This sample budget breakdown and our related budgeting tips will help you plan what you should spend on your big day.
Photography: KT Merry
Not all aspects of wedding planning are fun. There's research to do, there are contracts to read, and, of course, there's a budget to be planned. We know it can be a headache to figure out exactly what you should spend on your big day, which is why we've put together our very best advice that'll help make the process simpler. Here, we're offering tips for how to budget a wedding.
Ahead, we start with a wedding budget breakdown. Our template includes sample percentages of what to spend on each aspect of your event, from the flowers to the food and everything in between. While every celebration is different, you can use this calculator as a reference point when planning your costs.
We've also provided an array list of pointers related to setting your wedding budget, from looking at the average cost of a wedding near where you want to tie the knot to having an open and honest discussion with everyone who's chipping in. Read through for all of our top recommendations—we promise they'll make things easier.
Don't make the mistake of thinking some pre-wedding accounting isn't for you. Whether you're on a tight wedding budget or you're shooting for the stars, it's smart to come up with a definitive financing plan. While the task can be tough, the result is rewarding: You'll feel organized and—most importantly—like you're able to afford your nuptials. Without the weight of a stressful bank statement on your shoulders, you can fully enjoy your big day.
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Wedding Budget Planner
Whether you're throwing a celebration that's bare-bones or blowout, here's how Washington, D.C.-area planner Carol Marino, of A Perfect Wedding in Fairfax, Virginia, suggests divvying up your budget. Just remember to include sales tax in your calculations.
Reception (food, beverages, rentals, and site): 40 percent to 50 percent
Flowers: 10 percent
Photography/videography: 10 percent
Bride's and groom's attire: 5 percent to 10 percent
Music: 5 percent to 10 percent
Planner or coordinator: 10 percent to 15 percent
Miscellaneous (favors, transportation, etc.): 10 percent
Cushion: 5 percent to 15 percent
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To arrive at a realistic estimate, start by researching the average budget of a wedding near you. The price varies wildly across the country—from around $10,000 in Des Moines, Iowa, to around $50,000 in New York, New York. At Cost of Wedding, you can enter your ZIP code and get a snapshot of costs in your area.
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Research the Costs
If you have your heart set on a specific site, florist, or band, call that vendor to get a sense of their fees. During this preliminary planning stage, you'll also need a ballpark figure for the number of guests you'd like to invite. All this early deliberation and fact-finding will give you a more accurate estimate of how much your fantasy wedding will cost.
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Armed with this information, it's time for you and your fiancé to have an open, respectful talk about how much you can actually afford. Whether to include others in this conversation depends on who will be contributing to the wedding. Though more and more couples are paying their own way, it's still common for the bride's and groom's parents to take care of at least some of the expenses. If your families are willing to open their checkbooks, it's crucial to get their input up front, and to be mindful of your hosts' limits and gracious about their choices.
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Once you've settled on a hard number, the next step is setting your top priorities. Perhaps you care most about a gourmet dinner, a breathtaking location, or mind-blowing live music. Once you can determine that, it will tell you where you should put most of your budget. Keep in mind that you and your groom may not agree on what's most important, so you'll both need to come to an understanding.
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As couples often find, your dreams may be far bigger than your pocketbook, and you'll need to temper your expectations. Although it's always tough to realize you can't have everything, there are all kinds of creative ways to save money that don't feel like sacrifices. Some of them are sneaky and simple, like cutting down on the number of tables at your reception, which translates into fewer expensive centerpieces. Some of them aren't quite so pain-free.
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Remaining within your budget also means staying organized. Track your expenditures by saving receipts and recording your spending. File copies of every vendor estimate in a folder so you can refer to them if need be. And remember to keep a cool head and just say no to things you can't afford.