How to Set your Wedding Budget

We imagine if you’ve just begun planning your wedding, you are probably asking yourself “how much should I be budgeting?” For most couples at the beginning of the planning process, this is a huge hurdle! With so many moving parts and so many options available, this is an important, yet fairly complicated question to answer. We suggest you follow these simple steps to get the conversation started.

Step one - Wedding Vibe

Photo Credit Alice Ahn Photography

Photo Credit Alice Ahn Photography

Sit down with your fiance and select 3-5 words that encompass the vibe you are envisioning for your celebration. Here are some of our favorite wedding “vibe” descriptors:

adventurous modern romantic

authentic simple full of laughter

boozy decadent lavish

intimate non-traditional sophisticated

chic unique glamorous

elegant dance party full of love

Now that you have these squared away, it is important evaluate if your vibe is something you would typically equate with a budget, moderate or high end wedding. If you are going for a casual, rustic, family oriented wedding, then a small wedding budget isn’t out of the question. However, if you describe your wedding vibe as sophisticated, glamorous, and chic, then a moderate to higher end wedding budget is more realistic. Basically, it comes down to cannot have a champagne wedding on a beer budget. Being self aware on these aspects from the beginning will help you manage your expectations.

Step two - Determine your Priorities

First, we recommend you list out the parts of your wedding that are the most important to you. Second, list the items that you are willing to compromise on, but know you will need. Lastly, list out anything you don’t plan to incorporate into your wedding OR you don’t plan to include as part of your wedding budget.

For our clients, we typically include the venue, caterer, photographer, videographer, officiant, stylist, entertainment, bride and groom attire, wedding party attire, invitations, rentals, flowers, cake, graphic design, misc decor and wedding planner. Things like travel, accommodations, wedding rings, pre and post wedding events and honeymoon we typically do not include in the average wedding budget.

Step three - Guest List

Photo Credit June Photography

Photo Credit June Photography

Next up is putting together your guest list. The number one thing that affects a wedding budget is your guest count. Some of the largest expenses come from food, drinks and rentals, all of which are important and directly affected by the guest count.

If you are planning a destination wedding there is a higher likelihood that some guests will not be able to make it. Of course it depends on your invitees relationship with you and their financial position, but our guesstimate is usually about 20% RSVP no. Hometown weddings will likely have a higher turn out because the cost for each guest to get to the wedding are much lower.

Step four - Money Talk

The next step is to have an honest conversation with your fiance and your families about who is willing to contribute to the wedding budget. Aside from getting a sense of the total pool, you will want to know when everyone is able to contribute. Most venues and vendors will require a 50% deposit at the time of booking. The remaining balances are typically due the month before. Understanding this and planning accordingly is important.

It’s always a good idea to start a separate checking account for wedding related expenses so you can easily keep track of contributions and expenses. Using a credit card that has cash rewards is also a good idea if your vendors don’t charge extra for credit card payments.

Step five - Talk to a Professional!

Photo credit Chelsea Abril

Photo credit Chelsea Abril

Most wedding planners won’t give you a full wedding budget breakdown for free, but majority of them will be able to inform you on their average wedding budget/ guest count. When you interview a handful of wedding planners in your wedding destination, you will be able to get a sense of what the average cost is for the wedding industry in that area.

Another option, if you feel you need a lot more information before committing to a location, is to see if an established wedding planner in your wedding location offers consulting sessions. Hiring a professional for 1-2 hours to help you create a custom wedding budget that reflects your vibe, priorities and guest count, will help you get off to a strong start!

As is the case with most large projects, getting started is often the hardest part. With these five simple steps, we hope to help you get moving in the right direction and set a realistic budget that works well for you!

AdviceLouise Moriarty