Budget Busters! 10 Tips to Help You Create a Wedding Budget

February 5, 2015

You’re engaged and ready to plan!  Remember those tips that I shared last month on where to begin?  Step one is budget planning.

Whether you’re planning a luxurious affair or a simple one, a budget is a great place to begin gathering your ideas and estimating the financial outcome.  No bride or groom enjoys unexpected budget busters or breaking the bank to host the big day.  Your wedding day is the start of your new life together and there are so many new adventures to come that require additional financial planning- a new home, children, vacations and more.  Here are 10 tips on how to begin creating a wedding budget.

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Photo: Ryan Zarichnak


1. Find out who will be contributing to the wedding and how much.  This may be one of the most difficult discussions you’ll have with your parents or guardians but it is important to know where they are comfortable.  A simple statement such as, “we want to give you a beautiful wedding” could mean $50K in your eyes but only $20K in theirs.  If contributors don’t have a specific number in mind, research the average cost of a wedding in your area and throw out numbers to gage their thoughts.

2. Once you have an overall number, break the budget down into categories. Include areas such as rehearsal dinner, ceremony, reception food and beverage, rentals, florals, photo and video, entertainment, transportation, lodging and travel, stationery attire, gifts and miscellaneous.  I always urge couples to avoid planning based on percentage rules (48% to a reception, 8% to flowers, 12% to photo, etc). Instead, choose three areas that are most important to you and your guests and place larger funds there.  Guests tend to remember the food, drinks and entertainment most, while couples remember how the day was captured on film.

3. Do preliminary research.  Why?  Your dream venue may only be a small amount to rent, but it may also require a long list of rentals and use of an exclusive group of vendors.  You may have to adjust your budget accordingly.

4. Add gratuity.  Gratuity may not seem like a large expense. However, $25 here and $100 there adds up quickly, especially at the last minute.  Plan for gratuity ahead of time.  Tips should be based on effort and time.  For instance, photographers will be on their feet and your shadow for a full 8 hours or more.  Consider a nice tip for them!  Also, check with your caterer to ensure that you’re paying waitstaff accordingly.  Most caterers have mandatory or suggested gratuity amounts.

5. Add tax.  You will not be charged tax on services but expect tax on rental items, photo products, accessories and more.  If you live in Pennsylvania, make sure that you also plan for added tax on alcohol.

6. Add fees.  This is one of the most overlooked areas in budgeting.  The most common include delivery, set up, administration and service fees.  Depending on the vendors that you decide to contract, there may also be damage waivers and cleaning, cake cutting, cookie-plating (for Pittsburgh brides) and overtime fees.  If you’re hiring a hair and make up artist, include trial fees in the budget.  Read the fine print on all vendor contracts to account for all fees.

7. Account for adds-ons. What are add ons?  Some examples are calligraphy and custom stamps for stationary, or sashes and custom alterations on your wedding gown.

8. Don’t miss the little things. The sky is the limit but make sure to account for guest books, champagne flutes, ring bearer pillows, flower girl baskets, escort cards, cake toppers, thank you notes, response cards, maps, welcome baskets, bathroom amenity baskets, favors and more.  Every purchase adds up!

9. Plan for Plan B. This final budgeting area is important for couples planning outdoor affairs.  If you’ve already maxed out your budget and discover a downpour is coming your way, prepare yourself for last minute budget busters.  You’ll need an extra tent if you had not included your ceremony spot, umbrellas for the bridal party, sides for the main tent, heaters and maybe even a valet service to make guest arrival stress-free.  Rain isn’t the only potential damper on the day.  If your space requires electricity, I always recommend having a second generator on hand should any power issues arise.

10. Consider opening a wedding-only bank account!  In addition to a budget kept in an Excel spreadsheet, this is just another reminder of staying on track.  Every purchase will be accounted for as each dollar is spent.


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