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How to Build Your Wedding Budget

Building your wedding budget, similar your guest list, should be one of the first things you do when you start planning your wedding. Unless you truly have an unlimited budget, please do not start looking at venues until this step is complete.

The wedding planning industry is a $56.7 billion a year industry. The average wedding cost around $28k in 2020 alone. There’s no denying the industry is a cash cow. Unfortunately for you, that means that you’re likely to spend more than you think you will.

Whatever your budget, here are 5 steps to building your wedding planning budget.

Step 1 - Figure out how much you have.

Who’s contributing to your budget? How much? Figure out who’s willing to chip into your overall budget. Add in your contribution and your fiance’s contribution as well.

If this number is less than you want to spend, figure out additional ways you can save money and add to the fund each month.

Set up a rule with your bank or banking app to contribute a certain amount or percentage to your fund every week. Edit your monthly budget to eliminate unnecessary spending so you can continue to save.

Add the additional future savings minus 10% contingency (just in case!) to your first number and you’ll have your ballpark figure.

Step 2 - Build Your Guest List

While this doesn’t need to be exact, we want a relatively close estimate so you can start looking at venues. Take some time to get your guest list together and see how many people will be attending. Try to keep this number as low as possible. Remember, more people = more money spent.

Step 3 - Establish Your Top 3

Figure out what three items you’ll prioritize in your budget above all else. There are a few ways to do this: you and your fiance each come up with one and compromise on the third, each person comes up with their own list and you come to an understanding on each item, or one person decides all three since the other person truly doesn’t care.

Whichever way you choose, ensure you have this list established early on.

Not sure what to choose? Think about the wedding you’ve always wanted. Are you wearing a huge ballgown designer dress? Are you enjoying a gourmet 5-course dinner? Are there flowers everywhere? There’s no wrong answer here, so get creative.

Step 4 - Do Your Research & Plot Out Estimates

Understand that things will likely cost 2-3 times more than you think you should. Use the industry standards below to help figure out how much you should allocate to each category (or use our budget template, linked here).

Venue & catering - 50%

This includes all site rental fees, service charges, taxes, breakdown fees, and fees for the food, beverage, and cake. Also include incidentals like your officiant and marriage license.

Florals & Decor - 8%

Including flowers, decor, rentals, signage, and anything else like a ceremony arch or upgraded backdrop for your photobooth

Attire & Beauty - 8%

This includes hair & makeup, your dress, alterations, accessories, and your fiance’s attire, alterations and accessories. Increase by 2-5% if you’re paying for the bridal party’s attire, but remember to deduct it from other areas

Stationery - 2%

Think save the dates, invitations, and other paper goods like menus, reception stationery, guest book, vow books, thank you notes, and stamps

Transportation - 3%

Bridal party transportation, guest transportation (if needed), transportation for you and your fiance, and any gratuity

Favors, Gifts & Rings - 3%

Wedding bands, ring boxes, favors, gifts for the wedding party, your parents and each other, welcome baskets for guests and thank you gifts for vendors (in lieu of gratuity)

Photo & Video - 9%

Includes the costs for your photographer & videographer

Entertainment - 10%

Includes band or DJ, ceremony music, and cocktail hour music, as well as any guest experiences like lawn games or a photo booth

Misc - 4%

Contingency/a just in case fund, liability insurance, and vendor tips.

Wedding planner - 3%

Remember to increase your big three budgets and eliminate as needed.

Step 5 - Double Check Your Estimates (and Expectations)

It’s an unfortunate truth that most published and Pinterest-popular weddings are $50k-$100k+ weddings, so remember to check your expectations and your budget when looking for decor, venues and vendors.

I interview tons of brides that have a $50,000 wedding in mind with a $15,000 budget.

The average wedding photographer alone can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000+ depending on experience, demand and location; however, it’s one of the few tangible things you can take away from your wedding, so don’t skimp.

I know this was a LOT of information I just threw at you. Remember to take it in steps and try not to get overwhelmed. If you need additional support, send me an email here.

Oh--and don't forget to snag your free wedding planning checklist!

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