Expenses related to getting married can start popping up before you even pop the question. Not only do you need to buy the ring, but you may want to plan for the proposal to take place during a special night out, or on that trip you and your partner have been planning for months.
The average cost of an engagement ring is around $5,500, but of course everyone prioritizes the ring differently. Sometimes the amount of money spent on an engagement ring is a one-sided decision meant to surprise the other, and sometimes, you and your loved one have agreed on how much hard-earned cash should go towards it. Experts say a good rule of thumb is to spend no more than 2 to 3 months of your annual salary on an engagement ring. Either way, you should approach the purchase with a plan.
Whether you plan to spend $10,000 or $1,000 on an engagement ring, it is best to budget for this expense as well as the cost of the entire wedding. Some couples pay for their wedding with their own resources while others have help from family. Wherever your wedding funds ultimately come from, a solid budget will help ensure that you and your partner get through the planning process financially intact.
Wedding Budgets Can Break the Bank (If You Let Them)
If you’ve already begun your wedding planning, then you’ve probably realized that wedding costs can add up quickly. Prices associated with weddings are often more expensive than what you might anticipate. Vendors understand that there is a lot riding on your special day and that most customers will pay for the added attention to detail that vendors promise to provide.
On average, couples getting married spend between $25,000 and $30,000 on their weddings. The venue is often a big chunk of your wedding budget, ringing in at an average cost of $10,500. This price goes up with catering packages and many venues actually require you to use their catering services if you decide to host your wedding or reception there.
Speaking of catering, the average cost per person is around $70. If you plan to feed 150 guests at your wedding dinner, you can go ahead and add another $10,500 to your wedding budget spreadsheet. And don’t forget to budget for that open bar, if you decide to have one!
The rest of the traditional wedding vendor are generally less, but together they can easily total the cost of the venue or the catering. Although the price will vary depending on where you live, you’ll want to budget for the costs associated with the following vendors:
- Wedding DJ or Live Band
- Makeup Artist
- Hair Stylist
An important consideration when budgeting for the various vendors will be the balance due after the services are complete. Most of the time, wedding vendors will require an initial deposit (usually nonrefundable), with the remainder to be paid after they’ve done their jobs. Don’t forget that you’ll need to keep the balance owed to these vendors tucked away, so that you have the cash available when the wedding is over.
Unexpected Wedding Cost to Consider
Once you’ve figured out how much money you’re able to spend on some of the big-ticket items that you know you have to have for your wedding, you need to also consider some of the less obvious expenses that will creep up on you if you aren’t careful.
You probably already realize that you’ll need to budget for save-the-dates and formal invitations. Depending on the number of people you plan to invite, spending even few dollars per invite can add up to at least a few hundred dollars. Don’t forget, though, that those custom crafted wedding invitations you found on Etsy still need to be mailed.
A first-class stamp costs $0.55 these days, and unless you’re lucky enough to have purchased a gazillion forever stamps back in 2007, you’ll need to budget for postage. Remember that extra postage might be required for custom sized envelopes and if you include a return R.S.V.P. postcard in your invitation, that will need postage as well. At least if you want it returned.
Another expense that is often overlooked is the alterations you or your partner may need for their wedding dress, suit, for your family’s traditional wedding lederhosen. Although less glamorous than finding THE dress, alterations are necessary most of the time and the cost will depend on how much work the seamstress needs to do.
Then you’ve also got to consider taxes and tips. Sure, taxes and tips sound like something that should be associated with your Grubhub delivery, and not your wedding. Unfortunately, just like Grubhub, your wedding vendors are providing a service to you and you should estimate budgeting an extra 30% of the price tag to cover taxes and tips paid to your vendors.
In addition to the costs we’ve discussed above, don’t forget to budget for other semi-hidden expenses associated with:
- Your Marriage License
- Venue Cleaning
- Covid-19 Safety Equipment
The examples listed above are not exhaustive, and as with most things in this day and age, a thorough Google search will help you plan for these less obvious costs.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Wedding Budget
Now that we’ve firmly established that you need a wedding budget, you may be wondering how on earth you can budget not only for hidden costs, but for expenses that you won’t know the dollar amount of right away. For example, you know you need to set aside funds for dress alterations, but until you have the dress, you won’t know how extensive the alterations will need to be.
In a perfect world, budgets and bills would balance but alas, even though your wedding day can be perfect, it’s unlikely that your budget will be. Don’t worry, this is normal.
Most couples go over their wedding budget because, simply put, it is impossible to know how much everything will cost. Still, there are some tips to ensure that even if (and when) you do go over budget, you will still stay in control of your purse strings.
First, you should communicate with your partner. Wedding planning and budgeting goes smoothest when the two of you are on the same page. If one of you plans to spend the $500 you made from that moving sale on wedding flowers, while the other plans to spend that money on a flock of white doves to be released after the wedding kiss, you’re probably going to have a budget problem.
Second, you should set aside an emergency budget fund. That is to say, once you and your soon-to-be spouse decide on the overall sum of money you plan to spend on your wedding, set aside a little bit more. This way, if you decide last minute that you must have those square invitations that require an extra $0.15 in postage, you will know where that money’s going to come from.
The bottom line is prioritizing those things that matter most to you on your big day and determining which expenses you could cut if you need to. Stay flexible and be sure to check in with your budget frequently to make sure you’re on track.
Ways to Save
When you’re planning your wedding budget, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. While tradition is nice, if Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we need to be flexible and creative. There are several ways to save money on your wedding.
In our digital world, it’s easy to save money on postage with online invitations. If you prefer to still mail out traditional wedding invites, consider setting up online R.S.V.P.’s. This will save you the costs of the return postcards and postcard postage. Plus, some invitees are more likely to respond in a timely manner if all they have to do is click a button on a computer. Having an accurate headcount early on will take some of the guessing game out of the catering budget.
You could also consider getting married in the off season when venues offer lower prices on their packages. With social distancing and Covid-19 concerns still on everyone’s mind, many guests may prefer to tune in on Zoom anyway. A more intimate guest-list means you save on costs associated with catering.
The End is Just the Beginning
Budgeting isn’t as fun as celebrating your love together on the big day, that’s for sure. Still, budgeting is a necessary step in the process of planning your life together. When your wedding day comes to an end, you’ll be beginning a brand-new journey and your budgeting will have been an integral part of the process that got you to this point.
There are a lot of steps you can take that will leave you and your partner protected for the long haul. In addition to thoughtful budgeting, you could draw up a prenup that helps you and your spouse protect each others’ assets and maintain your budgets long after the wedding day.
When a couple puts the energy and time into doing the work they can then sit back, relax, and enjoy their wedding day (and every day after).
Julia Rodgers is HelloPrenup’s CEO and Co-Founder. She is a Massachusetts family law attorney and true believer in the value of prenuptial agreements. HelloPrenup was created with the goal of automating the prenup process, making it more collaborative, time efficient and cost effective. Julia believes that a healthy marriage is one in which couples can openly communicate about finances and life goals. You can read more about us here Questions? Reach out to Julia directly at [email protected].