Your Wedding Budget: What to Include and What to Skip

Jessica Bishop
October 30th, 2021 | 11 mins

This post about how to build a wedding budget first appeared on The Budget Savvy Bride, and is shared here on The Money Date to provide some helpful information to our Zeta couples who are planning weddings!

Before you begin to dream about all of the wedding details you would love to include in your celebration, it’s important to nail down another very important detail — your wedding budget! If you let it (and we hope you will), your wedding budget will help to guide you as you make every decision about your soiree. That includes when and where to host it, how many people to invite, and which vendors are musts (and those who can be skipped altogether). But what are all the things that a couple should include in a wedding budget?

Determining your wedding budget is a process, and it’s one that will likely feel tedious at times. But, it’s also one that will be so well worth it in the end. As you take steps to determine the number you and your partner would like to spend, we thought we would share what you should and should not include in your wedding budget.

What to Include in Your Wedding Budget

Because a wedding budget of any size will preclude you from saying yes to everything, we’re narrowing things down to the top five things you will want to include.

Your Venue + Catering

Your wedding venue and catering should take the top spot in your list of “wedding must-haves”, whether they’re details that are most important to you or not. Both are important because in order to host a wedding you need a space to celebrate, and while guests are there to celebrate a meal is typically expected. Additionally, your venue and your catering will account for roughly 50% of your total wedding budget. So yes, they’re must-haves, and they’re pricier ones to boot!

Photographer

After your wedding comes to a close, some of the only tangible pieces that will remain from your celebration are the professional photos captured by your photographer and the candid snaps taken by family and friends. Both are important! But, in the case of what to include in your wedding budget, try to leave room for a photographer whose pictures you love. From the vows and details to the people who were in attendance, you will want to relive your wedding day through your wedding album and photos you frame throughout your home. P.S. As a reminder, print your photos, friends!

Attire

On your wedding day, you likely will want to take a quick departure from your everyday attire. And, that brings us to wedding dresses, tuxedos, and suits! There are plenty of budget-friendly shops for both, whether you plan to shop in-person or online, and there’s always the option of borrowing attire from friends and family. Whatever route you decide feels best, knowing you’ve covered your attire base in your budget will feel like a relief. P.S.: Make sure to leave room for added details, like shoes, jewelry, and ties.

Details

When we think about wedding details, we tend to think about flowers! And, there are plenty of options to ensure you have fresh blooms (or something else) to carry down the aisle and admire throughout your reception. You can work with a florist to design your wedding flowers, you can create your own centerpieces from flowers purchased online or from grocery stores or box retails (think: Costco), or you can create personal arrangements and centerpieces that don’t have any flowers in them. Whether you work with a professional or choose to DIY with supplies, you will want to have funds at the ready.

Entertainment

When guests attend a wedding, they’re typically expecting entertainment in some form. You can choose to have a DJ play music throughout your reception, you can leave the tunes to a live band, you can switch on a playlist, or you can fill a space with backyard games and turn your celebration into a competition. (You can also do a combination of all those things!) The key thing is to decide what will work best for your budget and your ideas about how guests will enjoy your wedding day.

What to Not Include in Your Wedding Budget

In order for your wedding budget to be able to work its magic (with help from you and your partner, of course), there are a few things you should plan to skip.

A Wavering Amount You Plan to Spend

One of the biggest mistakes you can make while planning your wedding is to not set and stick to a realistic wedding budget. It’s only natural to spend slightly more than your intended amount, but allowing your thoughts to roam into territory that will make you toss your budget aside is dangerous. Your wedding should feel like an incredible celebration you love, but the amount you’re spending to make your wedding day a reality should not leave you uncomfortable or battling anxiety. Once you set your budget, it’s worth it in every way to adhere to it — you’re likely to have a better time once your wedding day arrives if you do!

Vendors Who are Outside of Your Budget

There are wedding professionals available for nearly every budget, and we’re confident when we say there is a professional for the most important areas of your wedding (if you want one!). While it’s okay to explore Instagram, try to avoid becoming too attached to wedding professionals who fall outside of your wedding budget. Working with someone who is charging more than you hope to spend might elicit beautiful results, but the uneasy feeling of knowing you have spent more than you wanted to likely isn’t worth it. So, admire and work with those who will allow your budget to remain intact!

Items You Will Enjoy After Your Wedding Day

Investing in items you can enjoy for many days after the use they’re intended for definitely applies to weddings. For this reason, we typically don’t suggest including items like wedding rings and some types of other jewelry, as well as shoes and even suits in your wedding budget. The reason behind this suggestion is because they’re all items you will wear again and again after your celebration. Obviously, watch how many items you add to your “wear again” list as it’s not meant to be exhaustive, but it does promise to make you think about what you purchase.

Details that Don’t Rank in Your Top 3-5

Shortly after deciding on your wedding budget, one of the next steps to take is to determine your wedding day must-haves. These are the 3-5 areas where you would like to allocate more of your wedding budget. This step is important because it is nearly impossible to include every single item on your dream wedding list — your budget would likely need to be sky-high! But, knowing you value photography, food, and flowers at your wedding is a much more manageable place to start from.

A Total Cost that Will Lead to Debt

It’s unlikely that you and your partner will never experience debt of some kind during your relationship, but your wedding day is one moment that should not send your finances into a tailspin. At the end of the day, your wedding day is a party (albeit a great one!), while your marriage represents the journey you will take together. The beginning of your married journey together is worth starting out on the right foot without a mountain of bills to pay from a party. Keep your wedding budget in check, and save the money you may have opted to splurge for a great honeymoon or a house down the line.

Your Honeymoon

Your honeymoon represents an opportunity for you and your partner to spend focused, unplugged time together exploring a destination you already love or one you’ve never visited before. Because this trip is so valuable, we suggest budgeting separately for it. That may mean you leave on your honeymoon a day or two after your wedding day, or it may look like waiting until your first anniversary in order to have enough time to save up for your dream trip. No matter what you choose (and because it has so many components on its own), budget for your honeymoon separately!

What are you including in your wedding budget?

When it comes to deciding what to include or not include in your wedding budget, consider what makes the most sense for you. The most important thing is that you plan a wedding on a budget that you can actually afford, and avoid putting yourself in a precarious financial situation in order to pay for it.

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