The weeks and months after getting engaged can be overwhelming for many brides. Planning a wedding is a totally new experience and so many of us don’t know where to start. I was the same way! Last week on the blog I shared 8 things to do after getting engaged. This week, I’m going to delve a little deeper into one of them: the wedding budget. Planning out your wedding budget can be complicated, especially for younger couples. Unless you’ve been married before or work in the wedding industry, most people truly have no idea how expensive parts of a wedding are. This makes it difficult to come up with a realistic budget. Even once you have what might be a realistic budget, it can be difficult to stick to. So today, we’re going to talk about breaking down your wedding budget.
Weddings are expensive. The average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is somewhere in the neighborhood of $28,000. Insane, right?? Nonetheless, don’t let that number pressure you into having a wedding you can’t afford! Figure how much you and your significant other can save up before the wedding day. Here’s what Dave and I did. We looked at our income and expenses and decided we could afford to put $Y per month in savings. Then we did math to figure how much we’d have saved up by the wedding ($Y x Months of Engagement). Many couples might be lucky enough to have some parent contribution (we were), so don’t forget to factor that in. If you’re in this group, your math would look like this: ($Y x Months of Engagement) + Parent Contribution = Wedding Budget.
I have a couple recommendations. First of all, don’t set your monthly contribution so high that it takes up every spare dollar of income. Make sure to leave wiggle room in case of emergency (a car breaks down, one of you is layed off, etc). Financial emergencies come up, you’ll want to be prepared. Also, try to avoid going into debt to pay for the wedding. Yes, it’s easy to take out a small loan or put those extra expenses on a credit card. But you’ll kick yourself down the road when you’re trying to buy a house, have kids, etc and are still paying off that damn wedding!
So now that you know how much you have to spend, let’s talk about how to break that down. Wedding planning websites like The Knot and Wedding Wire have budget calculators that can guide you how much to spend on each part of the wedding based on your total budget. Here’s an average breakdown of where your wedding budget will go.
This graphic shows how the average cost of a wedding is broken down. As you can see, the venue and catering will by far be the most expensive part of the wedding. Depending on where you live, the cost per person for catering could range anywhere from $20-$200. This could take up a larger portion of your budget if you’re located in a more expensive city or are having a huge guest list! Photographer comes in second place. Pictures are important to most couples because when the wedding is over, your pictures will be a daily reminder of your amazing day!
Just because this is the average breakdown for a wedding doesn’t mean this is what yours has to look like! As you can see below, ours is a little different:
- Venue/Catering: 56%
- Photographer: 13%
- DJ: 6%
- Videographer: 0%
- Planner: 0%
- Dress (including alterations, accessories): 9%
- Flowers/Decor: 3%
- Rings: 3%
- Stationary: 3%
- Favors/Gifts: 3%
- Beauty: 0%
- Other: 3%
One of the biggest differences in our budget is that we didn’t have a wedding planner or videographer. I felt I could do the planning myself (with help from Dave) and we were lucky enough to choose a venue with an on-site coordinator for the wedding day. (Note: the day-of coordinator was a life saver. If your venue doesn’t provide one, I would hire one).
Here’s how Dave and I decided what we would spend on each part of the wedding. We sat down and discussed which parts of the wedding were most important to us. This is what we came up with Dave: food and bar. Me: photographer. Both: honeymoon. Though the honeymoon isn’t part of the budget breakdown I’ve included, we did adjust the cost of our wedding to account for a more expensive honeymoon.
I recommend sitting down with your significant other and having a similar conversation. If you love to dance but know you’ll never look at your wedding pictures or put them in frames, put more money toward the DJ and less toward the photographer. We went this route and ended up finding a kick-ass DJ at a lower price point! As you can see, we also spend less than half the average on flowers and decor. A big part of this is because we didn’t hire a florist. I bought silk flowers and made the bouquets myself. We also had limited decor.
I hope this guide will be helpful to those planning a wedding and struggling with their budget. The money adds up quickly, and that’s why it’s important to set hard limits for yourself in your wedding budget!
To those who are married, which parts of your wedding budget were most important to you?
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