How do I make a Wedding Budget?
Updated: May 4
I’m the only one on our team that has been married, and even though my dad kept track of the money - I had a budget friendly mindset for our wedding. My photographer (cut us a deal because my best friend used her), my videographers (friends from college that started their own business and cut us a HUGE deal), centerpieces (I just used what was included in my package), coordinator (came with the venue) & our minister was a friend. The only thing we paid in full were the flowers (when you have 22 people in your party it gets expensive), the venue, the DJ (he was cheaper though), alcohol, and all the guests (210 to be exact - 110 over the 100 included in my catering package). Since neither Mal or I are experts when it comes to wedding budgets, we asked some of our former couples, friends, family, & parents to help us guide the budget ship in the right direction to help as many engaged or soon to be engaged couples we can!
Photographer: SPR Photography
Let’s dive into everyone’s least favorite part of planning for the big day - the budget. It’s hard to create one and it feels even harder to stay within one. We sent a questionnaire to 17 different people so, we got examples of 17 different weddings. We know budgets are personal and individual to each couple, so the responses from our questionnaire were different with different priorities behind budgeting. One of our brides said “it would be boring if the weddings were all the same” which further proves that budgets are individualistic. With that said, let’s start by setting expectations...
Establishing Expectations. One thing one of our brides said was “everything costs more than you think” and that is the honest truth. In 2010, the average cost of a wedding was almost $27k and today the average cost stands at $37k! Instagram & Pinterest (our double-edged sword) are hyping up weddings to make everything seem like a necessity! Some of the things that are pinned to our “Flower Inspiration” board are beautiful but cost $8k alone (yikes)! Obviously, if you are engaged right now and reading this, please know that you DO NOT have to spend $37k for a beautiful wedding to celebrate your love. With the right connections and compromises, you can have a stunning wedding from $10k-15k that is perfect for you and your fiancé! You might realize and you begin your research that won’t be able to get EVERYTHING you want and that’s okay!
Setting the budget. Everyone’s budget is different - I know that feels like an obvious thing to say but it’s true. That doesn’t mean one couple’s wedding is any better than another! Whether you and your fiancé have to put money aside, your parents are taking care of the bill, or maybe a mixture of the two - creating the budget is hard. To start, sit down and have a conversation with your parents. See how much they can and are willing to contribute, and following that conversation talk to your fiancé about adding more if need be. We know conversations like these can sometimes be awkward and uncomfortable, but it is so important since it lays a foundation to your big day!
When you are thinking through and creating a budget, you should take into account when you want to tie the knot & how many people you want there. If you are wanting to get married in 6 months time, your wedding may not be as elaborate as if you had waited 12 to 15 months. The more people you add to that guest list the higher your food & alcohol (if you decide to serve it)costs will be. These aspects can be some of the hardest parts of planning the budget because you might have your mind set on a specific time of year you want to get married or you don’t want to hurt people’s feelings when they don’t get an invitation to your day.
Keeping Track. I know the way my dad did it but I wanted to know how everyone else kept track of their budget and we got so many different answers! A majority said they kept track of their budget through an excel spreadsheet - this isn’t surprising considering the math is automatically calculated and each expense is clearly broken down for you. We expected answers such as TheKnot or WeddingWire because if it ain’t broke don’t fix it - both sites have some great tools. Surprisingly though, we had quite a few say they did it manually! There is Something about a binder with stacks of paper outlining all that has been spent which really made it feel more real to some of our brides!
Prioritize the budget. How did you prioritize your budget? This question came with a lot of different answers - but hopefully the variety of answers help a wide range of future brides. The most practical answer we received was to knock out the big stuff - venue & caterer. These two alone take up approximately 40% of your budget so even though it’s a huge chunk right off the bat, you would rather have the two biggest things checked off the list than worrying about them later. We suggest prioritizing the venue and putting that as the very first thing on your to-do list, you can’t move forward booking anything else until you have your day set in stone!
Another helpful answer we received was to book whatever is most important to you and your fiancé. I know all I wanted was all my guests to be on the dance floor & for it to stay full all night long! I interviewed many DJ’s before I found one within my budget that understood what I wanted (no slow songs). Maybe the photos are what you and your fiancé are looking forward to most - if that is the case move is up on the to-do list! Maybe the last thing on this earth you want is traditional “wedding food”, and you want to book something like a food truck. The prioritization of working through your budget and solidifying vendors should match you and your fiancé’s needs - it is a day about the two of you anyways! Book who you think will help you paint the overall picture you envision and who understand you fully as you work together.
Photographer: Katie Martin Photography
Cut Corners & Compromises. I said it at the beginning - you won’t be able to have everything and that’s okay. This leaves us to question - what should you cut or compromise on in order to still get exactly what you want? Here are just some small things you and your fiancé can compromise or cut out completely in order to stay within budget:
Cheaper Venue or Non-Saturday - It might not be extravagant as Instagram & Pinterest say you should have, but all venues are beautiful. One thing you might consider is having a Friday or Sunday wedding at a venue that might be expensive on a Saturday! It does cut costs a lot! “Off Seasons” and holiday weekends tend to be discounted too.
RSVP Online - Believe it or not, not sending out stamps on a return envelope will save you hundreds of dollars! And that money can be put towards something you really want!
Flowers - They are beautiful but they die so fast! Some brides can’t fathom spending $4k on flowers and others can’t believe this would be a corner to cut. One thing we recommend is to stay with flowers that are in season! If you don’t know what is in season, don’t hesitate to ask a florist! Another way to cut costs is to order flowers from Costco or Sam's Club and putting everything together yourself (with the help of your bridesmaids of course) could save hundreds.
Publix Cake or no Groom’s Cake - Let’s face it, Publix is the greatest, they make beautiful cakes that taste amazing, & they are cheap! Did I mention they deliver too? We have seen couples who do a large traditional looking Publix cake and we have seen couples who get a small cake and serve Publix sheet cake to their guests. Also, unless your husband is dying to have a cake at the wedding, it isn’t needed. Your wedding cake will feed enough people and one of our brides said “I mean, who needs that much cake at one event anyway?”
Alcohol - If you feel like you want it & can afford it, Beer & Wine weddings are just as fun as Full Bar weddings. If you have a venue where you can bring in your own alcohol, places like Costco, Sam's Club, Trader Joe's, & Total Wine are great places to get alcohol in bulk for very cheap. If you don't care about alcohol, your wedding will be equally as fun as weddings with alcohol. Don't let an industry and society standard tell you that you have to have something you don't want on your wedding day!
Plasticware - No one cares if they are eating off of a china plate you rented for $1.50 or if they are eating off a throw away plate you got for $0.30. It isn’t going to make or break your wedding's aesthetic at all and no one is going to remember what they ate off of - just how good the food was!
Signs - Custom signs are great if you can hang them in your house as decor when you are done with the wedding. If you are cutting costs, Amazon sells signs for cheap or you can DIY them!
How to enjoy it. It is hard to think about spending all the money you’ve been saving or are willing to put aside on one day. But one of our former brides (our first Marmaros bride actually) said, “I never wanted to feel like I was wasting it on silly, unimportant things”. I can look at her words in two ways: 1) Don’t just buy things because you are getting married and it says ‘bride’ on
it. Sure, these things are cute, but don’t blow your budget on things that
2) You are getting married and spending money on the first day of your lives
together - if it is important to you and your boo it isn’t silly! Don’t feel
buyers remorse! Keep your eye on the prize - marriage.
Photographer: Joseph Marshal Wood