I can’t believe I haven’t talked about our budget yet! That should have been one of the first posts, but I totally forgot about it!

I am a firm believer in the idea that you should get a very solid idea of what your budget is before you start any wedding planning. I would consider myself to be excellent with money. (I have no debt. I pay off my credit card every month. I put money in my savings account when I can.) But no matter how good you are with money, a wedding is probably going to involve more money than you’ve ever spent in your whole life (unless you’ve already bought a house).

Every couple is different when it comes to wedding costs. These days, a lot of couples are paying for their own wedding. Fortunately for us, my parents are financially comfortable and offered to give us $10,000 for the wedding (Yipee!). Because my fiance and I are both students, this is an incredible gift for us. But of course, you’ve probably seen that the average cost of a wedding nowadays is more than $30,000!!! Yowsa!

I think we’ve all seen this graphic, but in case you haven’t, take a look:

(Sources: www.theknotinc.com, smartmoney.com, money.cnn.com)

I think this is a great graphic for a few reasons. For one, it lists (almost) all the stuff you might need to pay for. (For some reason, the officiant isn’t listed, which I completely forgot to budget for when I made my first budget. Most of the ones I looked up charge around $300-$400.) Another great thing is that you can get an idea of where you can really save money. It’s still true that every dollar counts, but when I look at this graphic, I can see that eliminating favors only saves you a couple hundred dollars. But finding a great deal on a venue could save you thousands!

I started our budget by setting an ideal price point for our priorities and deciding where we could save. This is a great idea, because you’re probably going to spend exactly the amount you allocate towards the things you care about most (meaning, “If you want a fantastic videographer, then if you allocate $3,000 toward this item, you probably won’t settle for a videographer that costs $2,000.) Said a different way, try to save money on the things you care less about. I planned for our big money saver to be the venue and the catering. (As long as people get fed, I don’t care if they’re eating McDonald’s hamburgers.)

(Full disclosure: I started the process by looking for a venue, and we almost blew our entire budget on that one thing. Then we started anew, recognizing that we needed to leave room in the budget for other important things. This first method was totally not the right way to go about planning. Don’t do what I did.)

We knew we wanted a band. I also wanted a good photographer. Ideally, we wanted to spend about $2,500 on each of these items. But the infographic is right: bands are expensive. Our favorite band was $5,000. Definitely out of budget! We ended up hiring a band for $3,000. Because the music is such an important part of the atmosphere, we felt like the extra money was worth it. We also decided that if we were hiring a band, we would eliminate hired musicians for the ceremony. (When you’re on a budget, you can’t have it all.)

We also couldn’t find a photographer we loved that was in our budget. (Actually, we did find one, but she was booked already!!! Aargh!) The photographer budget was then upped to $3,000. This is worthy of an entire post, so you’ll have to wait and hear the full story on this one.

So what does the budget look like so far?

Photographer: $3,000

Band: $3,000

Remaining money: dwindling”¦ $4,000

At this point, panic began to set in. I glanced back at the infographic and saw that reception venue + ceremony venue + catering = $24,000!!!! (WHOA! That’s a lot of money.) We were hoping to cut that cost by at least 85%. With an invite list of 150, we weren’t entirely sure if we could make that happen”¦

Depending on how you’re paying for the wedding, you’ll probably reconsider your budget at least once. $10,000 is right on the cusp of a “budget wedding.” I wouldn’t call myself a budget bride because, well, $10,000 is a whole lot of money. BUT, it doesn’t go that far in the world of wedding planning. And so, I reconsidered our $10,000 budget. My parents gave us that money, but we do have some of our own”¦and it was time to think about whether we wanted to spend it.

Ultimately, we decided that we had enough money in savings to put some of it toward the wedding. But, we didn’t just willy-nilly decide that we’d pay for some stuff. We decided that we would plan the essentials of the wedding in under $10,000 and if we wanted some extra bonuses, we could spend my money on that.

Obviously, the essentials included our ceremony and reception venue. This ended up taking up the entirety of our $4,000, but we managed to find one that includes all this:

  • outdoor ceremony venue (with chairs and set-up)
  • reception venues with tables, chairs, and linens
  • catering (and all the plates and utensils and stuff that goes with it)
  • bartender for our open bar (but we provide the alcohol)
  • clean-up

Yay!! Now of course there are a few other things that we have to do (invitations, some decorations), but we’re just going to do those as cheaply as possible.

How did you come up with a budget? Are you sticking to it or do you have a little flexibility?


Mrs. Blue Whale

College Park, MD
Wedding Date:
May 2013
DIY Tissue Paper Garland
Budget Busters (And How We're Avoiding Them!)

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  1. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 12:17 pm

    For us, venue/catering came first. No matter what, we wanted our friends and family to feel pampered with great service, meals, and beverages. With my family coming from the NYC/Boston areas, I wanted the venue to make them understand why I love Virginia so much. I think we lucked out with our venue. :)

    Photography was probably the next most important item for us, but we definitely dedicated most of our budget to the venue/food.

    Kudos for finding a venue that could handle 150 for $4,000. That’s amazing!

  2. Member
    emma20130601 341 posts, Helper bee @ 12:17 pm

    I find staying on budget is so hard! I have to keep telling myself that some of the things on website are gorgeous but not necessary! It doesn’t help that we just decided on an amount and didn’t really divise it. We started to but then we never had any really good idea of how much things cost. One of my fiancé’s friends is helping us plan and he’s been really good at finding us good deals which I think will help a lot. The other thing is that both of our families are helping out a lot with different big items. My FFIL is a florist and offered to pay for our flowers and my parents are paying for the meal. We wouldn’t be able to afford the type of wedding we want without their help!! I’m so grateful!!

  3. buffalo Member
    buffalo 178 posts, Blushing bee @ 12:41 pm

    It sounds like you did a great job budgeting!! I’ll admit, I’m not PERFECT with budgeting…I’m not BAD at it, I’m just not great at it either. I think my biggest downfall was not knowing exactly how much everything would cost before hand (i.e. I didn’t research pricing for what I didnt’ already know) and I splurged on the venue…Can’t wait to hear the photographer story!

  4. Member
    dragonlover 578 posts, Busy bee @ 12:43 pm

    To come up with a budget….

    I honestly was starting tofigure out what FH and I could save and put towards a wedding, when my parents brought it up.

    They generously offered to pay for the reception (Reception + Catering + bar + ceremony site).

    That left the biggies of photographer, band/dj, florist/decor, wedding attire to us.

    We figured we had 2 years, and I began researching the average for what people were spending, what was important to us, and then coming up with what we might be willing to spend vs. what we could afford.

    THen we promised to cut back/compromise on a few areas due to budget.

    So far, we’re 6 months out from the wedding – we only owe $2,000 in payments right now and everything else is paid for. The only big contract not booked is our florist.

    So we’re a-ok. We might spend more than our inital budget, but we’ve covered it with saved money – so I feel okay doing so.

  5. Guest Icon Guest
    Mary, Guest @ 1:26 pm

    Hi! I’m newly engaged and new to this site…so therefore I’m new to the infographic! I panicked slightly that we’re getting married in one of the most expensive cities (Chicago), but I kind of knew that already. Fingers crossed the budget conversation goes well with my parents! :)

  6. Guest Icon Guest
    sking, Guest @ 4:55 pm

    We got a package from our wedding planner it was called the platinum wedding package. It includes the Dj, the caterer, the decorating, the flowers, the cake, the wedding and reception coordination, the bartender with the alcohol included, a grooms cake, transportation, a candy buffet for the reception, all rentals and clean-up for $10,000.We felt it was a great deal we just have to get the venue which we got for a good deal at $1500 and our ceremony venue which we are still discussing the cost and our formal wear and our individual looks for ourselves. Our budget was $25000 but with the savings we got so far we still have $10000 to spend.

  7. mspony Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 4:59 pm

    We couldn’t budget because we really had no idea how much money we would have for our wedding since we had no savings and our family couldn’t help us, but it’s not something I would recommend for anyone!

  8. Member
    ShennaB2b 391 posts, Helper bee @ 7:06 pm

    We had a general budget idea when we started. My parents gave us $5000 and then the hubs parents paid for flowers, down payments, and various other small stuff. We simply would see something that we wanted and then we, well truthfully me, would research all the different alternatives and options and from there we would decide on what to purchase. There were a couple of things that were non-negotiable and i would have given family heirlooms up if needed- dress (duh) & photographer. I also found that it never hurt to ask for a lower price or ask them to change or modify packages for us- I saved almost $500 alone on our photographer by just explaining our budget and how much we liked his work (he originally gave us $200 off and then about a week later I got an email with the other $300 discount- quote “because you two are awesome and are going to make my portfolio look totally sweet…lol” So in all, after everything was said and done we roughly spent $11,000 on our wedding and there is not 1 single thing I would change.

  9. Guest Icon Guest
    Sydeny, Guest @ 7:13 pm

    I think it’s a little disturbing that you say “I don’t care if my guests eat McDonald’s burgers.” I hope you’re just dramatizing.

  10. bluewhale Member
    bluewhale 638 posts, Busy bee @ 7:33 pm

    @Sydeny: Ha! Yes, I’m being a little over-dramatic :) I want them to have a real meal. But I’m not concerned about whether it’s gourmet or super-imaginative or anything. If we have totally standard wedding food, then as long as it tastes pretty good and people feel full, that’s all I require.

  11. mstoadstool Member
    mstoadstool 2485 posts, Buzzing bee @ 10:37 pm

    We were a little silly and started budgeting from some quotes we got, expenses started adding up and now we’ve almost doubled our budget, yiikes.

  12. Member
    blonde17jess 1290 posts, Bumble bee @ 12:50 pm

    Oh my goodness, good for you for being able to get your venues and catering for 150 to $4,000… ours will be at least 3x that and we’re trying to go the relatively inexpensive route. I’m interested to see how you work the details into the budget!

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