Wedding budgeting is an incredibly important early step in successfully planning your big day. The problem with most wedding websites though is that they offer a standardized approach to this process. That’s great as a point of reference; however, it’s not very helpful in setting you up for success because it’s not based on your unique situation. In this article, I’ll walk you through my simple 𝟳 𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗽 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝘁𝗼 𝗰𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮 𝘄𝗲𝗱𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗯𝘂𝗱𝗴𝗲𝘁 that’s right for YOU.
Instead of just looking at “typical” wedding budgets or plugging your budget into a cookie cutter allocation tool, the savvy way to wedding budget is based on YOUR priorities, YOUR goals, and YOUR financial means. By following this process, you’ll set yourself up for success to plan the wedding of your dreams without going into debt.
Wedding Budgeting in 7 Simple Steps
Budgeting for your wedding is a crucial first step in planning a memorable celebration without breaking the bank. Before you can really get to planning, you should carefully consider the budget you’re comfortable setting.
Here’s how to go about it:
1. Know Your Finances
It’s easy to play the comparison game, much harder to tunnel vision into your own unique situation, but I strongly advise you to do just that instead of seeking out recommended budgets from external sources. Begin your wedding budgeting process by assessing your current financial situation and ask yourself the following questions:
- Is there a chunk of an existing savings account that we’d feel comfortable allocating towards the wedding?
- Considering our weekly/monthly real life expenses, is there an amount we’d feel comfortable saving to put towards our wedding budget?
- Are there other goals to consider such as saving for a down payment on a house or family planning?
2. Have the Wedding Budget Conversation
It’s uncomfy to talk about money with family, trust me I know. But, it’s imperative to know going into the budget planning process. Involve your families in the wedding budget conversation early to understand if there is any part of the day, be it financial or perhaps a DIY project, they’d like to take on.
For example, my mother in law made all of our wedding favors as a way to contribute. My dad stocked our DIY bar and also helped with all of our landscaping to create the backyard wedding venue of our dreams.
4. Crunch Your Numbers
OK, you’ve analyzed your own finances, and you’ve polled family members on what they would like to contribute. Now it’s time for the reality check. Let’s see what you’re really working with, here. Write that down and we’ll come back to that in just a bit!
4. Know Your Limits
This one might not grace most of the “budget planning” guides you’ve seen, but it’s important to understand any preconceived notions you or your partner have about what is realistic and rational to spend on your wedding day. Why? Because wedding planning can be stressful enough without the added complexity of you and your partner being of two different minds about your wedding budget.
So, talk it out. Does $20,000 sound outrageous to either of you? Get it out on the table to understand where your boundaries are. Now that you’ve got that out of the way, you’ve got your number!
5. Draft Your Guest List
Now that you’ve got a ballpark budget, it’s time to get a ballpark guest count.
The key factor influencing your wedding cost is the number of guests you invite. This guest count impacts your venue size, as well as the expenses for food and alcohol, which are major cost components and are tallied up on a per-person basis. Your guest count also determines the quantity of items you’ll need to budget for, such as invitations, table rentals, chair rentals, cake slices, and wedding favors.
Get an initial guest list drafted, make sure you’re counting any plus-ones or kids (if you’re inviting them) and get a total count. Though not everyone you invite will be able to make it, use this number as a starting place.
6. Set Your Wedding Budgeting Priorities
Determine what aspects of the wedding are most important to you and your partner. Is it the venue, the food, the entertainment, or the decor? For me and my now husband, it was the music. Our big splurge was a 7-piece band we fell in love with one New Years Eve. We knew this would be a big expense, so we cut back elsewhere.
Once you have your top careabouts in mind, you can prioritize your spending based on what matters most to both of you, rather than following a cookie cutter wedding budget to model yours after.
7. Do Your Research
Before you get into the nitty gritty of allocating the budget you’ve established for your desired priorities, do some research to get a gauge on the average costs of those top priorities.
From there, you’ll know how much of that total budget to allocate to those top priorities first and then you can work your way down to your lowest priority items. Ultimately, there may not be room in the budget to accommodate every “typical” wedding item, and that’s OK. Your wedding doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s.
Here’s some great wedding budgeting resources to get you started:
- Money.com provides a break-down of average wedding costs by state. This will provide you will a very high-level frame of reference on average all-in wedding budgets where you live to get started.
- Wedding Wire provides a great tool that provides average costs of wedding vendors by zip code. You can look up average wedding costs for everything from the photographer to the wedding cake based on your specific zip code.
Once you’ve completed these steps, it’s time to build your budget. We’ll get into that next!
Wedding Budgeting Spreadsheets
OK, now it’s time to get to work. With all of the above answers in mind, you’re ready to start crafting your draft wedding budget. Keep in mind that this process may take some refinement as you go and isn’t a one and done task. I found in many cases that budget allocations shifted slightly as I began researching venues and vendors, and that’s completely OK. This is just a starting point so that you can head down the right path with venue and vendor research.
Lucky for you, there are plenty of options out there that already exist. Why reinvent the wheel?! Your first step is to pick the option that’s the best fit for your style of planning.
Here are five great wedding budget spreadsheets to consider:
- WeddingWire’s Budget Calculator: This online tool provides a detailed breakdown of wedding costs, helping you allocate funds to different aspects of your wedding.
- The Knot’s Budget Planner: An online budget planner that offers a comprehensive overview of your wedding expenses, ensuring you stay on track financially.
- Zola’s Wedding Checklist and Budget Tracker: Zola’s platform includes a checklist and budget tracker to help you plan and manage your wedding budget effectively.
- Mint Budgeting App: Mint allows you to create a wedding budget, track expenses, and set spending limits, all in one convenient app.
- Bridal Musing’s Wedding Budget Spreadsheet: A customizable spreadsheet that helps you track expenses and income, ensuring you remain organized and within your wedding budget.
There’s more where that came from! You can find even more budget trackers and planning checklists on my round-up of the top 20 DIY Wedding Checklists and Planners.
Wedding Budgeting Recap
So there you have it, wedding budgeting done RIGHT. To recap, first, follow the 𝟕-𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐩 𝐰𝐞𝐝𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐛𝐮𝐝𝐠𝐞𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬:
- Know Your Finances
- Have the Budget Conversation
- Crunch the Numbers
- Set Your Limit
- Draft Your Guest List
- Confirm Your Priorities
- Research Costs in Your Area
Once you’ve completed these 7 steps, you’ll be ready to start drafting your wedding budget and begin your hunt for the perfect venue and vendor team. Next, here is some additional reading you might dive into next!
- Plan Your Own Wedding Like a Pro – Tips and tricks for planning your own wedding without a planner.
- How to Start Planning a Wedding – Walk through the first crucial 10 steps to planning a wedding after you say yes!
- How to Plan a Wedding on a Budget – Crucial tips and tricks for planning the wedding of your dreams without spending a fortune.
If you have questions or feedback on this process, I’d love to hear from you. Drop your comments below.
The Savvy Swaréy
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