Your Wedding Budget: A Guide to the Basics

Wedding Budget

Is there anything that causes more grief or is the source of more pre-wedding frustration than the budget? It’s no wonder, then, that you might be a little hesitant to embark on the crazy-making venture that is creating your budget. Your budget, however, holds the key to everything for your wedding. Without a budget, you don’t know if you can afford that gorgeous, flowing dress and you’ll be clueless as to which photographers are in your price range. It’s not always easy to talk about money. By getting it out of the way early, though, you free your mind to focus on the fun details of planning a wedding and decrease your risk of fighting over money.

 Talk to All Contributors

If other people are helping you pay for your wedding, you need to invite them to the table to discuss your budget. People tend to be more generous if they know where their money is going, and are particularly likely to be generous if they know other people are contributing, too. Make your budget discussion a low-key, low-stress event. You might, for example, schedule a brunch or a spa outing, but make sure each participant knows the budget is on the agenda. No one likes to be blindsided by a conversation about money.

If, by contrast, you and your honey are paying for your wedding out of pocket, then keep the discussion between the two of you. It’s no one else’s business what your wedding costs. Set up a time when you’re both relaxed and happy, then sit down and talk turkey.

 Nail Down Specifics

Generalized budget numbers are a recipe for a host of problems. It’s particularly common for brides’ parents to say, “Oh, don’t worry, we’ll pay for whatever you want.” But if whatever you want turns out to cost $100,000, this promise can fall flat. You need to address specifically what each contributor will be paying for. Be prepared with information about the going rate. Your dad, for example, is much less likely to insist on spending $100 on a photographer if he knows that the going rate is more like $4,000.  

 List Your Wedding Expenses

The most important element of your budget is a breakdown of wedding expenses. You’ll need two categories: must-haves and maybe-haves. The must-haves are the items you absolutely need, while the maybes are items you’ll add if you can afford them. For example, you might know you need a photographer but be uncertain about whether you want a wedding band. Budget for the must-haves first, then prioritize the maybe-haves with what’s left over. Remember to consider all of the following as part of your wedding budget:

  • Items for attendants and guests, such as gifts
  • Assistance in helping others attend your wedding. Some brides, for example, pay for the cost of their attendants’ dresses.
  • Wedding favors
  • Wedding entertainment, including music or performers
  • A wedding officiant
  • Your wedding venue
  • Catering and food
  • Alcohol
  • Wedding day gifts for your fiance
  • Your wedding gown and accessories such as shoes and jewelry
  • Wedding day hair, makeup, and nails
  • Flowers and other decorations, such as aisle runners
  • Wedding cake
  • Honeymoon expenses

You might have more items on your list. For example, if your venue doesn’t offer an area for you to get ready, you may need a storage box for your gown or bags in which to carry home your wedding day loot.

After you’ve listed your major expenses, you’re ready to begin prioritizing them. You’ll generally spend the most on your venue, food, gown, flowers, and photographer, but plan to spend the most on the items that matter the most to you. Some brides, for example, don’t care much about pictures and opt to just let a family member photograph them. Remember that the key is to design a budget for the wedding you want – not the one other people think you should have. Don’t be afraid to speak up about your needs, and remember that a little bargain shopping can save you a pretty penny.