Oh, the dreaded wedding budget. Unless you’re one of those rare couples who enjoy putting together budgets (and even then), making a budget for your wedding is often the most stressful part of the whole affair. We all wish we could plan our big day without worrying about the financial side, but alas, we cannot. And we shouldn’t. Creating a budget (and sticking with it) will make wedding planning less stressful in the long run. Plus, it can build a stronger foundation for you and your partner when it comes to navigating finances in your future. Whether you don’t know how to begin or are looking for budgeting tips, here is how to create a wedding budget.
Step 1: Who’s contributing?
First, you want to figure out who is all contributing financially. Maybe it’s just you and your future spouse. Maybe it’s your parents. Or maybe you have a grandparent who’s adamant about helping pay. Whoever it is, make sure you know who is able and willing to contribute. This will provide you with a good base understanding of what you might be able to afford.
Step 2: What can everyone comfortably contribute?
Once you know who is contributing, you’ll want to also figure out how much everyone can reasonably and comfortably afford to contribute. Yes, there might be some awkward conversations involved. But it is necessary. Once you figure out what everyone can contribute, you can start actually putting together your *realistic* budget.
Tip: Learning to talk about finances is a good thing, and it doesn’t have to be tense or awkward! Make a fun time out of it! Plan a time to go out to your favorite restaurant or have a fun brunch at home. Yes, you’ll need to talk about the specifics of what people can contribute, but focus on enjoying time spent together and celebrating the upcoming marriage. Creating a relaxing environment makes these types of talks less stressful.
Step 3: How much can you save each month?
You don’t have to have all the funds for your wedding upfront. You and your future spouse should sit down and look at your monthly income and expenses and figure out how much you can realistically save each month. Whatever you’re able to save can go toward big-ticket items like the venue or catering, or you can view it as an extra bonus to use on smaller things like attire or an open bar.
Step 4: Research costs & make budget breakdowns
Once you have a good idea of the total you can afford to spend on your wedding, you’ll want to research wedding costs and break down your budget accordingly. The Knot has a helpful article explaining how you might break down your budget into categories like venue, catering, photographers, and more.
Tip: Allot between 5-15 percent of your total budget for things you'll likely forget (invitation postage, transportation fees) or won't anticipate in advance (a rain plan or cake cutting fee).
Step 5: Put together a guest list
The cost of your wedding is almost completely based on guest count, so it’s important to get a general idea of who you want to invite early on. The Spruce recommends allotting at least $100 per guest for your wedding, $50 of which goes to the venue and catering, and $50 that goes to all other expenses. This will help you figure out how much money you really need and how many guests you can actually afford to invite. This step also helps you figure out if you can allow plus ones or not.
Step 6: Make adjustments based on guest list
Once you know your guest list, you’ll want to make adjustments to step 4. This could be the hardest part if it means you have to cut back on certain areas. Maybe you’ve dreamed of doing a destination wedding but realize you’re better off paying for a more local venue. Or maybe this means you need to cut your guest list down. Please be realistic with what you can and cannot afford. This will save you so much stress and potential pain if you’re honest with what you can afford. You can still have the most beautiful, magical wedding no matter what your budget. And remember, at the end of the day, it’s about getting married to your partner more than it is about a wedding. If you go in with a positive attitude, you're more likely to enjoy your wedding no matter what.
Step 7: Decide non-negotiables
You and your fiancé should discuss non-negotiable items. Knowing what one thing each of you must have for your wedding will help you make adjustments to your budget and also understand each other a bit more throughout the entire wedding planning process. This will look different for each couple. Maybe one of you must have an open bar. Maybe it’s wedding attire. Or maybe it’s a specific photographer. Figure out these items and make adjustments to your budget accordingly. This will also help you figure out what items you’re okay with cutting or scaling back on.
Step 8: Crunch the numbers
Now that you’ve done your research, put together a general guest list, and have decided on non-negotiables, it’s time to do the math. Based on what you can afford, put a dollar amount by each category. This will help you know what you can actually afford when it comes to your venue, your dress, etc. Again, this will help you plan a realistic wedding without going into debt.
Tip: Use your credit cards responsibly. Don’t charge your card if you can’t pay the amount off in 30 days. Your wedding should be fun, but you should not go into debt because of it.
Step 9: Use it!
You’ve gone to all this trouble to create a wedding budget, and the worst thing you can do now is ignore it. Remember to keep track of receipts, record your expenses, and make any necessary adjustments as you go. Doing the grunt work in the beginning will make the rest of planning easier – trust us!
We hope this helps you budget for your wedding! These steps will help alleviate wedding stress from the start and can help build a strong foundation for your marriage.
Visit our wedding planning tips page for other helpful tips and advice!