Wedding planners weigh in on this incredibly important topic.

By Alyssa Brown
September 13, 2019

Setting a realistic wedding budget is a task that includes research, prioritization, and candor. It's also one of the things you have the most control over when it comes to managing your stress levels throughout the planning process. A good budget can eliminate emotional decision-making and extreme last-minute cuts to the wedding you've been envisioning. To help you get started, we asked wedding planners to share some of their top tips for creating a budget that's realistic and thorough.

Related: Ways to Make the Most of Your Wedding Budget

Research typical costs and err on the higher end of estimates.

Wedding planner Jessica Sloane says, "With the help of a wedding planner, you will have a better idea of what things actually cost. If you don't hire a wedding planner, do your research on the average costs of things and round up! It's hard to set a budget when you don't know what things cost, so I tell my clients to think of it as a per-person amount." For example, Sloane says the majority of her clients work with a budget that generally falls between $500 and $1,000 per guest, so she urges prospective couples to multiple those numbers by their anticipated guest count to decide whether or not that works with their ideal total cost.

Overestimate your guest count.

Wedding planner Jacin Fitzgerald says that the guest count is the largest factor in driving costs up. She says, "Your guest count is going to drive the budget from the get-go, from food and beverage to the number of chairs and rentals, to how many buses you'll need to transport everyone back and forth," she explains. For that reason, she always suggests overestimating that guest count in the beginning, thinking in the worst-case scenario. "You can always get money back in your pocket if Aunt Susan RSVPs no, but it's not fun to dip back into your wallet when 10 extra friends RSVP yes (who you had pegged as not coming)," she explains.

Make a clear list of priorities.

Identifying and understanding your priorities early in the process can help you distribute your budget in a way that works best for your wedding. Fitzgerald says, "Think about your priorities when planning your budget. Do you want the best band in town? The best caterer? Go backwards from what's most important to you, so you can see what budget remains for the not-so-important items on your list."

Communicate honestly with your vendors.

Fitzgerald says, "Be honest about your budget. When you underestimate your budget to wedding vendors, you're only receiving options that fit within the budget you've given them. If you really have wiggle room to go higher, but don't voice this because you're worried your vendors will max you out, first of all, make sure you trust your vendor team, but secondly, know you won't be seeing all the possible options you've envisioned if your team doesn't know your actual number. They're trying to protect you and your budget by only providing options within that budget range, and they don't know what they don't know. Prevent disappointment on both ends by being frank about your budget from the get-go."

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