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Wedding Planning 101: Wedding Budget

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In our ever-changing world, the ideas and options for planning a wedding are spiraling into a wider and wider sea of choices. In a way, that makes it even more fun. Who needs a church, a white dress and a three-tier cake when you could have tropical destinations, pastel wedding gowns and a platter of teeny cupcakes? Yes, please.

The point is, your wedding should reflect you and the one you’re celebrating the day with, not stiff traditions. One thing’s for sure, though: No matter what style of wedding you opt for, you’ll need the right tools to make sure it’s successful.

Wedding budgeting checklist and planner

Ah, tools. That’s the key. While the internet is flooded with wedding advice and amazing ideas, Pinterest won’t help pay for your wedding. That’s why you need a solid budget, which is the true foundation for crafting a perfect – but realistic – event.

table centerpieces at a New York wedding
Photo Credit: Jay Lim Studio

Luckily, we created just such a tool for you: a wedding budget spreadsheet! We’ve made it available as a Google Doc, so all you have to do is download or print it out and start filling in the fields. Although spreadsheets might seem a little boooooring, especially compared to the starry-eyed romance we’ve all come to associate with weddings, this is hands-down the best way to make sure you avoid the kinds of nasty surprises that can ruin the big day.

brideside bridesmaids sipping champagne before wedding
Photo Credit: Joshua Grasso

But before you get to all that … just what the heck should you expect to pay on the day itself, as well as leading up to it? Who should you expect to work with, and what does everything cost? It’s important to know what’s reasonable so that you can make the best choices, neither too high (which is unaffordable), nor too low (which usually says unfavorable things about the quality).

So grab your mimosa and let’s dive in.

What will your wedding cost?

The first thing most couples want to know is how much the wedding is going to cost. Of course, that’s up to you. Your budget, your parents’ budget, the number of guests you want to invite, the location and venue, the type of food and so on … these will all weigh heavily into the final tally. However, until you start speaking with specific vendors, you can use the following figures, based roughly on a 150-person guest list.

Today, the national average for a wedding is about $37,000, in which
case you might expect to pay the following figures, but you can
adjust up or down to meet your own budget:

Food, Drinks, Venue$15K (or 40% of budget)
Flowers, Decorations$3K (or 8% of budget)
Photos$4K (or 11% of budget)
Attire, Accessories$5K (or 13% of budget)
Music, Entertainment$2K (or 5% of budget)
Ceremony$1K (or 2% of budget)
Other expenses (think transportation, styling, stationery
and accommodations)
1K – $5K
5k (or 2% to 13% of budget)
rustic chic table setting for south carolina wedding
Photo Credit: Mary Hayden Photography

Unexpected Costs

Most brides and grooms tend to take the above figures into account, then forget about the smaller costs that crop up along the way. It’s best to think through every aspect of the big day as well as the preparations carefully, so that you’re not surprised by anything at the last minute. This will most likely happen under the best of circumstances, but you can cut down on the chances by keeping the following costs in mind from the beginning. Remember you’ll also have to pay for:

  • The bachelor and bachelorette parties
  • Gifts for bridesmaids and groomsmen
  • Gifts for family members, such as parents
  • Beauty treatments aside from the big day, such as hair and tanning
  • Postage for invitations
  • Alterations to suits and dresses
  • Rehearsal dinner
  • Other meals, such as wedding day brunch or breakfast the day after
  • Wedding favors
  • Vendor tipping
  • Videography
  • Lighting and other décor
  • Backup plans (i.e. a tent for rain)
  • Thank you notes

These costs can really add up, so make sure to roll them into your budget from the beginning. Moreover, don’t forget to leave a little aside for unexpected emergencies, which will happen. If you need to rush out for an extra case of champagne, a pair of heels, new lanterns because yours were left in the rain – or anything else – you don’t want to wonder where that money will come from. Set aside at least $100, but ideally more like $500 to $1,000. Hopefully you won’t want to use it, but it’s best to be, as the Scouts would say: Always Prepared.

How to cut costs

While having a good handle on expenses and using our Wedding Budget Template (more details below!) will certainly go a long way toward ensuring you make the smartest financial decisions, you do not have to pay market rates for everything in your wedding. Several ways exist to cut down on the budget, but here are a few of the best:

  • Enlist Friends: If you know someone in the baking, floral, catering or wedding planning industry, you might be able to get some great deals. If you opt for free labor, make sure your friend is a close one and really wants to do it. You also need to know the venue’s rules; many won’t allow friends and family to make food or serve booze, for instance.
  • Buy booze at the grocery store: While many caterers will try to convince you to buy beer and wine through them, that’s a mistake; head to the store and buy it by the case instead, which will be way cheaper. Note that you’ll still need to pay caterers extra to serve it, though, if they even allow it (you’ll need to check beforehand).
  • Avoid unnecessary tradition: Sometimes, you think you need to pay a lot for something just because it’s common. But do you really need those engraved invitations? Or the towering white cake? If you’d be just as happy with some simple stationery and donuts from your favorite shop, go for it.
  • Using the template! We kept our wedding budget spreadsheet simple and easy to use. Just follow these steps:

Download the Google spreadsheet.

Open the version below that suits you best, Excel or Google Docs. Please note in Google Docs you have to select “File>Make a copy” so you can edit your own version.

money icon

Enter your total budget for the wedding (cell K5).

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Enter individual estimates for all the components.

excel column icon

Use the “Miscellaneous” category for anything we haven’t captured in the spreadsheet.

excel spreadsheet icon

As actual expenses occur, enter them in the correct “actuals” columns. This will enable you to see where you’re going over or coming under budget, and allow you to adjust accordingly.

Also note that if you add or remove rows, the final amounts may need to be
adjusted to reflect the new format.

Google Docs Wedding Budget Template – The Google Docs wedding budget lets you easily collaborate with others (like your future spouse or parents). Click this link to open up a new window with a Google Docs version of Brideside’s Wedding Budget Template. Please note: To save and edit your own copy, go to “file” and then “make a copy.” You can name the file anything you want and it will be saved to your Google Drive.

So there you have it: not only your complete wedding budget overview, but a handy template to keep by your side throughout the planning process and right up to the special day. With its help, you’re bound to have an easier and more stress-free time, so don’t let it out of your sight! Now we’ll leave you to it and head back to what we do best – outfitting you in stunning dresses and accessories! Ciao.

Get the FREE Wedding Budget Spreadsheet

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