps those spontaneous in check. When you seeing your close to being over budget, you may think twice about buying that inflatable swan float.
04. Determine your top two priorities.
Figure out the what’s most important to you as a couple. Is it having your wedding photographer (the you’ve been following for years) shoot your wedding? Or is it having a five-course dinner served by your favorite chef? Set aside enough money in those categories so you can splurge on working with top of the line vendors. For everything else, be willing to select wedding vendors that are more cost effective.
It’s easy to get distracted with things people tell you are important, but don’t be afraid to say no. Focus on what’s matters most to you and your groom. If you want a live band instead and don’t want ceremony programs, that’s okay! The only thing you have to do on your wedding day is say “I do.” Everything else is up to you!
05. Make a category for miscellaneous expenses.
One big mistake I see couples making with their wedding budget is not including a category for miscellaneous expenses. When you’re budgeting for stationery, chances are you didn’t add in money to buy the stamps you need. A miscellaneous category covers all those types of “little” expenses you don’t think about (or know about!) at the beginning. The miscellaneous category includes things like:
Vendor Gratuities and Tips
Before you give your vendors a gratuity or tip, you want to make sure it isn’t already included. Tips go to service staff like your hair and makeup artist and ceremony musicians. According to standard tipping protocol, here’s a guideline for how much to tip vendors.
Bartenders: $200 – $400 each
Ceremony musicians: 10% of total invoice to split
Driver: 15 – 20%
Hair Stylist/Makeup Artist: 15 – 20%
Officiant: $100 or donation to their place of worship
Valet Attendant: $1 – $5 per guest
Waitstaff: 15 – 20%
You don’t tip business owners, like your calligrapher or your florist.
Wedding Budget Tips
No matter what size wedding budget you have, you can have the wedding you’ve been dreaming about. Here are my top three wedding budget tips to help you make the most of your budget.
Tip #1: Get creative with your transportation
Instead of renting a limo, borrow a car from a family member or friend. A classic car, a sports car or even a Vespa is a fun alternative. They’ll love showing off their car and it adds a classic, sophisticated vibe to your wedding. It’s can also be a unique way to incorporate the “something borrowed” tradition into your wedding day.
Tip #2: Serve a signature drink
The bar is a one of the main costs in your wedding budget. An easy way to free up some of your budget is to have a beer and wine only bar and serve a signature cocktail. This gives guests plenty of options, but reduces your costs. Plus, a signature cocktail adds a fun, more personal.
Tip #3: Be open to new types of flowers
Many brides want flowers like peonies or hydrangeas in their arrangements. But because they’re a larger flower and have a short growing season, they’re some of the most expensive flowers. Get the most out of your floral budget but capitalizing on your florist’s expertise. Show them the look your going for and let them suggest similar blooms. There’s a good likelihood you create the same look by using two or three smaller blooms.
Importance of a Wedding Budget
Taking the time to set your wedding budget at the beginning makes the planning process easier, less stressful, and more fun! Knowing how much you have to spend means its easier to make decisions. You can be confident about when you can splurge and when you need to save.