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What To Include On A Wedding Budget
Weddings on a budget

What To Include On A Wedding Budget

Planning a wedding involves making many exciting decisions about venues, attire, decorations, and more. However, it also requires creating a realistic wedding budget that allows you to prioritize spending and avoid going into debt. Crafting a complete budget is essential to keep your wedding affordable and stress-free.

This article provides a comprehensive guide to building your wedding budget. We will explore all the typical wedding expenses to factor in, strategies for setting and sticking to your budget, and tips for where you may be able to save money without compromising on the celebration. Whether you’re planning a modest intimate wedding or a more lavish large affair, you’ll find helpful advice here for budgeting every detail.

Standard Wedding Budget Breakdown

As a starting point, it’s useful to understand typical spending categories and amounts that couples devote to their wedding. While averages vary greatly depending on factors like location and number of guests, the following budget percentages provide a general benchmark:

  • Venue: 48-50% of total budget
  • Food and beverages: 8-10%
  • Photography: 8-10%
  • Music/entertainment: 8-10%
  • Flowers: 8-10%
  • Attire: 5-10%
  • Stationery: 2-5%
  • Wedding rings: 2-5%
  • Gifts: 2-5%
  • Miscellaneous: 1-2%

Keep in mind your priorities and guest count will shift these averages. For example, a smaller wedding may spend more on food per head than a large one. Or formal black tie weddings typically have higher attire and photography costs than casual ones. Use this list as a starting point, not a rigid formula.

The Three Main Budgeting Steps

Building a wedding budget involves three key phases:

1. Set Your Total Spending Cap

First, decide the maximum you’re comfortable devoting to the entire event, factoring in your overall financial situation. Be realistic about what you can afford, rather than starting with a desired dollar amount and trying to make it work.

If parents or others are contributing funds, make sure you align on the total budget upfront. Track all deposits and expenses in one place to avoid confusion.

2. Establish Priorities

Next, outline your top priorities to guide where you want to allocate the most funds, such as:

  • Dream wedding venue
  • Photographer to capture special moments
  • Elegant wedding gown
  • High-end catering and bar package
  • Live music and entertainment

Recognize you likely can’t invest heavily in every category – decide what matters most to treat as splurges.

3. Divide Spending by Category

With your total budget and priorities mapped out, break down estimated costs for all wedding details based on research and vendor quotes.

Allow miscellaneous wiggle room for incidentals too. Revisit and adjust category amounts if needed as you refine plans.

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Tracking every income source and expenditure in a wedding budgeting tool can streamline this. Apps and spreadsheets help organize all elements in one dashboard to simplify monitoring spending.

Itemized Wedding Budget Breakdown

Now let’s explore common wedding expense categories and cost factors to help build out your own complete budget:


Securing your ceremony and reception venue(s) is typically the first big budget item to tackle. Costs vary widely based on:

  • Location type: hotels, restaurants, and banquet halls tend to cost more than more casual venues like gardens, farms, and parks
  • Guest capacity: smaller venues under 100 people are usually more affordable than larger ones;
  • Services included: all-inclusive venues handle items like tables, chairs, linens, and cleanup while others require separate vendor rentals
  • Season and day/time: Saturdays in peak wedding season are most expensive

Be strategic in finding a site that aligns with your wedding style and guest count to maximize appeal within budget. Also factor in costs like security deposits and service fees.


Food and drink typically represents the second largest wedding expense. Catering costs depend on elements like:

  • Formality of menu: plated dinners are generally pricier than heavy hors d’oeuvres and buffet formats
  • Type of cuisine: specialty options like seafood, ethnic food stations can boost costs
  • Bar service: premium open bars get expensive; limiting hours, beer/wine-only, or cash bars save money
  • Any rentals: fees for plates, glassware, linens and other service items add up

Look for wedding packages or reduced prices on off-peak days. Brunches and daytime ceremonies tend to have lower catering price tags too.

Photography and Videography

Most couples invest heavily in professional wedding photographers and videographers to immortalize the event. On average, photography represents 8-10% of total wedding budgets. Factors impacting costs include:

  • Hours of coverage: longer durations with prep through reception exit photos means higher fees
  • Number of photographers/videographers: teams provide more guest perspectives
  • Prints and albums: printing hundreds of high-res photos boosts overall costs
  • Drone footage and specialty equipment

Ways to cut photography/video costs include limiting shooting durations, skipping videography, printing fewer photos, or hiring amateur student photographers.

Flowers and Decor

Flowers and decor play a huge role in bringing your wedding vision to life visually. Key considerations for this budget category are:

  • Floral choices: expensive roses, peonies, and orchids have higher price tags than carnations, baby’s breath or greenery
  • Arrangements needed: bridal and bridesmaid bouquets, boutonnieres, ceremony arch and aisle decor, centerpieces, etc.
  • Non-floral decor: lighting, draping, candles, signage
  • Rentals for items like vases and columns
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Savings tactics include choosing in-season flowers, minimizing arrangements, using greenery and filler flowers to supplement expensive blooms, and decorating reception tables with elements like candles, books, or fruit instead of major florals.

What To Include On A Wedding Budget

Wedding Attire

From wedding gowns and tuxedos to accessories and undergarments, looking your best carries costs. Attire spending factors include:

  • New or used: secondhand gowns and renting tuxes save substantially over new purchases
  • Formality: black tie dress codes are pricier to outfit than casual ceremonies
  • Alterations: tailoring for the perfect fit adds up, especially for brides, bridesmaids and female VIPs
  • Accessories: Consider costs for shoes, jewelry, hair pieces, cufflinks etc.

Brides, look for sample or discontinued gowns at a discount. Bridesmaids can potentially wear affordable, flattering dresses from mainstream stores like ASOS or David’s Bridal rather than expensive bridal salons.

Wedding Rings

Symbolizing your eternal bond, wedding rings carry high sentimental value. But they also carry monetary value requiring budgeting.

  • Metal type and karats: platinum and gold are more costly than silver or alternative metals
  • Diamonds and gemstones: carat size, cut quality, color and clarity grade raise prices
  • Engravings and custom details

Ways to reduce ring costs include choosing lower karat gold, lab diamonds or gemstone alternatives like moissanite, minimizing blingy embellishments, and shopping sales or online vendors.

Wedding Stationery

From save-the-dates to invitations to signage, stationery adds up faster than couples expect. Factors adding cost include:

  • Paper quality and printing methods: thick paper, letterpress, and foil stamping increase prices
  • Quantity needed: the more guests, the more suite pieces like RSVP cards and info inserts required
  • Additional signage: table numbers, menus, welcome signs, etc.
  • Postage for mailing suites, especially with extra inserts

Ordering printed wedding invites has gotten much more affordable with online printing services. Opting for digital invites instead of paper mailings can yield major budget savings too.

Entertainment and Music

Live music sets the tone and tempo for weddings, encouraging guests to dance and celebrate. Typical entertainment costs depend on:

  • Band vs. DJ: live musicians are generally pricier
  • Hours needed: costs climb for longer reception dance parties going into the night
  • Lighting and AV needs: sophisticated sound, staging and lighting enhancements boost budgets

Savings can come from hiring solo musicians like a guitarist or pianist rather than full bands, choosing basic lighting packages over complex designs, or finding newer DJs establishing their business.

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Getting wedding parties and guests from place to place requires coordination and money. Factor in costs like:

  • Wedding party vehicle: limo, party bus, or luxury car rentals to transport wedding VIPs
  • Guest shuttles: buses to transport guests between venues or hotels
  • Parking attendants or valets: required at some venues

Having guests drive themselves or take public transportation are big ways to avoid these expenses.

Hair, Makeup and Beauty

Looking flawless, photogenic and camera-ready for the big day requires some professional beauty prep for many brides and bridal parties. Hair and makeup costs vary based on:

  • Number of people being serviced and trials
  • Travel fees if you don’t provide getting ready location
  • Formality (black tie events demand more intensive looks)

DIY makeup and enlisting artistic friends’ help can reduce these beauty budgets.


If you’re hosting destination weddings or out of town guests, lodging costs come into play.

  • Room blocks: negotiate group rates with hotels for guests
  • Bride/groom suite: splurge on luxury overnight stay for the newlyweds

Local weddings avoid major accommodation costs. But do budget for the wedding night hotel escape.

Tips and Gifts

Showing appreciation through tips and gifts for those helping execute your vision is customary. Allow for:

  • Vendor tips: 15-20% of contract prices for waiters, bartenders etc.
  • Gifts: cover bridesmaids’ jewelry or hair, groomsmen gift bags

Having bridesmaids cover their own dresses and accessories saves costs. Homemade gifts also minimize this budget category.

Miscellaneous Costs

Finally, pad your total budget with a bit of wiggle room for incidental expenses like:

  • Marriage license fees
  • App order technology fees
  • Wedding insurance
  • Bathroom baskets, welcome bags or favors for guests
  • Childcare for little wedding attendees
  • Unexpected overages

Top Budget Saving Tips

Get creative to trim wedding costs with strategies like:

  • Have an off-peak season or weekday wedding
  • Choose a naturally beautiful venue that requires little added decor
  • Edit the guest list ruthlessly or host a micro wedding
  • Serve appetizers or desserts rather than a multi-course plated dinner
  • Buy alcohol in bulk from wholesalers instead of venues
  • Make your own centerpieces and decor using affordable materials
  • Hire student photographers or videographers building portfolios

Prioritizing where to splurge vs. save helps balance your wedding budget. The keys are aligning on total spending, determining must-haves, researching actual costs, and tracking diligently. Follow this comprehensive budgeting guide and tool recommendations to create a wedding budget that supports the celebration of your dreams without breaking the bank!

What To Include On A Wedding Budget

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