wedding budget

photo by Grant Daniels Photography

While there are definitely more fun parts of wedding planning (dress shopping! setting up your wedding website!), your wedding budget is one of the most important. We know it can be overwhelming, and even knowing where to start is a challenge. Not to worry — we’ve broken down how to set your wedding budget step by step, and even given a few tips for saving money on the big day!


photo by Savannah Lauren Photography

Step One: Discuss your priorities. Before you start throwing out numbers, it’s important to determine what’s most important to you both on your wedding day. Different priorities have different price tags attached, but we’ll get to that in a minute. This first meeting should be realistic with a dose of idealistic — what do you envision for your dream wedding day? We recommend finding real weddings that you love and starting a list of the things you love and can’t live without. Based on these priorities, come up with an initial budget draft using our Wedding Budget Tool focusing on the most important things to you. It’s also a good idea to consider your wedding size, as this can make a big difference in your wedding budget as well. Lastly, keep in mind that a longer engagement gives you more time to make payments before the big day! Your initial budget will likely change quite a bit as you go, but it’s good to have a starting place before reaching out to wedding vendors. Which, brings us to…

Step Two: Start meeting with vendors. Once you’ve decided on your priorities, it’s time to start contacting the vendors who can bring them to life! As you collect quotes from each vendor and vendor type (which you can also track in our Wedding Budget Tool!), you can begin to adjust your initial budget. If you really connect with a certain photographer or fall in love with a particular venue that costs more than you budgeted, revise the price points for other areas of your day so that you stay under (or as close as possible) to your initial budget number.

Step Three: If necessary, consult with family. Family members often offer to “help out” with the wedding cost in the early stages of an engagement, but the offer may be vague or in passing. If there is a specific aspect of your wedding where outside funds would make a difference, follow up on those offers. However, do not expect that family is going to pay for all, some, or even a little bit of your wedding without having a conversation about it first!

Step Four: Start a miscellaneous fund. One thing most couples don’t fully expect when setting their wedding budget is the unexpected! Without a doubt, there will be unseen expenses along the way, and especially as the day draws closer. For instance, an AirBnB to get ready in before your wedding, gifts for your bridesmaids and groomsmen, second envelopes for your wedding invitations, or a gorgeous hairpiece you can’t stop thinking about. And don’t forget to tip your vendors! Whether you keep a change jar or sign up for a program like Digit that saves your spare change, starting a miscellaneous fund as early in the planning process as possible provides that extra bit of financial padding for unseen budget needs!


photo by Deidre Lynn Photography

Get married on a weekday. With only so many Saturdays in the year, many wedding vendors are eager to book weddings on alternative days of the week and are often willing to offer a significant discount if you do so! Not only do venues provide lower rates for weekdays than weekends, but your local photographers, planners, and other vendors may give a sweet incentive to show their appreciation for the opportunity to work with a great couple on a day they aren’t already booked.

Throw a stock the bar party. Alcohol can be a bit of a budget suck, and a cash bar can be a bit of a bummer for guests. Planning an engagement party? Invite guests to bring a bottles of liquor, wine, or beer to have served at your big day in lieu of a regular engagement gift. While you still need to find a licensed bartender who has insurance (serving your own liquor is a big no no!), providing the liquor yourselves can save a lot of money.


photo by Jessie Schultz Photography

Rely on your setting. Whether you prioritized a beautiful venue into your budget or found a charming area in the woods to say “I do,” your setting can do a lot to enhance the look of your wedding. If your budget is tight, let the surroundings speak for themselves and go for a more minimal tablescape of found items.

Skip the favors, skip the paper. When it comes to aspects of a traditional wedding you can skimp on, consider what your guests really want. For most, the experience and photos to look back on are the most important things, making favors and paper menus or programs extraneous. Instead of paying to print a program and menu for every guest, utilize signs in your decor that get this information across. Hiring a calligrapher for one sign is much less of an undertaking than for every invitation envelope. Got a bridesmaid with fabulous handwriting? Even better!


photo by Autumn Cutaia Photography

A catered buffet is the way. When it comes to catering, a plated dinner can add up to a huge bill. Going buffet style used to have negative connotations, but these days wedding guests are happy to grab a plate to get fed (and even get seconds!). A catered buffet saves you a considerable amount of money per guest and even gives your favorite people a chance to mingle before hitting the dance floor.

Ditch the Plan B. This may be the most controversial of our tips, but hear us out! If you’re planning an outdoor affair, you may be encouraged to pay for a backup space in the event of rain. An additional venue charge eats up a lot of your budget that could go to other things on your priority list. While weather may be unpredictable, checking the Old Farmer’s Almanac can be a good way to take a look into the future and get an idea of conditions on and around your wedding day. Plus, we think rain is pretty darn beautiful. Just look at these gorgeous rainy wedding days: this Castleton Farms wedding, this Handsome Hollow wedding, and this Stones & Flowers Retreat wedding.


photo by The Image Is Found

Looking for more wedding planning inspiration? Here’s everything you need to know about hiring your vendors.


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