Love wedding planning? From flowers to cake frosting, staying on budget while wading through an endless array of choices can be a challenge! If you’re having a hard time keeping your wedding expenses in check, you’re far from alone.
In 2021, the average cost of a wedding in the United States was a considerable $28,000, according to The Knot. The most popular budgetary range is $10,000 to $20,000, with about 28% of couples planning on keeping their wedding costs somewhere between those two numbers. Some big spenders, however, reported spending upwards of $100,000 for their big day.
As with any financial goal setting, creating a budget and sticking to your budget can be two different beasts. Regardless of the budget you’ve set, it’s easy to get off track if you aren’t carefully planning and watching your spending. To help you meet your spending expectations, we have 12 tips to help you nail your wedding budget and have the day of your dreams.
How to Stick to Your Wedding Budget
1. Start with a clear idea of funding and financing.
It’s important to have open and honest discussions with everyone who may contribute financially so you understand your exact spending limits. You’ll also need to know when in the planning process those funds will be provided. Sit down with your parents, grandparents, or whoever else has agreed to contribute and work out the details.
If you and your future spouse have to pay for all or part of your wedding, think about where your money will come from. Do you have a savings fund set aside? How will you split the costs between the two of you?
If you want to spread out the costs of your wedding over several years, you might want to research financing options. Personal loans and home equity loan products can be a great way to ease the financial burden.
2. Prioritize your needs and wants.
Create a wish list of everything you need and want for your wedding.
- Your needs: Non-negotiable things you absolutely will have at your wedding.
- Your wants: Things that are nice to have, but aren’t really required for you two to have a night to remember.
A wedding dress will likely be a need— a performance by your favorite local magician, maybe not so much.
After you’ve created your list, number each ‘want’ item as a first, second, or third priority, asking your fiancé to do the same. That will help establish your most important expenditures after the needs.
It’s not just the big things either. Don’t forget about little costs that tend to add up, like stamps, marriage license fees, guest books, cake serving tools, etc.
3. Keep track of your spending with a wedding budget breakdown.
It can be easy to swipe your card without thinking about how much you’ve spent. Keep track of all of your expenditures to make sure you’re staying within your limits as you book vendors and buy items. Shareable spreadsheets like Google Sheets are a great way to tally everything up and keep everyone (literally) on the same page. Plus, it’s accessible on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, meaning you can add items or check in whenever you need to.
Another hack— create a new email account just for wedding-related things. You’ll be able to have all documents, receipts, and confirmations in one place and not mixed in with personal or work emails.
4. Think beyond the traditional.
Your wedding is about you and your fiancé. There can be a lot of pressure to have a conventional wedding, but don’t feel like you have to stick to expensive traditions and customs if they aren’t as important to you. Whether it’s extravagant flowers, designer dresses, or a multi-tiered cake, if a tradition doesn’t speak to you, consider replacing it or eliminating it entirely.
This process can look different, depending on your cultural traditions and how important they are to your family. The most important thing, if it’s possible, is to make it a conversation—not an automatic “We have to do this.” Maybe there’s an alternate way to complete the tradition that’s less expensive, or maybe a relative is willing to pay for it, if it’s really something that your family really wants.
5. Stick with your guest limit.
A wedding ceremony doesn’t need to be proof of the number of friends you have! This is another consideration that really depends on your culture and your community, and there’s no right answer.
However: once you have a guest list, try and stick with it! One of the quickest ways to get away from your budget is to add to the guest list. Calculate a per-person cost, including food, drinks, seating, decor for extra tables, and venue costs. Adding five people might be ok, but adding fifty is probably going to be out of range.
And if you add too many additional people, you may even have to reconsider your venue to a larger one that can accommodate more people—adding even more to your bottom line.
6. Shop around.
Check the web to see whether retailers and service providers are offering fair prices and whether there are lower-cost options. Handy tip: Leaving items in online shopping carts sometimes spurs e-tailers to send coupons. You can also try this budget calculator tool from The Knot, which provides some typical price ranges and helps you track your expenditures.
7. Think about hidden costs.
Wedding vendors typically come with a few hidden costs that you may not immediately think of. To get a better idea of the true cost of things like hair, makeup, flowers, and catering, consider:
- Trials: Prewedding trials for hair and makeup aren’t always free. Be sure you understand how much demos and trials are for each vendor.
- Set-Up: Does your venue come with extra setup or cleanup costs?
- Overtime: Pay particular attention to the amount of time service providers agree to be on-site before overtime rates kick in.
- Tipping: Don’t forget to account for vendor tips, as these aren’t included in quoted prices.
Additionally, contractual contingencies and restrictions can cost you dearly if you aren’t aware of them. Read the fine print to ensure you understand what all you may be on the hook for.
8. Consider hiring talented amateurs.
Recruiting a friend or acquaintance for entertainment, design work, photography, decorating, officiating, bartending, or other functions may feel more meaningful and could be a financial win for all involved.
9. Try negotiating.
Some vendors may not publicize their willingness to compromise, but you have nothing to lose by asking for a deal. Here are a few tips for negotiating:
- Ask for an itemized list of costs. This will give you the chance to see if there’s anything you can cut out or reduce.
- Do research. If you’ve shopped around, the vendor may lower their price to match other professionals in town.
- Be upfront about your budget. Vendors may be able to tweak their offerings to match what you can afford.
Most of all, be respectful. Vendors need to make a living, too! Not only are you paying for their time, but also their expertise and equipment. If they are unwilling to budge and you can’t afford their services, move along to a lower-priced vendor.
10. Wait for sales.
Ask whether sales are pending before buying and wait to buy when you can. You may even wish to wait until Black Friday or Cyber Monday, when products are on sale across retail categories.
11. Plan for the unexpected.
Unexpected costs can cause your day to be more expensive than you originally anticipated. Instead of being caught off guard, plan to expect the unexpected. Budget for at least 5% more than you really think you’ll spend.
12. Earn rewards from spending.
Consider earning perks by charging everything to a credit card that provides mileage, rewards, or cash back. Then set up automatic payments through your bank so you’re never charged interest.
Plan Your Wedding Budget
Wedding planning can be stressful enough without the worry of going over budget. Keep these tips in mind to help you keep spending in check, all while creating the day of your dreams.