Wedding Wednesday is officially back after a short break due to a few website hacking issues that I had been dealing with for the past few months (more to come on this subject, I promise). Despite the hack, the wedding planning has continued and I am so excited to get back in the blogging saddle and share my journey through the wedding planning process. At this point, we are less than 6 months away from the big day and I can’t wait for it to get here. Although I know I have a ton of stuff to do before then, but that is life.
One of the biggest decisions that goes along with wedding planning and can seriously make or break your wedding day bliss is the BUDGET. As with anything in life, you want to be realistic about what you can and can’t afford, and you don’t want to spread yourself too thin. Being up front and aligned on budget with all parties involved is the key to a successful wedding planning process and discussions about budget throughout.
I know, nobody really likes talking about money, but it’s so important to understand how and who is paying for your wedding. Depending on where you’re from and what you’re looking for, the average cost of weddings can vary. From what I’ve read, the average cost of a wedding is about $28K. Regardless of what your budget is or ideal wedding day, it’s definitely possible to have a beautiful wedding with a $1K budget or a $100K budget. Don’t think that you need to break the bank in order to have a wonderful wedding. But there’s a few questions you need to answer before you dive into the budget and wedding planning.
There are so many other questions and aspects to consider when setting your wedding budget, but these are a few that can help get you started in the process.
The first place to start when planning your wedding budget is with you and your significant other. Do you already have money set aside in savings that can be used for wedding expenses? Before Jeff and I got engaged, we had set up a combined bank account where I contributed a bit of money from each paycheck to go towards wedding plans, future down payments, and other expenses that we might incur. Knowing what we had set aside and what each of us would continue to contribute throughout the process, we were realistic in what we could afford in terms of our wedding expenses.
From there, we knew that we would need some support from our family to cover some aspects of our day. If this wasn’t a possibility, then it would be back to the drawing board to develop wedding plans that fit within our budget and vision. A wedding is meant to be a celebration of love and happiness. Financial discussions don’t always contribute to that vibe, but as long as you and your partner are open, honest, realistic, and come at it with a team-focused approach, you can make decisions that work for both of you and make your special day a dream.
If you have family or parents who are willing and able to contribute to your wedding fund, that is a wonderful thing. Be extremely grateful! Jeff and I are lucky that both of our parents have agreed to contribute to our wedding day fund and cover certain aspects of our wedding day. This is not always the case for couples, so we know that we are very lucky to receive this support. The key for us was being very upfront with both of our parents on what our plans were, anticipated costs for different aspects of our day, and having an open discussion about what we plan to cover and what they can and want to cover.
Having discussions with family about money can be a tricky situation. I am happy to be a pretty independent person personally and financially, though I knew Jeff and I didn’t have quite enough set aside to cover our desired wedding costs. The idea of having a discussion with my parents or Jeff’s parents about wedding day budgets and whether they can or want to support was very intimidating at first. That’s why I did my best to prepare anticipated plans and budget for the wedding (there was a very detailed presentation involved) to walk through our vision, and have an open conversation about everything.
When it comes to the wedding day budget, there are some traditional rules out there for who typically pays for what. Those “rules” may or may not apply to your situation, but it’s worth taking a look at those for guidelines. Not sure how much is appropriate to expect from the parents of either the bride or the groom? Look at those traditional rules to find a starting point. For some couples, it makes sense to follow those traditions to a tee, but for others, they might throw them right out the window.
For example, typically the bride’s parents cover the wedding venue, entertainment, food and drink for the wedding day. It’s also common for the groom’s parents to cover the cost of the rehearsal dinner. Being very clear about who is covering what, either based on what they can or want to contribute, is key to setting and managing the budget. Also, asking your partner or your family is there is anything they specifically want to cover is very helpful, especially if they want to have more of a say in a particular aspect of the day.
As you start to think through the potential budget for your wedding day, it’s important to list out what are your “must-haves”, “nice-to-haves”, and “don’t-need-to-haves”. This is a very scientific process, obviously. First, start with your “must-haves”. What are the make or break details of your day? Depending on your and your partner, this could be the type of band or DJ you have for the reception, catering from a specific vendor, or a videographer in addition to a photographer. Your “nice-to-haves” are aspects or details of the day that would be wonderful to include, but may not fit within the budget, and could be removed if needed.
The final piece is thinking through the “don’t-need-to-haves”. Just as important as it is to detail out what you NEED to have at your wedding is detailing out what you definitely DON’T need or even want to have at your wedding. This can help you create a clearer vision for your day, prioritize certain details and vendors, and get a strong vision of what the budget should be. Keep in mind that these lists can change throughout the process. Especially as you start to see the numbers add up in quotes from vendors. Knowing what it is that you really want to have for your day versus what you don’t quite need will make the decision-making process throughout wedding planning a breeze.
The reception portion of your wedding day typically accounts for 45%-55% of your total wedding budget. There’s a lot of aspects that make up that number, but the venue can be a big piece of it. If you’re looking to hold your wedding + ceremony at a large, popular venue, than you can expect to pay between $4K-$10K (or higher) just to rent the space. Choosing the perfect setting for your wedding is a big decision, but beautiful weddings can be had anywhere, it all comes down to what you want and what your vision is. Say you have access to a venue or a large event space through a friend or family connection (you’re lucky), so the venue rental fee could either be waived or discounted. Then this piece won’t play as a big of a role in the budgeting process.
But it’s important to do your research. Not only to find the venue of your dreams (check out this blog post on choosing a venue) but also one that fits within your budget. Once we started looking, I realized there were so many more venue options out there than I had even imagined. Jeff and I listed out some potential options, researched estimated costs involved, toured a number of spaces, and narrowed down our list to match what we wanted for our day and what we wanted to pay for the space. But it all depends on what you want for your wedding day – traditional church wedding, elopement, destination wedding, etc.
Another big aspect of the wedding day budget is the guest list and how much it costs for each person that will attend your wedding. A general rule of thumb (depending on your wedding day details), is to budget about $100 per person. This can include the cost of food and drink, table settings and decor, venue rental fees, etc. Knowing an estimated guest count is super important at the beginning of the planning process, because your budget truly comes down to the numbers. Sure, there are some fixed costs associated with your wedding day, but a lot of the quotes from catering vendors, rental companies, and more depend on that final guest count. This is also a nice aspect as most of your vendors will require down payments, but not the full payments up front. This can help your manage the budget throughout the process so you know what you have to pay and when.
This also helps with planning for your save the dates and invitations. Having an idea of your maximum guest count, who you need to invite, and who likely won’t attend is helpful to keep an estimated attendance list throughout the process. Though you never know how your RSVP’s are going to come in, when Jeff and I created our guest list, we also created a list on the side of who we want to invite but we anticipate won’t be able to make it. As you get closer to the date, you will need that final headcount to send to your vendors for final plans for food, drinks, table settings, etc.
A great question and hopefully one that doesn’t immediately make you feel nauseous or anxious. There are A LOT of tools out there to help you track and manager your wedding day budget, payments to vendors, and all of the details. I’m a bit of numbers nerd and love a good excel spreadsheet so that was my first stop to organize my thoughts on vendors, costs, etc. But if excel isn’t your thing, utilizing the wedding budget tools on The Knot or Zola can be super helpful as well. Either way, it’s important that you have it all laid out in black and white and continue to review and manage it throughout the process. This helps keep yourself sane and organized, but also is super helpful if you have other parties contributing to your fund or covering certain costs so they know exactly what they need to pay and when. Even if you’re not a numbers person, staying on top of your wedding day budget throughout the planning process is absolutely essential.
The process should be fun and exciting, and managing all of the decisions with your partner is a great test of your relationship and how you will work together in the future. Take it as a time to celebrate your relationship and your teamwork leading up to the big day. Jeff and I definitely try to partner on all aspects of our wedding plans so that we are both contributing and utilizing our skills to make it a fun, easy, and seamless process. And being clear on the budget and making decisions related to our budget is just one part of that.