Now that you’ve shown off your dazzling new ring to anyone and everyone, it’s time for some real talk. Weddings aren’t cheap. The dress, the tux, the food, the wine, the venues, the staff; it adds up. Once you’ve sat down with your fiancé, and chatted with any parents who are willing to hand over some dough, it’s time to look at your budget. Knowing how much you can spend is Step 1. Step 2, is figuring out how much of that cash goes where. Time to break down your budget.
Venues & Food
You need a place to get married, and possibly another venue for your reception. Then there is all the food you are having catered, your dream cake and all the rental equipment for your big party. Stay with me here, that’s going to account for 50% of your budget. Seriously? Seriously. It seems like a lot, but let’s break it down a bit further.
Venues can be quite expensive and with good reason. You require a beautiful space, and there is almost surely going to be high demand. Realistically, you need to book them at least nine months out, because I assure you, you aren’t the only bride vying for that Saturday in July. High demand means high cost, and they’re in the wedding business, too!
Then you have to feed your fabulous guests. Even if you pick a relatively inexpensive caterer, the cost to feed even 50 guests can make you gasp. The thing to remember is that you aren’t just paying for the food cost. You are paying for the food, the preparation, the delivery and usually the staff to serve it, along with cleanup. Then there is your cake. The more elaborate the cake, the more expensive it’ll be. And again, you’re paying for all the work that goes into it, plus things like cake toppers and cake stands.
Lastly, you’re going to be renting more than you realize. It’s not just chairs, tables, and an archway; you could be renting things like centerpieces, linen, cutlery, silverware, lighting, tents and lots of décor. Be straightforward with yourself (or your planner) here, so this stuff can be set aside early.
Photography & Videography
Now, not everyone gets both a photographer and a videographer, but either way, you’re budget here is right around 12%. The reason you should be giving it this much of your budget is simple. When the day is done, and all the thank you cards are sent out, your photographs and videos are the best way to relive your best day. On the hard days and the great, your photographs are going to be there to remind you of just how in love you were that day.
Touchy-feelies aside, this usually includes your engagement session, prints and often an album. So, you go on your honeymoon, and your photographer gets to work putting together your memories. Keep in mind; not all photographers offer album packages (but, I do!)
Flowers & Decorations
Flowers can be crazy expensive. It’s not without good reason, but unless you’re planning on carnations and baby’s breath, assume that this will be a heavy hitter. Depending on your style and location, decorations and lighting will roll into this, too. Your budget here: 8%.
I suggest setting aside about 10% for this one. The thing is, the cost of your planner will be determined by a few things. 1) Wedding Coordinator vs. Day of Planner. The Day of Planner can be up to 25% of the price but is mostly only there to help you on the big day. 2) Planner vs. No Planner. Are you pulling off a DIY wedding? Then your 10% gets to go somewhere else. 3) Venue-required Planner. Some venues require you to book their planner, so again, that budget is kind of getting rolled into the cost of the venue.
The Wild Card Costs
These last costs should take up the rest of your budget, and in my opinion (aside from the wedding bands, perhaps) they should get consideration lastly. So your last 12% should be going to your:
- Wedding Bands (4%): Think about this one early. Try some bands on early, because as soon as you fall in love with a style, it’s going to be hard to choose a different one. Find the one you love, keep it around 4% and adjust your other wild-card costs accordingly.
- Invitations/stationary (2%): Are you hiring a calligrapher? Having your photo printed on the invites? Going the E-card route? There are so many options these days for style, format, and delivery. That 2% could be easily spent or not at all.
- Officiant (2%): Officiants can be a good friend who got ordained online, your church leader or someone simply from an online search. The costs vary. However, even if you have a friend who is willing to marry you, you should offer them a little something. And if cash feels weird, just make it a thoughtful gift.
- Transportation (2%): Unless you are driving yourself to your hotel that night, you need to fork over some cash for a car service. Unless you are having a dry wedding, it’s smart to let someone else get behind the wheel. Who wants to worry about that? Another popular option is to ask your Best Man, but again, no DUIs!
- Favors/gifts (1%): The favors and gifts are mostly gestures of gratitude, so don’t blow too much of your budget here. Of course, a nice groom’s gift is always nice.
Keep in mind that this is just a guideline. How you actually breakdown your wedding budget is entirely up to you!
$50,000 Wedding Budget Example
Venue, Food & Rentals $25,000
Wedding Attire, Hair & Beauty $4,000
Flowers & Décor $3,500
Wedding Planner $5,000
Invitations & Stationary $1,000
Favors & Gifts $500