Creating a Wedding Budget

Couple working on budget

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Once you've finished basking in the glow of engagement, you'll find it very hard to get anything accomplished without a detailed wedding budget. This will give you an outline of what you should spend on each item, so as to ensure you don't spend more than you intend to overall. Here's how to create a wedding budget that you can afford.

Who's Paying for the Wedding

Although tradition says that the bride's parents pay for the whole thing, this is frequently untrue for today's couples. If you can pay for the whole shebang yourselves, you've got it easy. If you want your families to help you out, or pay for it all, you should have a frank discussion with them about it. You might say something like "Fiancé and I are starting to plan our wedding, and we wanted to ask you if you might help pay for it." You should be prepared for questions, such as "How much do you think the whole thing will cost" and some other questions that you might not know the answer to. You can say that the average wedding cost now is about $25,000, but that you'll base your wedding budget on what is available to you. There are several options.

  • Parents can say that they are contributing a specific dollar amount, and then the couple decides on a wedding budget and makes up any difference themselves.
  • Parents can say that they want to pay for specific items such as the bride's attire, the rehearsal dinner or the catering. The couple then has to figure out how to pay for everything else.
  • The couple can set a budget and then ask to split it evenly. This is particularly a good solution for divided families. For example, the couple, the mother of the bride, the father of the bride, and the groom's parents will each contribute $5000, for a total of a $20,000 wedding budget.

How Much Do You Really Need?

Depending on your area, budgeting about $100 per wedding guest will give you a good start. This allows for $50 a head for catering, and the remaining $50 goes towards everything else—flowers, attire, etc. Of course, if you are only having 10 guests, you may have trouble paying for everything else with only $500, but it is a good starting point. This starting point fits with the general rule of the more guests, the more formal and lavish the wedding.

Figuring out a Basic Wedding Budget

Start off by using a wedding budget planning worksheet to figure out the basics. If you already know some of the costs, such as the hall rental, put in the actual numbers, and adjust the other numbers to make up for it. You can ask other brides who have gotten married in your area what they spent on vendors to figure out if these numbers are realistic, or need to be adjusted.

Making Room for What Matters

Prioritize what's important to you, choosing two to three "most important" items. Filling out the couples wedding questionnaire may help in this process. You may decide that you want to have an amazing photographer, but you're happy to hunt for a bargain on the dress. If you're having a small wedding, your catering bill won't be as big a percentage of the budget. You can adjust your budget numbers to reflect your priorities.

Ways to Save

Start by looking through the budget and crossing off anything that you don't need. For example, if you're having both the ceremony and reception at one location, you might not need to include transportation. It is definitely possible to have a beautiful wedding on a budget. Use your contacts. Don't be afraid to ask recently married friends who they used and what they paid. Ask friends in the wedding industry to help you out, and give you a discount if possible. If the numbers still aren't working out, ask yourself what's really important to you. Perhaps it's better to have a small wedding now, and then renew your wedding vows in five or ten years when you can save for the big party.

Once you've set a budget, stick to it. It's easier said than done, but an important thing to do.

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