Photo by Connor Wells

How much will you spend on your wedding?

This article was originally posted on HoneyDew’s blog. We are cross-posting it with permission from the author.

Planning a wedding is a significant financial burden. You clicked because you’re curious how much you and your partner’s savings will be depleted after your wedding is over. Don’t worry, this thought doesn’t make your love and commitment any less passionate — you’re merely being proactive. Congrats!

Weddings are changing. When there used to be hard fast rules on how to have your rehearsal dinner, ceremony, party favors, first dances, etc, today, more and more couples are deciding to pick and choose what they actually want to celebrate, and how to celebrate it. To answer your question of how much you’ll spend:

The data shows…

On average, couples in the US spend $36,000 on their weddings. This includes the ring, the ceremony/reception, and the honeymoon. However, depending on the locale you live in, you can expect to spend more or less — for example, those of you in Manhattan can expect to spend $70,000, because of the cost of living. That’s a difference!

But what about your specific case?

We think the useful way to plan for your future wedding is to decide how much you want to spend. Discuss with your partner about whether you plan to buy a house, travel, have kids immediately, go to grad school…or…quit your job to be your own boss. Once you decide a number — whether that’s below or above the $36,000 average — you need to put it to the test. Without actually diving into the details of planning your wedding, you can validate that this budget will be feasible, and won’t cause a rift between you and your partner later on.

Here are 4 simple gut checks to ensure that your budget matches with the wedding you’re envisioning. Remember, just because you thought your wedding would be 300 people big doesn’t mean your partner was on the same page. Time to compare notes!

4 Steps to gut check your budget

Do this exercise with your partner.

How many guests did you two want at your wedding?

Do you have a large family with endless cousins, or are you envisioning an intimate destination wedding? To approximate this number, get out your Google Sheets and make a quick list of the family that you and your partner were planning to invite. Don’t worry, this part is fun. How many people are on this list?

A. Less than 50……………Your entire guest list will be 100 folks or less

B. Between 50 and 100….Your entire guest list will be between 150 and 200 folks

C. More than 100………Your entire guest list will be between 200 and 300 folks

Now if you divide your budget by the approximate guest count, how much are you spending per guest?

Where were you planning to have your wedding?

Are you planning to have your wedding in a major metro, or are you returning to the small town of where you grew up? Here is a simple calculator for how much you’ll spend per guest, based on where you live.

Take the guest count number you got above, and multiply it by the cost per guest value in the calculator. This is your wedding estimate. Does this exceed or meet the budget you set?

How important is the food at your wedding?

The largest cost at a wedding is hands-down the catering. On average you’ll spend 20% of your budget on this. Expect to spend more if you’re set on having a five course meal with lavish desserts, midnight snacks, and an open bar. If between your partner and you, food is one of the most important parts of your wedding, then take the wedding estimatethat you calculated above (guest count X cost per guest) and add 10%.

Are you still below the budget that you set?

If you and your partner are casual about food and totally fine with catering from your favorite local restaurant, then feel free to decrease your wedding estimate (guest count X cost per guest) by 10% instead.

How long will your wedding be?

If your wedding is longer than one day, then the estimated spend you calculated will increase. More days means longer venue rental, more meals, drink, extended table/chair rentals, more entertainment. You may be thinking of having a summer camp wedding, a multi-day Indian wedding, or maybe, just a 5 hour event at the Marriott. If you already have a sense that your wedding will be multiple days, factor this into your estimate by increasing it by 60% for every extra day.

new estimate = Wedding estimate + (wedding estimate *.60)*(# of extra days)

Now you know

…or, at least you have an estimate and a sense of whether the budget you and your partner allocated for your wedding is realistic.

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The Money Date is a publication of Zeta, a tool that helps couples master their money together. You can check out our free resources for love and money here.