Once you are engaged, it is really exciting to start planning your dream wedding. But, unless you are among the 1%, you need a budget. You may think that making a budget and sticking to your budget will take all the magic out of your special day, but it is essential to keep you sane while making the countless decisions that go into a wedding. The best part is that you can avoid starting your married life in debt. Our Wedding Budget Form will keep you on track. It is customizable and you can use it on your phone or computer or print it out for your wedding binder.
Who is Contributing?
In the past, the bride’s family always paid for their daughter’s wedding. But we live in modern times. Most modern couples have their own careers, home and already live with each other before taking the plunge into married life. So the question of who is contributing is an important discussion to have with your family and your significant other.
Talk to your fiancé. Really look at your financial situation and do not spend more than you can afford. If you do not have any money set aside for your wedding, start saving as soon as you’re engaged or even before. On average, the cost for a 150-person wedding is about $27,000. Put aside whatever amount you are comfortable with – 10% – 15% of your paycheck would really add up over a year.
If your parents do offer to pitch in, you need to know how much and/or what for. Maybe they are giving a specific dollar amount or maybe they want to buy your gown or pay for the reception.
There are no set rules as to who pays for what in wedding and you, your fiancé and your families should do what makes sense for your situation. However, for reference here is a breakdown of how the expenses are traditionally split:
Bride and family:
- Church and/or venue space
- Marriage license
- Officiant’s fee
- Bride’s dress, veil, and accessories
- The groom’s ring
- Invitations, announcements and wedding programs
- All professional services, including food and decorations for reception
- Arrangements for the ceremony and reception
- Bouquets and corsages for bridesmaids and flower girls
- Photos and video
Groom and family:
- Groom’s outfit
- Bride’s bouquet
- Bride’s ring
- Boutonnieres for men and corsages for mothers and grandmothers
- The reception’s DJ or band and liquor
- The rehearsal and/or groom’s dinner
Either bride or groom’s family:
- Plans and hosts the engagement party
- Maid of honor and bridesmaids
- Host the bridal shower and bachelorette/hen party
- Best man and groomsmen
- Host the bachelor party
- All attendants
- Pay for their own clothing and shoes
Ways to Maximize Your Budget
Once you know how much you have available to spend, start hashing out your priorities with your fiancé. Do you have to have a certain venue, DJ or a videographer?
Put together a list of everyone that you would like to invite and then narrow it down. It is not unusual to spend about $100 per guest for food, drinks, desserts, and favors. Don’t be afraid to not invite your parents’ friends that you don’t even know if you don’t want to. It is perfectly acceptable to only allow someone to bring a guest to your wedding if they are married to that person or in a long-term relationship.
You can save a significant amount of money if your wedding is in an off-peak season (November-April) and not on a Saturday. If you can hold your ceremony and reception at the same location, you can save money on flowers and décor. You can also save money on your vendors because they will not have to charge you for travel from one place to another.
Flowers can get expensive. Try to use flowers that are in season. You can also try using more greenery than flowers. Use the same arrangements for your ceremony and reception. You can also try silk flowers. Silk flowers go on sale several times a year at your favorite craft store. Paper flowers are also a fun alternative. Bonus – silk and paper flowers last forever.
There are endless options for wedding gowns. You should start by finding the style that works for you. Watch for sales or re-sales. If you live near New York or Los Angeles, visit the garment district. Look online for affordable choices in your favorite style. You can even rent a gown.
Stationary and Favors
There is no rule that says you have to have handwritten invitations with a detail card and an RSVP card. With your computer, you can print your own beautiful, professional looking invitations. Make your RSVP card into a postcard. You can save money on extra envelopes and postage. You can also try digital invitations and have people RSVP electronically.
Favors do not have to be fancy. You can easily make your own candy jar or cookies or bubbles without spending very much money.
Photography and Video
Do your research and ask for references. Photography can be very expensive, but you will want professional photos and videos.
If you prefer a DJ, make sure they have your list of music available so you are not paying to listen to music you hate. Live music is more expensive, but maybe you can try a stringed trio instead of a full band.
There are several ways to save on food. If your wedding is in the late afternoon, you can pass hors d’oeuvres around in place of a full meal. If you want to serve a full meal, try a buffet or a fancy pasta bar.
You can save money on alcohol by limiting the selection to wine and beer instead of a full bar. If your guests are big drinkers, a flat rate will save you money. If they are not, you can pay a la carte. Some venues will allow you bring your own wine. Just make sure they do not charge a decanting fee.
If you choose to have a cake, you can choose a smaller decorative cake for display and serve your guests sheet cake. You can also try cupcakes or donuts. Try not to overdo the decorations. Sometimes less has a bigger impact.
Ask for Discounts
It never hurts to ask your vendors (nicely) for a seasonal discount or a discount for an honest review.
Stick to Your Budget!
Your budget is not written in stone, but do your best to stay within it. You can save some money in one category so you can spend more in another. Keep your budget worksheet with you so you are aware of your expenses. The easiest way to go over budget is to not check your budget.