As a Wedding Planner, I have seen so many couples that do not start wedding planning with a budget.  I know…it is not the most exciting thing you want to do after getting engaged. However, the budget is where dreams and reality meet for the first time and force you to prioritize what’s truly important to both of you. There is no “right” amount for a wedding budget; it all depends on you, your family, your priorities and your tastes. What makes this tricky is that there are two of you, two families, two sets of priorities and two sets of tastes and preferences. 

The most important thing to remember through all of this is that your wedding day is only one day, but your lives together are forever. So, when it comes to wedding planning, this is the one area that deserves the highest priority.  If you create a realistic wedding budget, a lot of unnecessary stress can be avoided in the entire wedding planning process and in your marriage to follow.


Things That Will Impact Your Budget the Most


Your guest list.

This adds up!  You budgeted a maximum of 100 guests for your dinner reception.  Then your families start adding additional guests. Before you know it, you’ve added 50 more people…OK  50 more mouths to feed, no big deal, we can arrange for that. But that actually means you now have 50 more chairs, 50 more chargers, 5 more centerpieces, etc. to add to your budget.  It adds up very quickly and makes a huge impact!!


Spending slightly over what you budgeted for…in every category!

If you find the perfect item/vendor for your wedding but it is over your estimated amount, by all means it’s okay to get it and move forward!  BUT, remember to adjust for that amount in another category or two.


Not doing your research.

Make sure to compare styles of vendors, reviews, and prices. If you are equally interested with two very similar vendors, they both have great reviews, but one charges more money,by all means hire the less expensive one.  The point is,do not think that being more expensive automatically=better. Do your research. Book your vendors based on their work, their personality and how you feel about them being part of your day, not solely on price.


Making quick decisions.

Feel free to explore a little.  You need to ask the right questions and read the small print on all contracts and see which options are best and within your budget before making a decision.


Where to Begin


Determine what kind of wedding you both want.

An important first step is talking about your expectations for the wedding with your fiancé(e).  Do you envision a large, formal wedding, or a small, intimate one? Will it be local or destination? How many attendants will make up the wedding party? Talk about what your priorities are before you start budgeting—as all of these decisions will affect your bottom line.


Crunch the numbers.

Sit down with your partner and figure out how much money you are ready, willing, and comfortable spending on your wedding. Are there other people that are going to be contributing financially to your wedding?


Don’t forget the small stuff.

When you create your budget, it is good to have a category set aside for miscellaneous expenses. This will be for the small expenses that you forgot about or never knew you would have. If not accounted for, will cause you to overextend  your budget.


You and your partner should each pick your top three priorities for the wedding day. Having a list of priorities is just a good idea so that you can focus a little more money, or time, or energy, on the things that are most important to the two of you. For example, a groom that really wanted a band and not a DJ, which in turn, was a much higher price.  So they had to adjust in other areas that were less of a priority.


Watch for These Unexpected Expenses


Wedding Day Stationery

Don’t blow your entire stationery budget on your save-the-dates and invitations — you also need to think about programs, escort cards/place cards, menu cards, and any other day-of needs you may encounter.


When choosing your invitations, be sure to weigh it carefully — if it’s more than one ounce, you’re going to need additional postage. Some invitations could set you back $1 or more in postage fees. Keep in mind that extra postage is also required for square invitations, regardless of weight. Also, don’t forget that you also need stamps for your save-the-dates, RSVP cards, and thank-you notes.

Wedding Day Meals

Whether you’re getting ready at home or in a hotel, your bridesmaids and groomsmen will likely be with you every step of the way. Don’t let them starve! Keep it simple with bagels and fruit for breakfast and a platter of sandwiches for lunch.


Unless you’re extremely fortunate, your wedding gown is going to require some alterations, It might mean hemming the gown, taking it in (or letting it out), or structural changes (like adding straps).


Favors can cost anywhere from $3-8 (or more) per person, which can make a sizable dent in your wedding budget depending on the size of your guest list. A few ways to cut costs: Opt for one favor per couple rather than per person; go for a DIY option if you’re feeling crafty, or skip favors altogether — they’re definitely not required, and most guests won’t even notice if you don’t have them.

Vendor Meals

Some of your key vendors will be working for 8+ hours on the wedding day; they’re going to need some fuel to keep going. Vendor meals are usually much cheaper than guest entrees, but depending on the size of your band, number of photographers, videographers and coordinators, you may be looking at a few hundred dollars.



Couples often think they don’t need a videographer because photos will be enough. Then they come to the realization the month of the wedding that they have made a big mistake. Trying to squeeze in a major vendor like videographer without properly budgeting for it can be a cause for concern.

Transportation for Guests

While you’re generally not responsible for how guests get to and from your wedding, it becomes your concern if a guest gets too intoxicated to drive home.

Sales Tax and Service Charges

Check over your contracts carefully to ensure that sales tax is included in the quoted price; otherwise, you may be in for a surprise when you receive your final bills.  Additionally, the “plus plus” can make a huge difference. For example if a caterer quotes you $110 per person ++, that means that you will also need to add service and tax on top of that quote.  Those two tiny plus signs can add as much as 30% on top of the base cost. In this scenario, that miscalculation would equal $5,000 of unexpected catering costs for a 150-person wedding.

In whatever budget you decide on, make sure you and your fiance are clear with each other on what is important and stick to it.  This in turn will help you prepare for your upcoming financial journey together as husband and wife.

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