Pro Tips: Setting & Managing Your Wedding Budget

Girls, it’s time to set aside the romance for a moment and talk dollars and cents. Unless you’re one of a chosen few for whom the sky is the limit, you are going to need to set a budget for your wedding. I know, I know. Who wants to talk about money when you can be thinking about matrimony? But I speak from experience when I say you’re going to enjoy your wedding (and the subsequent years as someone’s wife) so much more if you aren’t feeling weighed down by debt. A budget wedding can still be a beautiful wedding, and you’re still just as married even if you only spend a hundred bucks.

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So let’s get started. First, you’ve got to determine two very important things:

1. How much money you want to spend on your wedding?
2. Who will be contributing to the wedding and how much?

The traditional rule that said the bride’s family would naturally be paying for the entire wedding is fast becoming history. Today, there is much more sharing of expenses between the bride’s family, the groom’s family and the bride and groom. You may even be paying for your ceremony and reception without any help at all, and more power to you! Many couples are getting married later in life and are well established with their own careers. Sound like you? These brides and grooms are able to pay for more of the expenses. Sometimes they want to pay for the entire wedding from the open bar to the wedding jewelry themselves, just because they can.

And now on to the nitty gritty. A good way to define your budget is to set priorities. What matters to you isn’t necessarily what matters to me or to You need to sit down with your intended to discuss which elements of the wedding are most important to you personally. For instance, is it the reception location, the bridal gown, or the entertainment that is most important to you? How about your spouse-to-be? You should choose 3-4 items that are your top priorities and set the rest of your budget from there. That way you can spend on the things that really matter to you and cut corners on the stuff you don’t care about. Remember, there are literally no wedding must-haves other than the couple, the license, the officiant, and the witnesses. Everything else is negotiable.

Now let’s look at some of the actual costs. Your reception, including the food and beverages, can average 50% – 65% of your total wedding budget. That means the reception location you select and how many guests you invite will have the most impact on your budget. Tread carefully!

Today, the average wedding costs between $12,000 & $25,000. With that in mind here’s a spending guideline based on a $15,000 wedding budget for about 100 – 125 guests:

Category % of Total Avg. Cost
Reception Site, Food & Beverages 50% $7,450
Photography & Videography 13% $2,000
Music 11% $1,600
Apparel 10% $1,500
Flowers 7% $1,000
Invitations 2% $350
Wedding Cake 2% $300
Transportation 2% $300
Miscellaneous 3% $500
Total 100% $15,000

Don’t forget, that’s simply a guideline to help you get started. You can spend your wedding dollars however you like – and you can spend as much or as little as you want. But keep what I said at the beginning in mind. Debt is not a great way to start a life as husband and wife! Good luck!

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christa terry author of iDo