How to Create a Wedding Budget

Decide Who's Paying

Speak with your families on if they'd like to contribute, and if so, what they'd like to contribute.  Traditionally, a bride's family has picked up the entire tab.  However, as our world continues to modernize, more and more groom's families are contributing as our couples.  Often times we see a bride's family pay for the reception venue & food, the groom's family pay for the rehearsal dinner and open bar and lastly, the bride & groom contribute towards other vendors they would like such as a photographer.  

This is an uncomfortable topic for most and probably the first time you're approaching a large financial discussion with your parents.  We highly recommend approaching the families separately.  Let your fiance speak with his parents and you speak with yours so they can be open and honest.   A few things you want to ensure you accomplish: 

  • If they're willing to contribute, ask them to contribute to a specific dollar amount.  
  • Once you understand the dollar amount, ask if it is meant to go towards certain items?  
  • Would they like to give you the money up front so you can manage the budget?  Or do they prefer to be a part of the decisions and pay for things as they go?  

If they are able to give you money up front, we recommend going this route.  It makes it easier to have one bookkeeper and decision maker.  


Decide what are the must-haves

We highly recommend creating a top three list from you, your fiance, your parents, his parents and then ultimately, jointly as a couple.  What are the top three elements to your wedding?  Maybe it's food, music and your dress.  If so, commit to yourself that those are the three items you'll 'splurge' on as you plan.  

Know the key cost drivers

Guest Count

There's a per-head cost for food and liquor, and these two are typically the largest expense (around 50%).  Adapting your guest count to maximize your budget is a great way to save money.  The smaller the guest list the more you'll save on all your other details, including décor, stationery, favors, and rentals, because you won't need as much of everything.  To help you decide guest count from a budget perspective, you can estimate the cost per guess at $120-$150.


Some cities and towns are more expensive than others. New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles are the obvious culprits, but small towns and remote destinations can entail greater costs if things like flowers and talent have to come from afar. Tourist towns can also up your wedding price tag during peak season. Likewise, certain venues are more expensive than others. Some—such as a city park—come with no (or low) fees, while others, like a grand ballroom, might cost you the equivalent of a year's college tuition. Also, be aware that many popular locations have head count minimums, meaning they won't host a wedding that's too small, and some may also have a per-head minimum that requires your event to be a certain size.

Wedding Style

The more formal the affair, typically the more expensive because you'll need to carry the theme through all elements.  If you're planning on a formal candlelit dinner in the grand ballroom of that amazing hotel downtown, your budget is clearly going to have to be much bigger than if you've sketched out an afternoon tea and dessert party in your parents' pretty backyard. It's a good 

Break out the cost by section

Now that you have an overall dollar amount and your top three, it's time to decide how much you'd like to commit to each section.  Knowing your budget per section will allow you to have better conversations with vendors and know what you can afford.  According to The Knot, the average wedding cost is $30,000.  Know that in larger cities like Chicago, LA and New York, the average cost is closer to $75,000.  

Here's a basic breakdown of what you can expect to pay:

  • Reception (including food & drink): 48-50 percent
  • Ceremony: 2-3 percent
  • Attire: 8-10 percent
  • Flowers: 8-10 percent
  • Entertainment/Music: 8-10 percent
  • Photography/Videography: 10-12 percent
  • Stationery: 2-3 percent
  • Wedding Rings: 2-3 percent
  • Parking/Transportation: 2-3 percent
  • Gifts: 2-3 percent
  • Miscellaneous: 8 percent
  • Contingency: 5 percent 

If you're paying for your honeymoon yourselves, remember to budget for that as well.  Lastly, don't forget to budget for all wedding events as well.  You will most likely want a new dress or beauty services before bridal showers & your bachelorette party.   Be sure to record it all in a tracker (we recommend excel), and you'll always feel organized and stress-free.