Insiders Agree: This Is How You Budget for the Wedding of Your Dreams

Updated 04/30/17

Building a wedding budget is one of the most challenging and overwhelming steps of the entire planning process. What you spend and managing this spend effectively can be the difference between a smooth and unnecessarily bumpy process. Too often couples or families will throw out a number they want to spend without any reasoning or, even worse, that is based on unrealistic expectations.

It’s all too easy to lose yourself in an abyss of wedding inspiration on Pinterest without realizing the consequences or costs associated with that monogrammed napkin, farm fresh centerpiece, or flower crown. To help you navigate the process and build a realistic wedding budget, Jess Levin Conroy, founder and CEO of Carats & Cake, sat down with some of the industry’s best to get their inside tips on how to think about managing your wedding spend. From where to start to what the major cost drivers are to where to cut, wedding industry leaders share their secrets below.

Talk Through Your Budget Together

O’Malley Photographers ; FLOWERS: Kaleb Norman James

“Discuss an overall budget number with anyone contributing to the wedding. What does that include? Is dress, planner, honeymoon, or additional wedding events such as rehearsal dinner or engagement party included in that?”

Alex Chalk, Senior Planner, Taylor’d Events Group

Hire a Planner

Charla Storey

“If you’ve never planned a wedding before, it can be challenging to know how much each vendor should realistically cost. The first step I would suggest taking is meeting with a wedding planner. They are experts at helping to set expectations when it comes to your budget. They will have firsthand knowledge about what each vendor should cost and will help you determine which things are most important to you and where your money should be allocated.”

Wendy Kay, Owner and Creative Director, Birds of a Feather Events

Go Over Guest Count

Tec Petaja

“The quantity needed for printed materials, rentals, transportation needs, catering, and bar package are all directly correlated with the total number of guests you invite and expect to attend.”

Lynn Easton, Owner, Easton Events

Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize

“Prioritize! If entertainment is important to you, make a few calls or talk with your planner to get the idea of how much an incredible band will cost. Even if the price sounds high, if you start with your priorities, there is still time to cut elsewhere in your budget to make it happen.”

Tracie Domino, Founder and Creative Director, Tracie Domino Events

Select a Venue

Sara Donaldson

“Location, location, location. Determine whether your wedding will be local or afar; both have benefits and challenges and can make or break your budget if not planned well.”

Julian Leaver of The Dapper Diplomat

Keep Your Expectations Realistic

“Realistic expectations. Remember that there are a lot of elements that go into the perfect Pinterest ‘table shot’—lighting, votives, abundant flowers, chargers, etc., and it all adds up. Make sure you itemize all these added details because the total cost for that table will be way beyond just the centerpieces.”

Amy Marella, Owner, The Hidden Garden

Proportion Is Key

Kate Osborne Photography

“A wedding budget needs to be in proportion across the board. You can’t not splurge on one thing and scrape by on another. Of course, it is okay to spend a little more on what is most important to you, but do not sink all your money in a fabulous destination wedding and then not take care of your guests when they arrive.”

Neillie Butler, Owner, Mariee Ami

Be Honest With Your Vendors

Eric Kelley ; FLOWERS: Amy Burke Designs

“Be honest with your vendors about your budget. Giving them a starting price point will help them create a service proposal that realistically fits into your budget. I always get the question How much does a wedding cost? and I respond with saying that question is a lot like asking How much does it cost to go out to dinner? I can bring you to the French Laundry, or I can bring you to a delicious bistro around the corner. Knowing at least a range of what you’re comfortable spending will help me direct you to the appropriate options.”

— Christina Milikin, Owner and Creative Director, Glow Event Design

Read Between the Lines

Larissa Cleveland Photography

“When selecting vendors, remember to look at what is included, not just the bottom line. Will you have to rent chairs, tables, bathrooms? Will you need to build out a kitchen for your caterer? These details add up.”

Heidi Hughett and Karissa Paxton, Co-Owners, Coastside Couture

Go With the Flow

“A wedding budget is a living, breathing document. It will ebb and flow throughout the planning months. It’s natural to get into the design process and want something for more than you allocated originally. This is okay! You may spend less money in one category that you can reallocate to another without it affecting your overall budget. Give yourself some breathing room to be creative and design to your personalities and not just to meet an overall budget number.”

Sonia Hopkins, Owner and Principal Event Designer, XOXO Bride Events

What are your tips for budgeting a dream wedding?

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