How To Manage Your Wedding Budget
02 Aug 2023 •10 min read
Once you’ve accepted your wedding budget as a moving target you’ll begin to release a lot of that pressure and expectation of maintaining an exact amount. With that said, there are ways to manage your wedding budget that should bring you to the closest approximation with the least amount of stress.
Knowing where to start and what to expect are the ingredients if you want to get a handle on things before your budget projections.
It All Starts with Guest Count
Your biggest wedding expenses are typically catering, transportation, invitations, rentals, and most importantly, the venue. These expenses are variable costs that will depend on the number of people you’ll be inviting. There's a big difference between a 50 person wedding and 250 person wedding when it comes to budgeting!
So before you can even begin to work out how much it'll cost to throw the wedding you want, you need to know how many people you'll be hosting. That means you need to pause the budgeting for a bit so you can build a list! Start with your wedding party.
We suggest creating a list using this template to outline your tier A, B, and C guests. Also decide whether you're going to invite plus ones and children as that definitely impacts the total guest count and overall budget.
We’ve made it SUPER easy for you to collect and organize your guest list contact information with our Guest List Manager tool which is available in your wedding dashboard.
Prioritizing Your Funds
Ok, so now that you know who is contributing and roughly how much money you're working with it's time to start figuring out how you want to allocate your wedding funds. We’ve developed a super easy, five-point strategy to help you with this! The first step is downloading our wedding budget spreadsheet which has a template you can use as a rough budgeting framework. This budget spreadsheet is completely customizable and even has a sample wedding budget breakdown built in for a quick reference.
You can use this spreadsheet as your working file to start putting pen to paper and understand how all the different elements of your wedding add up!
Pro Tip: It’s helpful to use the column to identify who specifically has committed to paying for that part of the wedding.
Prioritize Your Purchases
Our biggest tip when building your wedding budget is prioritizing. Instead of setting numbers in stone from the start, do your research and prioritize your purchases in a spreadsheet. Here’s what we mean:
Identify your main purchasing categories: venue, food and drink, dessert, decor, entertainment, transportation, stationery, attire, etc.
Within those categories, write down the things you plan on having at your wedding (don’t worry about thinking of absolutely everything, just get down as much as you can). Include things that you need, want, and might want. Use Loverly’s 12-month checklist and category checklists as a reference.
After you’ve brainstormed everything you generally plan to buy, organize it by priority. Take your Dessert category, for example. If a three-tier wedding cake is non-negotiable, but you also want alternative dessert options for your guests like cupcakes, cake pops...maybe even a candy bar, then the hierarchy of these four line items would be wedding cake → cupcakes → cake pops → candy bar.
Then give each category a number 1-5, 5 being your top priority and 1 being something you care the least about. Remember, not everything can be a 5. Really try your best to rank your preferred categories accurately!
The benefit of prioritizing your wedding budget is that you don’t have to skip the purchases most important to you. Sure, you might need to compromise on some less important items, but overall the compromise will be worth it!
So, to recap: structure your budget by needs, wants, might-wants, and last minute splurges. To make this easier, download the Loverly Wedding Budget Spreadsheet which includes a sample budget and a blank template that outlines your main purchasing categories and line items with room for you to add on yourself.
Also, if you’re interested, take a look at some wedding splurges that we think are worth every penny!
Consider Your Budget Range
Now, considering your financial situation and what you know others are willing to contribute, it’s time to look for some budget reference numbers. In 2022, the average wedding budget in the United States has been $27k.
Using this number as a basis, start thinking about the minimum amount of money you think you’ll need to pull off your dream wedding and the most you’d be willing to spend. When considering your range, remember that the margin between your lowest and highest amounts can be as large or as small as you need.
Consider The Impact - Time to View
Another way to prioritize expenses is by thinking about how much time certain items or elements of the wedding will actually be seen, used, or experienced. For example, a beautiful welcome sign could be a wonderful decor element but if it's only viewed during the entrance to the wedding ceremony or reception... that's about 15 minutes of focus. On the other hand, your tablescape will be a focal point during the entire dinner portion of the event… probably around 2-3 hours!
Gather Your Quotes AKA “DO YOUR RESEARCH”
After you’ve decided on your range (e.g., $25k-$32k), the next step is reaching out to potential vendors and researching materials for anything you might be DIY-ing so that you can add all of those cost estimates to your budget spreadsheet. You should be reaching out to anyone that might be providing paid services toward your wedding planning.
Phases of Wedding Budget Grief
Figuring out your wedding budget can be an extremely emotional experience. Knowing what you and your fiancé really want and then navigating your family's and your future in-laws' expectations can bring about denial, anger, bargaining, and depression—you know, the same stages associated with major grief. Here is our guide to getting through each of these stages and making it all the way to the final phase: acceptance.
Phase 1: "A wedding costs how much?" Even though you've been a wedding guest multiple times and have read wedding blogs since before you were engaged, you may have lost all sense of what a not-lavish-but-still-including-most-of-the-"traditional"-trappings wedding actually costs. As you start to do your research, there will be some sticker shock. "There must be some mistake," you'll think. "There is no way that they mean to charge us $5,000 for the venue before we've even paid for the food." Right? Wrong.
Phase 2: "Screw the wedding industry...and screw you for even wanting a wedding!" Once you've moved past denial, you head into phase two: anger. Anger at the wedding industry for charging so much money to feed 75 people, anger at your mom for insisting you need the Chiavari chairs, and anger at your fiancé for wanting anything for the wedding that costs any sort of money. Suddenly, his or her desire for that $2.50-per-slice wedding cake seems like the end of the world. "Why am I even marrying this person, anyway?" you'll ask yourself as you stare at your spreadsheet trying to figure out how on earth you'll afford the live band your fiancé can't live without.
Phase 3: "Do you offer any sort of discounts? Maybe we could just get a friend to do the pictures..." During the bargaining phase, you may start attempting to haggle with wedding vendors or trying to find someone who is less experienced to do your wedding on the cheap. This is also the point at which you start thinking you can DIY everything. "Who cares if I don't own a sewing machine? I can totally make my own dress!"
Phase 4: "I don't even want a wedding anymore... let's just elope." The smallest thing will set off the depression phase...a fight with your mom about the favors, the realization that you forgot to budget for postage for the invites. Wedding planning? It's for rich people, which you certainly are not. "I don't even care," you'll tell your fiancé as you stare out the window despondently. "Let's just go to Vegas."
Phase 5: "Even though our budget isn't huge, this wedding is going to be amazing." Eventually, you'll realize that, like it or not, you're stuck with the budget you have and you're going to have to make the best of it. You'll start focusing on the things that really matter (you're marrying the love of your life!) and think less about the things you can't afford (no one is going to remember that you didn't serve steak). Once you hit this phase, it's time to put on your fancy clothes, have a glass of champagne, and remember that if you end the day married, your wedding will have been a success.
How To Maintain Your Budget
The best way to stay within your budget is to monitor what you’re spending. That might sound easy, but this actually is where we find many nearly-weds getting off track. Every purchase you make towards your wedding should be added to your spreadsheet as soon as it’s been made. And this includes the small purchases too. They add up quickly!
For any miscellaneous purchases that don’t fall into any of a specific category, create a “miscellaneous” or “additional purchases” category in your spreadsheet. We also recommend setting half an hour aside 1-2 times per month to revisit your numbers and priorities with your partner and anyone else involved in your wedding budget… just to make sure you're all still on the same page.
Pro Tip: Turn your Loverly Wedding Budget spreadsheet into a Google Doc and share it with your planning team. This is a great way to collaborate and adapt to changes throughout the planning process.
Why You May Want to Hire a Wedding Planner
While many couples opt to DIY their entire wedding planning process, we want to suggest that you consider budgeting for a wedding professional to help you along the way. Whether you decide to hire a full service wedding planner or a day coordinator, working with a professional can save you some serious time and money. While evaluating your budget, consider places where you may be able to shave off some money that can be reallocated towards professional help. When your wedding day finally arrives the last thing you want to be worrying about is logistics! Hiring a planner can be worth it due to the peace of mind they bring alone!
Pro Tip: While many venues come with a wedding coordinator, it's important to note they're not the same as a wedding planner. The venue coordinator is there to ensure things go smoothly from the venue’s perspective. It's unlikely that they're going to assist with coordinating your vendors, planning the event, or working out logistics.
The most important thing to remember while you’re managing your budget is that nothing is set in stone until all the bills are finally paid. Flexibility is key to relieving a lot of that stress you’ll inevitably experience as you maneuver around this multi-faceted project. Take it one step at a time and, remember, breathe.
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