Budgeting for a wedding is hard. Really hard. Creating a budget is an exercise in prioritizing, patience, and compromise, and quite often your first effort will end in tears. Fun! Who loves wedding planning now, huh?
Never fear. It really doesn’t have to be that hard! We’re going to walk you through some of the high points that we consider when helping our clients to create their budgets, and share some of our favorite resources for lowering the stress of assigning a monetary value to your wedding.
First and foremost, do you have your guest list? No? Go read this and this, and pull that together. Why? Because your guest count will DRAMATICALLY affect the look, feel, and style of your wedding. Take these two pictures, for example. Both of these weddings had the same budget, but the couples made very different choices on priorities.
Photo 1 courtesy of Ben Q Photography
Photo 2 courtesy of The Mamones
Photo 1 was taken at a wedding held over brunch on a Saturday, with a guest count of 60. Photo 2 was taken at a wedding held on a Saturday evening with dinner and dancing, with a guest count of 135. As you can see, by hosting a smaller number of guests and moving to the morning, the couple from Photo 1 was able to increase their decor budget to bring their vision to life. The couple from Photo 2 felt more attached to their guest list, and made cuts in different areas to be able to keep everyone on the list and still have a traditional evening wedding.
So! Your next task in building your budget – setting priorities. You can approach this in a couple of different ways, depending on how you and your partner communicate best, and on how many people will be involved in your budgeting. If it’s just you and your partner, you may be able to simply talk it out. What are the top priorities for each of you? Do they mesh, or do they conflict? Can you use those priorities to define the feel of your wedding? Read more on this approach on A Practical Wedding. If your budgeting involves more than just the two of you, it might be easier to approach it from a category standpoint. List out all the budget items you want to include in your wedding budget. Then have each person pick their top 3-5 priorities, and discuss. Narrow the priorities down to 2-3 that everyone agrees on, and target your budget to focus on those categories in importance.
Almost everyone will spend some money on:
- Venue – ceremony and reception, if you need both
- Food and Beverage – include serving staff and bartenders!
- Photography and Videography
- Entertainment – DJ, band, ceremony musicians
- Officiant and license
Most people also spend some money on:
- Cake and/or desserts
- Paper goods – save the dates, invitations, postage! Plus any day-of items, like menus, place cards, programs, etc.
- Rentals – tables, chairs, linens, chargers, plates, flatware, glasses, stage, heaters, fans, tents, etc.
- Hair and makeup
- Wedding planner 🙂
When assigning numbers to each category, keep in mind that these are only a guesstimate. You may find, as you discuss with your planner or do more research on costs in your market, that the actual cost and your expectation do not match up. This is the time when you should refer back to your priorities. Focus on getting what you want in those 2-3 key areas, and be prepared to sacrifice in others. And keep in mind that, no matter what your final wedding budget or look or feel, at the end of the day, you and your partner will be married. And that really is the most important part of the day!