Truth is, almost every aspect of your wedding will be affected by your overall budget. If you don’t know what that budget is, every decision you make will be more stressful than the last.
And guess what? It doesn’t matter what your budget is. As long as it’s realistic to the expectations you have. But knowing where your “financial comfort zone” lies is critical. Whether you’re investing $5,000, $50,000 or $500,000 in your wedding – knowing your budget will help you in every step of your decision making process.
How do you determine your budget?
Start with an honest conversation with all contributors
First, identify who is going to be contributing to the budget. It’s best to start your budget conversation with all contributors early on in the process, rather than making incorrect assumptions. (You know what they say about assuming) Everyone has different relationships with money, so it’s best to get clear about everyone’s comfort level right from the beginning.
Another important part of the conversation with contributors is about their expectations for giving the money. Do they want to be involved in decision making? Do they want to have a say in the guest list? Would they just like to support you? Being clear here, at the beginning of your wedding planning process, can make for a much better process (not to mention a better relationship going forward as your families merge).
Build your guest list
If there is just ONE thing you take away from reading this article, it’s this: Your guest list is the #1 biggest factor in your budget.
More guests means you’ll need a larger budget to host them. Because every guest you add means more food, drink, seating, tables, decor, invitations, etc. And adding a small handful might not feel like a lot. But it adds up, my friend.
If you’re reading this thinking “But I want our wedding to be special and so many that I’ve attended has had 100+ guests”.
A smaller guest list does NOT equal a less fun, less special, or any less real wedding. You can actually create a much more incredible experience for fewer guests on a tighter budget, instead of trying to stretch your budget to accommodate every person that you know.
And doesn’t it sound lovely to have 50 people telling everyone what an amazing wedding you had vs. 200 people leaving feeling “meh” about the whole thing?
Either way. The size of your guest list is important for so many steps in your wedding planning process – from whether your venue can accommodate your guests, how many meals you will provide, and how many invitations will be needed. So keep this in mind as you build your list.
Do your research
You may see a lot of incredibly “general” advice online about what to spend in each category for your wedding. It’s important to remember that that general advice you find is just that: general advice. To figure out what things may cost for you, do research in YOUR local area. What might be considered standard in one part of the country may be dramatically different in another area.
There are many ways you can do your local research.
One of the best is by talking with a planner who’s local to where your wedding will be taking place.
You can also talk with local venues and other pros to help you along the way. This will help you determine what things realistically cost in your area.
One of the things I see a lot of couples doing is turning to local FB groups. While they aren’t ALL bad, I suggest avoiding them, as many tend to focus on “as cheap as possible” options. While stretching a budget is fine, cheaper is not always the best option, because you absolutely get what you pay for. The best way to spread out your budget is to focus on your priorities, and prioritize your spending that way.
Talk through your priorities
One of the easiest ways to save money is to not spend money on things that don’t matter to you – especially if they don’t add to the overall guest experience. Before you make any major decisions, talk with your partner about each of your individual priorities for the day – besides getting married, of course. (Hopefully that priority is #1 for both of you)
By doing this, you’re going to find that what matters the most to you might not matter to your partner and vice versa.
I hear a lot of couples say they just want everyone to “have a good time”. Great, and of course. But what does a “great time” mean to them?
By defining what “having a good time” means to each of you on a granular level (you may be surprised), you’ll not only be able to connect with your partner, but be sure that you’re putting together a wedding that truly represents both of you.
And the key to this conversation? Keep an open mind and an open heart to what your partner is sharing. While some differences in priorities might arise, taking this time to connect and talk through your priorities now will help you avoid arguments down the line.
After having this conversation, you should have an intentional list of what your priorities are. If something is a high priority item, more of the budget should be allocated to it. If it is a lower priority (or no priority) item, either skip it or mark it as something you can skip to allocate those funds to something more meaningful to you and your guests.
There’s no right or wrong answers here – as long as you’re honoring your priorities and checking the boxes on the Four Fundamentals of a Great Event, you really can’t go wrong.
Track your budget
Making a budget is great. But if you don’t look at it ever again and don’t keep track of what you’re spending, it was all for nothing. Because I promise that all of those “little” decisions you make will add up to a MUCH bigger number than your math brain is calculating.
You don’t want your wedding budget to end up like a trip to Target.
Hear me out…
Ever go to Target for just one or two things? But you end up leaving with bags on each arm, a $200 receipt, and a small bit of guilt? (At least once a month for me)
This is what happens when you make wedding planning decisions without consulting the budget. But add a few zeros at the end..
Imagine if you went into Target with an intentional list and the exact amount of money you need to purchase what you need? And every time you added something to your cart, you’d see the total number increase.
When you got to the checkout (or the wedding day, if you’re following this analogy), you’d be ready for the cashier to give you your total and you’d feel fine forking over the money for it. You knew the number going in,. You did your research. No surprises here.
I want you to give your wedding budget this same level of respect and discipline. When it comes to making your final vendor payments, you won’t have anywhere NEAR as much stress.
But where to start?
You can start to give your budget this very-adult level of respect by tracking your budget, commitments, and payments to know what you’ve agreed to, what you’ve paid so far, and what you still owe in the future. Each item or vendor is an item in that Target cart, and by tracking your budget and honoring your priorities, you’re being thoughtful with what you’re placing in the “cart” of your wedding day.
Need to save some time and get organized now?
If you want a simple and beautiful way to keep track of your wedding budget, shop the Wedding Budget template in my Shop at DPNAK.
This ready-to-use Google Sheets template combines elegant and minimal design with highly functional and automatic formatting. Two different tabs allow you to get an overall view of your budget, contributions, and payments PLUS a comprehensive detailed view of each item, by category. This download includes instructions to make your own copy of the Wedding Budget Spreadsheet which you can edit and customize, as needed.
I’m so excited for this document as it was created in a collaboration with my good friend and insanely talented Ohio-based wedding planner, Berlyn Martin of Berlyn Events.
You deserve it.
My friend, planning a wedding can be super stressful. And spending THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of dollars as you do it only adds to the stress.
Do your current and future self a major solid.
Create your budget, track your budget, and have an amazing wedding day that you feel amazing about.
And remember, you’re not alone here. If you’re getting married in the Eastern Pennsylvania area, I’m happy to be the planner to give you some tips, walk you through it, and make sure your expectations are aligned.