How to Budget for a Wedding: Advice from a Finance Expert

Mar 23, 2024 | Finances, marriage, Wedding

Amidst the excitement of the proposal, celebrating with friends and family, and dreaming up your perfect day, the last thing on your mind might be, “How are we going to budget for this wedding?” I know dear reader, budgeting for your big day may not sound like the most romantic topic for us to explore, but stick with me because I promise it’s going to be worth it. With the right approach, your wedding budgeting adventure will be as painless as possible, leaving you free to focus on the magic of your impending nuptials.


Why you need a wedding budget

Right now you may be thinking, do I really need a budget for my wedding? Perhaps you already have a rough idea of what you’re going to spend, so is it really that necessary? 

Well, having been in this space for the better part of a decade, I’ve discovered an interesting fact about us humans. When it comes to money, we tend to think we’re a lot better at managing our finances than we really are. So when it comes to planning your big day, you don’t want it to become your big financial pain, too, and that’s why having a budget is so valuable. 

The other reason you’re going to love this process is not only will it help you avoid unnecessary financial stress, but it will also make the entire wedding planning itself, so much easier. Knowing what you’ve got to work with financially will impact and drive every other decision you make. And, in doing so, make it a whole lot easier, too! 

So, whether you’re deciding between flower arrangements or catering options, when you know what you have to spend on each category, you know which options you can say yes to and which ones you’ve got to lovingly leave on your Pinterest board.


Personal experience with budgeting for a wedding

As we venture through planning for your big day, something really important to remember is that as much as you want to make your day as unique as you two are, you also want to make sure it’s unique to your budget too. There’s no shame in saying, “That’s not in our budget,” and ditching the comparison game to online influencers’ perfect pics. 

Also, being practical does not mean being boring. You should read that again! I have first-hand experience of this myself from seeing my sister and brother-in-law plan the most sensational wedding day on a budget of less than €10,000. They DIYed a lot which cut back their expenses but also added a really intimate touch, reflecting the couple’s unique quirks and interests. They also invited only family and the closest of friends to the dinner, something quite customary to do in Belgium, leaving the 100+ other guests to join the party and DJ.

Making these decisions meant not only did they stick within their unique budget, but they were able to have an intimate dinner with their closest loved ones, connect both sides of the family, and have time to share meaningful toasts and special memories. 

This is just one way of doing things differently. The point is, you don’t have to conform to some preset plan of how your wedding “should be.” The only thing it should be is a special day for you both, whatever that looks like for you, and something that won’t create financial stress, strain, or, even worse, extra debt in those early years of your marriage.

With all that said, let’s jump in with crafting your super simple, super-effective wedding budget to ensure your blissful day comes together without financial stress. 


Creating your budget

You may remember my discussion about money dates in previous articles, and if you’ve been savvy enough to be scheduling such dates with your partner – which I advise making an absolute must in every relationship regardless of what stage you’re at – then this step should be relatively straightforward.


Step 1: Figure out what savings you currently have

When choosing your budget, the first step is to decide together how much of your savings you intend to use for the wedding. Refer back to the financial goals checklist we discussed here. See that last goal, ‘Saving for future life events’? Well, this is where your wedding fund comes in.

You may have dreamt up a wedding that stretches beyond that savings pot, but do yourself a massive favor and do not dip into your investments or take out a loan. This is a major NO! You do not want to begin your marriage and marriage of finances with a hit to your future funds or a hefty debt hanging over you. 

Now a quick warning – when it comes to paying vendors, you have one of two options. Either pay upfront or push out payments using your credit card. A 2023 study by The Knot found that 57% of surveyed couples pay for their wedding using their checking account, and 45% pay cash upfront. Awesome. 

However, 39% of couples opt to push payments into the distant future using their credit cards. Also awesome, but only if you have a good relationship with credit cards and are doing so to take advantage of points, air miles, or cash back, not to finance these payments because you can’t afford them. If it’s the former, then more financial power to you. 

However, if you’ve had a love/hate relationship with credit cards, then just stay clear; there’s too much risk of running up high-interest rate debt and creating more stress than the joy of whatever you’re getting will cover.



Step 2: Decide what you can realistically save between now and your planned wedding date

Next, figure out what you two can realistically save between now and your planned date or what ways you can increase your income to add extra to your wedding fund. You might even decide to push the date out further to give yourself more breathing room.

Keep in mind too, your current budget doesn’t need to be your final budget. That said, it doesn’t all of a sudden become your top financial priority. Remember to keep your goals in order, as we discussed here.


Step 3: Quantify what financial support, if any, you will receive from family/relatives. 

Once you know what you currently have in your savings pot and what you’re likely going to be able to add to it moving forward, it’s time to think external. Do you have any family or relatives that will be contributing to your wedding? For example, a parent might choose to gift the wedding dress. 

Research by The Knot found that the average couple pays for about half, or 49% to be exact, of marriage costs. If, like me, you will not be in this boat, then your budget will be even more important as you’ll be carrying the financial weight of this wedding on your own four shoulders. 


Step 4: Decide on what wedding categories are a ‘must’ for you both and what can be a ‘pass.’

When you have an approximation of how much money you can allocate to your wedding, it’s time to get clear on what’s important for you two. As I said before, your wedding is a unique representation of you as a couple, so just because that other wedding you went to had the most incredible display of fresh flowers at every turn does not mean you need to spend a cent on these. 

Time to decide what your total non-negotiables are and what categories that have room to change or pass altogether. Decide together your top 3 musts and your top 3 ‘nice to haves, non-necessities.” My Pinterest board already reveals that the venue, music and food are my musts! But the flowers, expensive dress, and rings are all a total ‘meh’ for me. 


Step 5: Start planning. Set up your simple Excel spreadsheet and start reaching out to vendors. 

With all this information at hand, it’s time to take what you know and start planning. According to The Knot, the average wedding costs $30,000, but that doesn’t mean it’s got to be the same for you. With so many moving parts and temptations to add just one more thing, it’s easy to quickly lose track of what you’re spending and what costs are still outstanding. 

To avoid any surprises and to ensure the run-up to your wedding is as smooth as your marriage will be, you’re going to open up a simple Excel spreadsheet and keep track of everything.

Once you’ve added up steps 1, 2, and 3 to determine your wedding budget, you have a clear idea of the amount you can allocate to your dream day; it’s time to break this number down so you know where you’ll likely be spending that amount. 


Let’s take a look at the top 10 cost categories for the average wedding:

Your Total Budget = Approx $x 

Insert your figures below

Actual Figures from Vendors

Insert actual estimates from vendors

Venue & Catering 40%
Photography / Videography 15%
Band / DJ/ Entertainment 10%
Flowers 10%
Decorations 10%
Wedding Outfits / Beauty 5%
Transportation 3%
Stationary 3%
Cake 2%
Gifts  2%
Total 100%


Make a copy of the above template, insert your total budget in the top left hand corner, then fill in the approximate amounts based on the percentages in the middle column. 

Next, reach out to your desired vendors and fill in the actual costs quoted. You can add more columns for price comparisons between different vendors to ensure you make your money stretch the furthest. Also, to avoid any surprises later on, keep track of any extra costs, fees, or tips that will need to be paid. 

When it comes to choosing vendors, remember: If you don’t ask, you already have a no, so ask! What I’m talking about here is don’t be afraid to negotiate. One of the most surprising lessons I learned from being around ultra-wealthy people in my 20s is that those with a lot of money are keen to hold on to it, so they are not afraid to ask for a better price or something extra to be included! 

If this is new for you, negotiating may feel embarrassing, like it reveals you don’t have the money. But please, dear reader, don’t let that get in your way. It’s your hard-earned money, after all. And, if helpful, just remember this is actually what those with a lot of money do all the time.


Step 6: Sense check your budget 

I mentioned already that the average wedding costs about $30,000. Let’s take a look at some other interesting stats from 10,000 couples surveyed to see what you can expect. Remember, these are the average figures, not the target, but rather a guideline to help you with your planning.

Cost of ceremony and reception (the wedding) $30,000
Cost of the wedding, engagement ring, and honeymoon $40,900 
% of couples who adjusted their initial budgets upwards 60%
Most costly wedding categories Venue and reception
Number of vendors used 14
Number of guests attending  117
Cost per guest  $256 


As you can see, 60% of couples underbudgeted what they thought they’d spend on their wedding day, which is useful to keep in mind when you’re first sitting down to put your plan in place. But please don’t let Disney fairytale syndrome take over; know your budget and stick with it! If the Adele tribute band would be absolutely magical but is $3,000 over your budget, then unless you can shift funds from elsewhere, go with the band you can afford and request Adele all night long!

Recap of your wedding budgeting plan

Okay woah! If you’ve got this far in your wedding budgeting, then you are doing amazing! We’ve covered a lot here, so let’s take a quick recap of what your next steps are.

  1. Figure out what savings you currently have.
  2. Decide what you can realistically save between now and your planned wedding date.
  3. Quantify what financial support, if any, you will receive from family/relatives. 
  4. Decide on what wedding categories are a ‘must’ for you both and what can be a ‘pass.’
  5. Start planning. Set up your simple Excel spreadsheet and start reaching out to vendors. 
  6. Sense check your budget


Remember, your wedding is a celebration of you as a couple, and I know you want your ‘til death do us part’ to last longer than the wedding day. So avoid entering this new union with unnecessary financial stress by making a realistic budget that suits where you’re at today. Don’t put yourselves in debt for the sake of keeping up with the Pinterest Joneses, and start your marriage aligned as a couple both personally and financially. 

Wishing you so much happiness on your exciting adventure ahead.

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