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How to Create the Ideal Wedding Budget for Brides, Grooms, and Guests

May 20, 2021

Whether you’re envisioning a casual party or a lavish, big-budget production, it’s wise to start your wedding planning with a budget for your big day. No matter who is helping or footing the bill, a wedding budget helps everyone involved understand the financial expectations. This might not seem like a big deal, but it can help you avoid disagreements and misunderstandings.

What’s more, a wedding budget breakdown can help make your dream wedding a reality. Aside from keeping costs in line, your budget can act as a blueprint for all the pieces needed to make your big day unforgettable.

What’s the Average Cost of a Wedding?

According to The Knot’s 2019 survey, the average wedding budget is around $33,900, but every choice you make will impact the overall cost. For example, location, number of guests, and what you’re serving for food and drink can drastically affect how much you’ll spend.

Wedding Budget Breakdown: 11 Common Expenses

When creating a wedding budget, consider the type of wedding you want before diving into the costs. These are some of the common expenses that may apply:

1. Venue and location

Where you choose to host your wedding can play a big role in determining guest list, formality, and vendors. All of these play into the overall cost of your wedding.

2. Transportation

Some couples opt to provide transportation for their guests, especially if their location is off the beaten path or if the ceremony and reception are at two different places.

3. Catering

Food is a big part of the wedding experience. Ask yourself if you prefer your food be plated or buffet-style. Or if you’d like to serve a formal, multi-course meal or keep it simple with passed appetizers and snack tables. Some couples also opt for food trucks or DIY taco bars to make their wedding dreams come true.

4. Drinks

Open bars can liven up a party, but they can add a significant cost to your wedding. Narrowing the selection to wine and beer or offering one or two “signature drinks” as opposed to a full bar can be a more cost-effective option.

5. Rental costs

When choosing a venue, make sure to ask if they provide chairs, tables, tents, linens, or any other furniture you might need. If they don’t, make sure you factor in the costs of these rentals, which can be substantial.

6. Photography & videography

Expenses here can vary widely based on what you want. Some couples opt for an amateur or half-day photographer to cut costs, like making the centerpieces, decorating the reception venue, and creating the place cards while others prefer recruiting a full team to produce high quality photos and videos.

7. Hair & makeup

Some brides hire a professional hair or makeup artist to help them and their bridesmaids get ready for the ceremony. If you’re able to do your own hair and makeup, this can save you quite a bit of money.

8. Entertainment

Most people choose between a live band or DJ as the main entertainment for a wedding. But some weddings also feature photobooths, games, fireworks, or even magicians to entertain their guests.

9. Decor

Flowers, signage, candles, and other decorative items can add up fast. Have a clear picture of your wedding’s aesthetic before creating your wedding budget.

10. Attire

Wedding dresses, tuxedo rentals, or custom suits can come with a high price tag. Do research based on the kind of dress you want before adding this line item to your wedding budget. And don’t forget to factor in the groom’s attire as well.

11. Engagement and wedding rings

While not technically wedding costs, these items tend to be purchased around the same time as the wedding and are worth including in the financial plan.

For many couples, it helps to have a good idea of the max amount you can spend before creating your wedding budget. then committing to staying under that number. From there, you can decide how much you can spend on each part of your wedding. Sometimes it’s helpful to allocate percentages to each category according to their importance to you.

If you start budgeting and find your wedding is a bit out of your price range, there are other options you can consider that can still make your dream a reality.

How to Budget for Your Wedding

In the early stages of wedding research, you may need to adjust your total breakdown based on money conversations with your partner and family members. Your wedding budget should accurately reflect everyone’s financial abilities without adding an element of stress.

These 11 steps can help you create the ultimate wedding budget.

1. Get organized.

A lot of simple wedding budget templates exist, but it’s easy to make your own in a spreadsheet or on paper. In one column, write down all the elements you want to include in your big day—from venue to extras. Include an estimation of cost so you can see if you’re likely to stay within your budget. Include columns to keep track of potential vendors and their costs so you can compare options and make informed decisions.

2. Decide on the guest list.

Generally speaking, the more people you invite, the more expensive your wedding will be. But not everyone invited will be able to come. On average, 60%-75% of wedding invitees RSVP “yes.” Keep that in mind as you send out wedding invitations and plan your wedding budget.

3. Choose the venue.

Wedding venues range from simple spaces that you decorate yourself to all-inclusive sites that handle everything from catering to day-of coordination. Make sure to consider what’s included for each venue and what you’ll have to rent yourself. A venue price that includes a bar package, for example, can check two boxes on your budget spreadsheet.
Keep in mind venues tend to book up far in advance and set precedent for what you need for your day, so locking in a venue early can help you strategize your wedding budget.

4. Pick the wedding theme.

Choosing the wedding’s theme can be as simple as choosing colors and flowers or as complicated as dreaming up an entire motif. Keep in mind buying or renting decorative items can be expensive, and creating them yourself can take a lot of time.

5. Find the right wedding vendors.

Vendors can help make your special day easy and worry-free. Aside from wedding planners and photographers, some couples opt for videographers, hair and makeup artists, florists, officiants, and coordinators to bring their dream into reality. Some all-inclusive venues have their own team of vendors that’s included in the price. This can help make budgeting a bit easier and might even drive down your overall cost.

6. Consider the entertainment.

Most couples choose between a DJ and a live band, both of which can act as an MC for your event. Bands tend to be more expensive, but they can add a unique touch to your reception. A DJ, however, can typically play all your favorite songs and read the crowd to determine what music will keep the flow.

For the budget-savvy couple, you can choose to create your own playlist and hook your computer or phone up to the venue’s sound system. Just make sure to ask a friend or coordinator to keep an eye out for technical issues.

7. Choose the wedding attire.

Your wedding dress or tux can be a substantial line item in your wedding budget. To save money, consider sample sales or off-the-rack purchases. The outfits will still be gorgeous, and you can always have alterations made if needed. Some couples also opt for unconventional garb to save cash—like shorts and a simple dress for a beach wedding. No matter what you choose, make sure to factor in the cost. Even smaller expenses add up.

8. Consider the catering.

Catering can be the most costly component of a wedding. Many receptions include a sit-down meal, but even appetizers and dessert can consume quite a bit of your budget. Knowing your final guest list number can be a big help as you decide how big to go on food costs. You’ll also want to decide on drinks—like whether you’ll include an open bar.

9. Uncover the unexpected costs.

Some costs may creep up on you—like wedding stationary for your wedding invites and a guest book for the reception. They might seem like small expenses compared to the other line items, but make sure to include at least a ballpark estimate in your wedding budget. If you overestimate the cost, you can always reallocate the funds towards another line item or save it for your honeymoon.

10. Find ways to save.

As you create your budget, identify what really matters to you, then find ways to save on the things that don’t. For example, if you prefer “quality over quantity” when it comes to your guest list, you might opt for a smaller venue or destination wedding, then splurge on catering and an open bar. If you envision a wedding full of flowers, you might choose a spring wedding with a garden venue.

You can also economize through unconventional options, like renting a venue that isn’t typically used for weddings and crafting the decor yourself. Or to cut catering costs, choosing a food truck or hiring an amateur chef.

11. Consider a wedding loan.

A wedding loan is a type of personal loan that can help cover wedding expenses if you don’t have the funds upfront. If you accept a wedding loan, a lump sum is deposited into your bank account, and then you make fixed payments over a predetermined length of time. This can help create your wedding budget as you’ll know the exact amount you can spend. And paying back the loan over time may be less intimidating than having to front such a large bill.

Wedding Budget Mistakes to Avoid

No matter how carefully you plan your wedding budget, it’s easy to spend more than you intend. Avoid these common pitfalls to help stick with your plan.

Not having a predetermined wedding budget

Most people have at least some idea of how much they want to spend on a wedding. But if those paying—be it a couple or their families—don’t discuss what they have in mind, they risk big misunderstandings when the bills are due.

The best way to get everyone on the same page and to stay in your wedding budget is to agree on a total number, then divide it up into expense categories. You may still exceed your budget in a few categories, but you can compensate by looking for savings in other areas.

Exceeding your guest list

One of the fastest ways to overextend your budget is to invite more people than planned or getting more “yes” responses than expected. Focus on getting that list right so that even if lots of people are able to come, you’ll be able to afford it.

Outsourcing decor that can be DIY

If you have spare time but not a lot of spare cash, you might not need to pay a premium for stationery, decorations, or wedding favors. Figure out which projects you can handle yourself (or with help from family and friends) to cut costs. This can add a trendy, personal element to your wedding, and your guests will be wowed by your DIY skills.

Spending too much on a wedding cake

If you’ve dreamed of a fairy tale wedding cake all your life, you may be disappointed to find out just how much an exorbitant, multi-tiered, elaborately decorated cake can cost. Unless a fancy cake is your absolute top priority, explore cheaper options like cupcakes, a candy bar, or presenting a dummy cake for display while serving sheet cake to guests.

Not being realistic about your budget

Setting an unrealistically low budget can lead to disappointment. If you expect to have a 300-person wedding in an extravagant venue with a sit-down, multi-course meal, you may not be able to fit that into a $10,000 budget. Research wedding budget stories online, where couples share their real numbers, and you’ll start to see what fits into a given budget. If you have budget constraints but also a lot of dreams, consider setting a “goal budget” and a “stretch budget”—and ensure you absolutely do not spend more than the top number.

5 Ways You Can Budget as a Guest for Wedding Season

The bride and groom aren’t the only ones spending money during wedding season. As fun as it is to be a guest or member of the wedding party, the costs of attending a wedding—from travel and lodging to attire and gifts—can be expensive. A wedding-guest budget can help you keep expenses under control.

1. Decide on your wedding guest budget.

If you’re planning to attend a wedding or two (or more) this year, start by listing all of your likely expenses. For instance, being someone’s maid of honor may involve more costs than attending as a guest. Think through your financial situation and determine a reasonable dollar amount you can spend towards the season ahead.

2. Get creative with wedding gifts.

Wedding gifts can be expensive and can add up fast if you have more than one wedding. If you want to stick to the registry, consider going in on a gift together with another friend. Another option is to go off-registry and buy the couple something unique and meaningful with a slightly lower price tag. For example, you could frame the couple’s wedding invitation for them or make a honeymoon care package with travel-sized sunscreen and snacks for the plane.

3. Buddy up to share travel expenses.

Whenever possible, find a friend to split the cost of rental cars, vacation homes, or hotel rooms. Buddying up can save a lot of money in your wedding guest budget while also allowing you to spend time with old friends or family members.

4. Decline pre-wedding events.

If you know deep down that the bachelorette weekend or other pre-wedding events will put you over-budget, you can simply RSVP “no.” The wedding itself is the priority, and your friend or family member will understand if you explain.

5. Rent your outfit.

Rather than buying an expensive new outfit that you may only wear once, consider shopping secondhand, renting, or borrowing your wedding attire. Buying an outfit for a single event can be prohibitively pricey, so evaluate your other options before investing in something new.

Ready to Finance Your Wedding with LendingClub?

Applying for a wedding loan through LendingClub Bank can help you afford your dream wedding. A personal loan through LendingClub Bank allows you to take out a lump sum upfront, then pay it back over time. With low interest rates and fixed payments, a wedding loan can be more cost-effective than other options, like putting your wedding expenses on a credit card. What’s more, paying a wedding loan back over time can improve your credit score, which can set you and your partner up for financial success down the road. 1

Wedding Budget FAQs

1. What is a good budget for a wedding?

The average wedding cost is $33,900, but this varies depending on what you want. Smaller, more intimate ceremonies and receptions will likely cost significantly less than celebrations with hundreds of people. And off-the-beaten-path venues or more casual settings can also save you money.

2. What percentage of your income should you spend on a wedding?

It depends on what you want and where you live. Couples in some northeast states—like New York, Maine, Vermont, and Pennsylvania— can spend around 50% of the state’s average income on their wedding. Southern states—like Kentucky, Alabama, and Mississippi—spend the least proportionally on weddings, around 35% of household income. Keep in mind, just because that’s the average doesn’t mean you should spend that amount. But you can take it into consideration when planning your wedding budget. More than anything else, plan to spend what you and your partner can (and want to) pay.

3. How do wedding loans work?

Wedding loans are personal loans that can help you manage your finances for your big day. Generally speaking, they charge a lower interest rate than the average credit card and allow you to pay the money back in fixed installments. When you opt for a wedding loan, you don’t have to deplete your savings or delay the wedding until you’ve saved up the necessary amount, and paying back your loan overtime can even increase your credit score.1

The Bottom Line

Creating the wedding of your dreams starts with making a wedding budget that’s inline with your needs and wishes. In some cases, a personal wedding loan might be the more financially smart choice to pay for your big day. With a wedding loan, you receive a set amount of money that can help form the backbone of your wedding budget, and then pay it back over time with manageable monthly installments. This means your wedding day—and the weeks leading up to it—can be blissful and stress free.

1Reducing debt and maintaining low credit balances may contribute to an improvement in your credit score, but results are not guaranteed. Individual results vary based on multiple factors, including but not limited to payment history and credit utilization.

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