A wedding can be many couples’ first major joint expense — paying dues before the “I do’s” so to speak. It may also be their first time creating and managing a large budget together.
To help set you up for marital, monetarily stable bliss, here are some tips for setting and maintaining a budget for your big day.
Establish a budget
When it comes to setting a wedding budget, it’s important that you and your partner discuss certain details before reaching a final target number. On average, couples underestimate their wedding ceremony and reception expenses by nearly 45%1, so it’s important that you and your spouse-to-be are on the same page.
Here are some questions to help start the conversation:
- Who’s paying for the wedding? If you’re not paying for it from your own savings, speak to your families about who will be covering what costs.
- What size and type of wedding can we afford? The number of guests, location and type of venue should all be agreed upon.
- Should you hire a wedding planner? Decide if you can organize the entire wedding yourselves or if you need to hire a professional.
- Should you spend less on the wedding and invest more in your future? Some couples choose to put more money toward their future home, honeymoon or family planning rather than the ceremony and reception.
For more help with establishing your budget, try this wedding cost estimator. You can also get a sense of what other couples in your state are spending on their weddings here. Once your budget is set, creating a master list of specific costs can benefit you in a couple of ways. For example, you can ensure all costs are accounted for. You could also see how your budget is allocated and make adjustments if necessary.
Here's a quick list of categorized costs for the average traditional wedding with a $30,000 budget*1:
- Venue - $9,000 (30%)
- Catering - $6,700 (22.3%)
- Photography - $2,400 (8%)
- Videography - $1,800 (6%)
- Apparel - $2,900 (9.7%)
- DJ - $1,200 (4%)
- Flowers - $1,800 (6%)
- Invitations - $550 (1.8%)
- Wedding cake - $550 (1.8%)
- Transportation - $1,050 (3.5%)
- Hair and makeup - $650 (2.2%)
- Favors and gifts - $1,050 (3.5%)
- Miscellaneous - $350 (1.2%)
*This is an example list and is not inclusive of all potential wedding costs.
As with most sales contracts, several products and services in the wedding industry hold potential for negotiation. There are many ways to negotiate pricing with venues and vendors that could potentially save you money or help you acquire products and services for free.
Here are some tips for negotiating your wedding costs:
- Consult other married couples. Ask other couples what they paid for the same services.
- Shop around. Gather quotes from several different businesses to compare pricing.
- Don’t take the first offer. Request revised quotes based on your research.
- Ask for add-ons instead of lower prices. Try to secure a free cocktail hour or meal option.
- Be ready to walk away. Don’t get too attached to a vendor before reaching a deal.
Ask family and friends for assistance
If you have family and friends who could provide amateur or professional services, don’t be afraid to ask. For instance, if you have a cousin who is a stylist, see if they could do hair and makeup at a discounted rate. This approach could save you money and also add a personal element to your overall wedding experience.
Considering the individual expenses for your guests can also make your wedding more special. While you’re putting together your registry, think about other ways loved ones can “gift” you. Maybe your grandmother can bake your wedding cake or your dad can help build a trellis to stand underneath while exchanging vows. Other goods and services that family and friends could help with may include:
- Officiating the marriage
Wedding bells on a budget
Planning and executing a wedding budget takes compromise, patience and understanding. But just as in marriage, you don’t have to go at it alone. Giving careful thought at the outset of the planning process can help you in the long run, so you can enjoy the big day. Congrats and happy planning!
This article has been updated from its original posting on January 27, 2017. Matt Diehl contributed to this article.