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Wedding Budget Guide

Wedding Budget

By far one of the trickiest (and some may say the most tedious or mundane) parts of wedding planning—​the budget! Wedding budgets are funny yet necessary, and none are exactly alike. There’s no magic formula common for every wedding. That’s why we offer average percentages, based on average allocations across the most popular wedding expenditures.

Whether you’re a DIYer with a smaller budget, or ready to go all out with a glamorous blowout—​remember allocations will depend on formality, time of year, day of the week and guest list size.

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To make it easy for you right away, we’ve added in the current average percentages as the default. But perhaps you would never think of spending 7% of your total wedding budget on flowers. Simply reallocate those by keying in your own percentages, or even create a new expenditure category.

Let’s dive into the main budget buckets first and see how the numbers add up—​using today’s average wedding budget of $15,000.


Reception 48% of budget

$20,000 wedding - $9,600
$15,000 wedding - $7,200
$10,000 wedding - $4,800

Yes, nearly half your budget! This whopping portion includes venue rental, food and beverages, linens, cake, rentals and décor (not including flowers). Obviously your guest list size plays a big part here. While scary to think about the costs here, remember this budget portion will create the fab experience that guests are sure to remember!

Time, location and season will also make an impact. Reception venues generally cost less between November and April, while avoiding a Saturday night reception also saves money. One venue may offer $30 per plate and a $5,000 rental, while another venue just miles away may be double that.

Paring down your menu (while still filling up your hungry guests), offering a cash bar, and creating your own centerpieces are just a few ways other ways to save.

Ceremony 2% of budget

$20,000 wedding - $400
$15,000 wedding - $300
$10,000 wedding - $200

We’ll stick the marriage license into this portion, since it makes the most sense. On top of that are the venue fee, officiate, rentals (i.e. chairs, lighting, arches/backdrops, speakers, microphones), runners, the guestbook, unity candle and more.

From churches to parks, the ceremony budget can differ greatly depending on location and if you need to provide guest seating, audio/visual gear and more. Many couples combine their ceremony and reception into one location, which is a great budget saver –but not an option for everyone.

If your venue doesn’t require a rental fee (many churches fall here), it’s proper etiquette to still offer a donation toward the venue and to the officiant.

Photography 12% of budget

$20,000 wedding - $2,400
$15,000 wedding - $1,800
$10,000 wedding - $1,200

Hiring an appropriately-priced photographer can be daunting. Needless to say, it is one of the biggest decisions to make—​since your photos will forever capture the day!

You’ll hear a lot of people say “you get what you pay for” and that is true for photography and videography. Book early, spend as much as you can for great quality and get as many shots in as possible. No one ever said “I wish I didn’t have so many photos of my wedding!”

If photography is important to you—​and you want to go big—​don’t be afraid to allocate money from other parts of your budget to cover it. If your photography package doesn’t include prints, albums or photo discs; remember those may be future costs to consider. Read over your photography contract carefully to assure get what you pay for—​including session time, rights to photos and more.

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Stationery 4% of budget

$20,000 wedding - $800
$15,000 wedding - $600
$10,000 wedding - $400

Remember to plan stationery quantities to be half of your overall guest list size. A couple or family will count as multiple guests but will share an invitation. Using chic flat invites or including reception info directly onto the invite are a couple ways to save (& still be stylish!).

If you’re looking to go all out, feel free to bump this budget up to 6% or 7%. This will allow you to really demonstrate your attention to detail, set a big tone for your big day—all while showing your guests a memorable time.

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Flowers 7% of budget

$20,000 wedding - $1,400
$15,000 wedding - $1,050
$10,000 wedding - $700

Whether you want to DIY with fresh florals from a warehouse, or work with the best florist in town—​your flowers help set the tone for your wedding and will create an ambiance that will forever be captured.

From bridal bouquets to dazzling centerpieces and sweet hanging arrangements, the budget here can increase drastically based on which flowers are in season, your location and the types of flowers you’re using.

If you’re working with a florist, the consultation, delivery and set-up is typically included—​a bonus for your budget! Spending more on your reception and ceremony flowers vs. bouquets and boutonnieres may be smart, since guests are more likely to check out your décor up close and personal. Plan to re-use ceremony flowers as chic reception centerpieces as another budget saver—​(plus it doubles as a place for bridesmaids to stick their bouquets!).

Apparel 10% of budget

$20,000 wedding - $2,000
$15,000 wedding - $1,500
$10,000 wedding - $1,000

Shopping for THE wedding dress is every bride’s dream! This once-in-a-lifetime shopping excursion(s) can quickly get out of hand, so it’s good to have a dollar amount in mind before checking out the latest dress styles. Knowing how you want to be adorned accessory-wise (think headpieces, veils, shoes and accessories) is also important, as those costs can quickly accumulate. Be sure to include your alterations, make-up and hair into this category.

Oh, and let’s not forget the groom’s apparel. Many men are opting to purchase a suit, since it offers multiple uses beyond just their wedding day. Another option is renting a suit or tux, which is great for grooms who don’t have the need to keep a suit hanging in their closet.

Save by shopping sample sales and trunk shows, or shopping last season’s styles. Either way, you and your groom will look simply astonishing on your wedding day!

Music 8% of budget

$20,000 wedding - $1,600
$15,000 wedding - $1,200
$10,000 wedding - $800

Music plays a big role in a wedding. From the ceremony to the cocktail hour to the dance floor, it sets the mood and helps your guests get involved in your wedding day. The ceremony needs both a musician and singer. Have a close friend or relative with a gorgeous voice? Perhaps that can be their wedding gift to you, and you can allocate that money elsewhere—​plus have a sweet, personal touch included in your ceremony.

For the reception, a DJ spinning tunes tends to cost less than a full live band. This depends on the type of music you’re looking for and how big a band you’ll need, of course. Dinner music is often forgotten about. Make sure to check with your reception musicians to see if that is an option to add in.

Wedding guests will love loosening up on the dance floor and will appreciate your addition of great music to the day.

Rings 2% of budget

$20,000 wedding - $400
$15,000 wedding - $300
$10,000 wedding - $200

With the engagement ring already sparkling on your finger, this covers just the wedding bands for the bride and groom. It’s important to be sure you can afford the rings before committing to their purchase, especially as you begin your new life as a married couple.

Many jewelers offer credit programs, which can help ease the financial burden. It’s up to you and your groom if that is the ideal option, or if you prefer to pay in cash. Regardless, purchase the highest quality that your budget allows. Try not to skimp out here. After all, these rings will be worn for a lifetime and are the very symbol of your magical marriage union!

Gifts 2% of budget

$20,000 wedding - $400
$15,000 wedding - $300
$10,000 wedding - $200

Showing appreciation to your wedding party and family shouldn’t be forgotten. The size of your wedding party may dictate how much to spend on each person. In the weeks or months leading up to your wedding, keep your eyes peeled for unique and fabulous finds. Or even keep the theme simple by providing gifts that may help make the wedding day events easier for the wedding party (think jewelry, make-up, flip-flops, socks and more).

Chic favors to offer your wedding guests also falls into this category. Favors should definitely showcase your personality and wedding day theme—​and be provided as a sweet keepsake from your wedding. Many brides opt to DIY their favors with quality craft time with friends and family ahead of the big day.

Go with your instinct, be thoughtful—​and have a little fun! And don’t be afraid to get a bit sappy, especially with gifts for your parents.

Transportation 1% of budget

$20,000 wedding - $200
$15,000 wedding - $150
$10,000 wedding - $100

You can easily arrange your wedding day transportation on a budget. (But let’s be honest—​most grooms research and book the wedding day transportation!). From stretch limos to classic cars, the options are endless and the prices diverse.

Your wedding party will surely appreciate a ride together to the reception from the ceremony site after a busy day—​such as a luxury bus or stretch limo. Also keep in mind transportation for guests if your reception site is farther away from your recommended lodging site. Many hotels offer shuttle buses, but there are sometimes fees and tips involved for events.

Miscellaneous 4% of budget

$20,000 wedding - $800
$15,000 wedding - $600
$10,000 wedding - $400

Ugh! Some extra costs sneak up on you, others are hidden, and others are unpredicted. If you prepare for the unexpected ahead of time, you won’t be left scrambling to come up with extra cash at the last minute.

Here are some to keep in mind:
Postage for stationery
Last-minute rentals
Overtime fees
Cake cutting fees
Natural disaster/weather events
Hotel rooms
Wedding day lunch
Forgotten items
Sales tax
Gratuities and tips
Pre-wedding hair and make-up trials

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Track your expenses, categorize your costs and allocate your funds as you prep for the biggest day of your life. Save it, print it…play with it!

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Spending for your wedding is made simple with this convenient (and dare we say—​fun?) tool!

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