A wedding day is one of the most important days in a person’s life. Whether you are planning your own wedding or helping a friend plan theirs, it can be difficult to decide how much money to spend and where to cut corners. In this blog post we will discuss how brides can create a realistic budget for their wedding while still enjoying all of the things that they want on their big day. We will also provide different ways brides can save money during the process so that they have more cash available for other expenses such as honeymoon travel!
The average cost of a wedding
Many brides want to know what the average cost of a wedding is so they can start creating a budget and planning their wedding. For 2020, the average wedding in the United States was $19,000.
Now, before you start making plans around that number, think about how things vary from state to state and even city to city. Things do not cost the same all over. A wedding in one city might cost $19,000, but in another city, it might cost $30,000.
Instead of looking at the entire country, take a look at your state. Look at the average wedding cost per state, and then, you can even take it further and think about your city. Is your city cost more than the average in your state or is it lower?
Average Wedding Budget Breakdowns
Many wedding experts will tell you that you need to budget certain amounts or percentages to different things. Most will say something like this:
- wedding venue 18%
- video/photo 10%
- wedding planner 3%
- music or dj 8%
- food and drinks 25%
- dress and suits 7%
- cake 2%
- flowers and decor 8%
- hair and makeup 7%
- rings 2%
- wedding favors and gifts 2%
- invites 2%
- transportation 2%
- other wedding expenses 4%
Basically, you’d take your overall budget and then use the percentages to calculate how much you can spend on each thing. For a $20,000 budget, this would be the breakdown.
- wedding venue $3600
- video/photo $2000
- wedding planner $600
- music or dj $1600
- food and drinks $5000
- dress and suits $1400
- cake $400
- flowers and decor $1600
- hair and makeup $1400
- rings $400
- wedding favors and gifts 2%
- invites $400
- transportation $400
- other wedding expenses $800
Problems with Using an Average Wedding Budget
Some of this sounds very reasonable, but that doesn’t mean this will work for everyone. It might be a good starting point, but there are other things you need to consider.
Adjust Your Budget to Fit Your Wedding
Each wedding is different, so it’s silly to think that your wedding budget will be the same. What if you only have a small amount of people? What if you are using a backyard instead of a wedding venue? What if you aren’t having alcohol? Each of those things could drastically change your wedding budget. Using the wedding budget breakdown or even just the average wedding budget might not work.
Prioritize what you care about
Another big issue with the wedding budget breakdown is that it doesn’t take into account what you really want. $2000 for photo and video is not great for a $20,000 wedding. What if photos are the most important thing to you? Do you keep the $2000 budget and settle for what you get?
I think a better idea is to start with what you actually value. Why spend money on something you don’t care about? Go through all the things on your list and find your top three things. Is photography and videography super important? Do you really care about your wedding attire? Do you really want a dance party so the DJ is the most important?
Once you have those three things, raise the percentages on that and lower percentages on things you don’t care about or remove things that aren’t relevant.
Then, book those three things first, so you make sure you have money in the total budget for them. You might find that you need to adjust again, but this way, you are taking money away from those other things that don’t matter as much.
Creating a Wedding Budget the Easy Way
You might hate math like I do or all of this just seems confusing or overwhelming. There is an easier way to determine the budget for your wedding. You can use a Wedding budget calculator.
There are a ton of wedding budget calculators out there, and they all do things a little bit differently. Some base things off of the percentages and others will let you adjust things based off what you value. I would suggest you try out several of them and compare the numbers. Are you getting the same wedding budget again and again or are they really different?
Common Wedding Budget Problems
You now have a general idea of how to create your wedding budget, but there are still other problems that might pop up.
Going Crazy with Your Credit Card
America seems to really have some issues with credit cards. We will charge almost anything to them.
While credit cards aren’t necessarily a bad thing, you need to be careful when using them for your wedding. When you see that number for your total budget, you might be tempted to throw it all on a credit card, so you can get it all.
If you can pay it all off before the interest kicks in, that’s fine, but you don’t want it to be a source of debt. Look at the percent they hit you with and that should scare you. The last thing you want is to see that number every month and start feeling remorse over your wedding.
Not Knowing Who is Paying for What
Traditionally certain people pay for different parts of the wedding. Things have changed quite a bit in the past 20 years, and the bride and groom might be paying for all of it.
It’s important to talk to your friends and family and find out who is paying for what. Don’t assume. Talk to everyone that might contribute, and this way, you know what is covered or how much you really have in your bridal budget.
Not Saving Up Money
Some people are lucky and have a rich uncle or someone that will pay for everything. The rest of us normal folks will need to start saving.
Most weddings are at least a year out, and you can save up a lot of money in that time. Unfortunately, many people wait till 3 or 4 months before the wedding and then start trying to find extra money.
If you are able to save $200 a month ($100 each), that would be $2000 in 10 months. That might seem impossible, but it really would require a few small changes. Skip going out to eat once or twice a month or pick up two extra shifts per month and you are good!
Wedding Budget Tips
There are plenty of things you can do to make planning your wedding easier and taking the stress out of making a budget.
Think about the kind of wedding you want.
One of the first things you need to do in the planning process is decide what kind of wedding you want. Do you want something modern or something rustic? Do you want it to be elegant or more low key? Do you want a giant dance party or calm and quiet?
This will help you with determining those top three services, and it will also help you when you pick the rest of your vendors. As you book people, you’ll want to make sure they contribute to that overall experience.
Negotiate as Needed
When you go to Walmart, the prices that you see are the prices you pay. You can’t really argue with them. Wedding planning is a bit different. Most companies are small businesses, and you will be dealing directly with the owner. They will have the ability to change prices and make decisions. That means you can negotiate.
A few warnings and tips.
One, don’t start off trying to work them over. You want these people to like you and want to be at your wedding. Being overly aggressive can make them resent you and even turn you away.
Two, let the wedding vendors come up with some options. Too often couples or parents will come in and tell the vendor what they want and for how much. That rarely works out well. Instead, ask if there’s anything they can do or give them your general budget and see what they come up with.
Three, only negotiate if you really need to. Like I mentioned, asking for a discount first can possibly mess up a relationship. If you have the money and you really like the vendor, then don’t try to talk them down.
Track your spending
It’s extremely important to keep track of your spending as you go. You will want to know how much you have spent, how much you owe in the future, and how much you have left.
There are several different options out there like Excel, Google Sheets, or even pen and paper. One of the benefits of the first two, though, is that they can calculate things for you automatically and you can access them wherever you go.
Compare prices and services
When you start booking wedding vendors, you’ll want to do a lot of research before signing a contract. One thing that is really important is to make sure you are looking at the prices and the services. Are they all offering the same thing or do some offer more? Is someone way cheaper than the rest? This will give you an idea of the type of service you will get, but will also let you know if you should expect to pay more to get all the services.
Pad the Budget for Surprises
When we looked at the wedding budget percentages, the last item was for other expenses. This was to cover anything that I didn’t mention, but it also could be used for surprises. Sometimes things happen that are out of the ordinary or you just didn’t expect.
It’s good to have some wiggle room in your budget to make sure you can take care of it. That “other” section is a good idea or you can pad the overall budget, so that you should have extra cash if needed.
Money Saving Ideas
Weddings are expensive and you might freak out when you calculate your total budget. The good news is that there are several ways to save money.
Reduce the size of your guest list
2020 was the year for small weddings, and I’m sure parents rejoiced at all the money saved. You can still do this for your wedding.
If you create a smaller guest list, you will save on things like food and drinks, wedding favors, wedding invitations, and possibly the venue.
Before you go hacking away at the guest list, make sure you talk to your partner and parents about who you need to invite.
Save on Catering
As I just mentioned, food and drinks can be expensive for 100-200 people. Depending on the style of your wedding, you might be able to save money on catering.
There are three ways to do this. One, plan the ceremony and reception at a time where you avoid dinner. If you have a ceremony at 1 or 2, the reception should end before dinner, and you would only have to provide something small.
Two, hire a local restaurant. Most restaurants offer catering these days, and usually it is much cheaper than a wedding caterer. The meal might not be as fancy, but at least you already know how it will taste. If you go this route, make sure to find out what all they do for you. Do they drop off the food and that’s it or is it full service?
Three, prepare your own food. This is the cheapest option, but it’s also the most involved. You’d have to find one or two people willing and capable of cooking for a large group of people. That’s a lot of time and stress. Besides it being free, it would be a chance for you to share some family recipes with all the wedding guests.
Hold the ceremony at home
Another thing that 2020 showed us is that you can have your wedding ceremony and wedding reception at home. Many people were forced to have a backyard wedding, but this could be a great way to save money. A wedding venue usually takes a large chunk of your wedding budget, so if you cut that out, you can either use it somewhere else or save it.
Wedding help over Wedding Gifts
One trend that has started in the past five years is something called a honeyfund. This is where people put money toward your honeymoon instead of buying a wedding gift.
This tip can actually be used for all aspects of your wedding, not just the honeymoon. You can have people contribute to your wedding photographer, DJ, or any other thing.
Not everyone will want to do this, but putting the option out there at least makes it a possibility.
Pick the Right Day and Date
Did you know that depending on when you do your wedding you could save 10-20%? Crazy huh?
In the wedding world, Saturdays are gold. That’s when most people choose to have a wedding, so those days are super competitive. Fridays and Sundays are becoming more popular, but you will still save money on those days. Mondays-Thursdays are the best days for a good deal.
Another thing to consider is the month. Right now, October is the busiest month of the year, but I don’t do as much December to February. Pick one of those months to save even more.
If you look back at our budget from above, flowers can cost around $1600. Yes, flowers add a lot to the pictures and the experience, but they also die and are gone within a week. Lots of the venues in my area are pretty enough on their own and need little decoration. In these cases, stick with the bouquets, boutonnière, and maybe something minimal for centerpieces. Anything else you can probably put together on your own for half the cost.
Make your own invitations
Are you artsy or do you love crafts? You might want to make your own wedding invitations. There are cheap online options that let you design and order them. Another option is to buy a template online and adjust it as needed. Then, you can print it out using your printer or find a cheap printer.
Save Money on the Wedding Dress
Most wedding dresses are about $1500. The wedding dress is a huge part of the wedding, but you can find a cheaper option and still look fabulous.
One option is to buy your dress off the rack. That means it was the sample dress either used for display or possibly used for fittings. If it fits perfectly, it could be a great way to save.
Another option is to buy used. There are sites and groups on Facebook for selling wedding items.
Bring Your Own Alcohol
Alcohol costs a lot when you’re buying it from a venue or from a bartender, especially if you are having an open bar. If you are allowed to, bring your own alcohol. When you buy it in large quantities at retail, it is less expensive. Just makes sure you buy enough to last the entire wedding.
Explore affordable dessert options
I love wedding cake, but it can get expensive. You might find yourself spending $400 to $800 on a wedding cake and groom’s cake. Instead, you can go for something unique and interesting. You could get fancy donuts, homemade pies, or cupcakes.
Watch for Hidden Fees
There’s a local gym that claims you can get a membership for $10 a month. That sounds like a great deal, but turns out there are other fees that end up jacking the cost up to about $30 a month. Not cool!
The same thing can happen with your wedding, so you need to look out for hidden fees. The best way to avoid this is to ask each vendor up front if there are fees or if people usually spend extra money on things.
For example, a photographer might sell you prints after the wedding. Depending on how they structure the package, this might be the only way you get your photos. Another common one is a cleanup fee at the venue. You might get charged an extra $300 if you don’t get all the trash. Instead, have your wedding party help pick up everything before you leave.
The Perfect Bridal Budget
You’re getting married, and you want to have the best wedding day possible, but it takes a lot of planning and you need a realistic budget. The price tag on many things might scare you, but with some careful planning and maybe help from your family, you can still get all the things you want without destroying your personal finances. Follow the steps above, use some of the ideas for less expensive options, and avoid the problems and you’ll be on your way!