Recently engaged and beginning to plan your wedding? Congratulations! You have a lot of exciting decisions to make, so we prepared some tips on how to create and follow your wedding budget. A few quick notes before we get started…
- Having a wedding budget is important, but don’t stress about getting every number “right” to start – things will change as you do more research.
- Create your budget before you start wedding planning. Your budget can simplify your wedding planning by helping you to avoid overspending and being forced to cut costs at the last minute.
- Update your budget as you plan your wedding – not just at the start and finish. I suggest updating it at least once a week (Sunday nights for example). This can also be a good time to regroup with your partner regarding wedding expenses.
- Include some cushion (10% to 15%) in your cost estimates and avoid setting an unrealistic budget. Final costs often exceed initial estimates from vendors.
- Use a good budgeting tool. We suggest our Wedding Budget Tracker, but there are many alternatives available online. Pick whichever one you feel comfortable with.
Let’s get started...
Step 1: Pre-Planning
Before you create your wedding budget, do some quick research on typical costs. Ask your friends and family and do some online research to get a rough sense of the numbers. Our recent Wedding Survey is also a helpful resource.
With this knowledge, begin making the “big cost” decisions (venue and location), since these typically drive nearly half of total wedding expenses. Deciding up front whether you want a destination wedding, a local wedding at a venue, or something else will improve the accuracy of your initial wedding budget.
Step 2: Who’s Paying? How Much?
Wedding expenses are typically paid from existing savings, your parents, a wedding loan, and/or credit cards. Unless you already know what your spouse and parents can contribute, have open and honest conversations to answer these questions. Set aside some time to speak with your partner and your parents – our wedding survey suggests that parents cover an average of 47% of wedding expenses, however every situation is different and the key is understanding what you’re working with.
Once you have these answers, make a table like the one below to estimate your initial budget.
As a quick “check,” we suggest dividing your initial budget by the expected number of guests. The average cost per guest is about $160 (excluding your Engagement Ring and Honeymoon), so this will give you a rough sense of whether your initial guest list expectation is reasonable for your budget size.
Step 3: Itemized Budget Detail (by Expense)
It’s time to get a bit more detailed. The goal of this step is to begin determining which expenses your wedding will have and to estimate the likely cost of each. As I mentioned above, we suggest our Budget Tracker, which automatically determines estimated expenses. The key is creating a comprehensive list of major wedding expenses and allocating costs accordingly.
Assuming you use our budget tracker, start by entering your Initial Budget. The tracker automatically calculates an example split of costs between expenses as a starting point. Next, remove any expenses that don’t apply to your wedding and add any additional expenses specific to your wedding. As we’ll discuss in Step 4, you’ll update the “Your Budget” column with actual estimates after you begin planning your wedding and speaking with vendors.
Step 4: Research -> Plan -> Refine -> Repeat (Throughout Wedding Planning)
This is where the real work begins, as you combine wedding budgeting with wedding planning. As you plan, you’ll learn more about what you want, where you’re willing to splurge, and where you can cut costs. Update the “Your Budget” column in the tracker as you refine your wedding expense estimates and track against the initial budget that you determined in Step 2. As I mentioned earlier, your wedding budget will continually evolve over time – the key is keeping your tracker updated throughout the process. It takes a bit of time every week, but will save you a headache at the end and allow you a clear view of your wedding expenses throughout the planning process
If your budget feels tight, our Wedding Blog can be a helpful resource on stretching your budget and cutting costs. You may also want to consider financing options, such as a wedding loan through Promise Financial, which give you the ability to pay for your wedding over time.
Best of luck with your planning!