How to Create a Realistic Wedding Budget

A bride and groom walking hand in hand through a garden after their wedding.

One of the most stressful parts of wedding planning is figuring out how to create—and stick to—a wedding budget that actually fits what you and your partner can realistically afford for your big day. Here are some things to consider as you make a budget that actually fits your lifestyle and priorities, and that you’ll be able to stick to as you continue along the wild, amazing, complicated process of planning your wedding!

Have Resource Conversations

Right off the bat, the first thing to do when considering your wedding budget is to have a conversation about resources. How much money can both you and your partner conceivably put away to save for the wedding? What are your expectations about who will be responsible for what costs? Will you be receiving any help from family members? If so, how much and for what? Talk with those family members and get a clear idea of the expectations on both sides. It can be difficult or awkward to have these money conversations, but they are an essential part of the planning process and in setting yourself and your partner up for a wedding budget that is realistic for your lives and bank accounts.

Name Your Priorities

Someone tying a satin bow on the back of a lace wedding dress on a tan bride.

As anyone who has been engaged for even five minutes knows, there are bells and whistles and details surrounding pretty much every potential aspect of your wedding day and all of these things cost money. The trick is to figure out what your main priorities are for the day. Sure, you may want some nice flower arrangements, but it may be more important to you to have live music or an incredible photographer. After knowing your resources, being clear on your priorities for the day is the most important thing to know as you create your wedding budget because you can allocate accordingly. If you’ve always dreamed of having an amazing designer gown, but couldn’t care less about fancy invitations, then allocate more money into the “wedding dress” category and go more simple or DIY for your invites. Make your money match your priorities and you’re much more likely not only to stay on track with your budget, but also to have a beautiful day that matches your preferences perfectly.

Get Specific

As mentioned above, it’s important to have your priorities straight when creating a wedding budget, and it’s advisable to actually get specific with your funds. Rather than creating a lump sum for the whole cost of your wedding, actually sit down and allocate certain amounts for each aspect of the day (attire, entertainment, decor, etc.). By getting specific about exactly how much you’re planning to spend for each section of your wedding, you will keep your priorities and your financial commitments in line. The other great thing about getting specific is you can adjust things as you go along. If you and your sweetheart have decided that photography is your main priority, but your dream photographer is $500 over your planned photography budget, see if there are ways you might be able to move funds around to adjust for that change before you go with your second choice. By having things clearly set out beforehand, you’re much less likely to spend money on things that aren’t as important to you or to get yourself in trouble by overspending.

Save Slowly

Now that you have your budget in mind, and once you’ve chosen a date for the big day, it’s time to get out your calculators and figure out how much you should be saving each month (or week, or paycheck—whatever makes the most sense for your situation) so that you’re able to meet your financial goals by the time your wedding day rolls around. This is a great step because you’re able to really intentionally track your savings progress and it feels much less overwhelming than just looking at that large final number and wondering how in the world you’re going to get that much money saved in time.

Create a Wedding Bank Account

A florist working with flowers for a wedding.

Since you make purchases and give deposits for your wedding at various times throughout the wedding planning process, it’s important to make sure you’re using only funds that are allocated for the big day. You don’t want to not have rent or grocery money because you used it to buy your gown by mistake! A great way to do this is to have a separate bank account that is specifically for wedding-related expenses. Both you and your partner should have access to this account (and you can do this even if you’d prefer keep all other accounts separate until you get married) and you should only deposit money into it that is specifically meant for wedding expenses. This way, you can pull from the account as needed and you know you’re not using any money that you shouldn’t be using.

Write Things Down

Don’t just arbitrarily spend money from your wedding account. Make sure you’re tracking it as you go along, which is much easier than sitting down with bank statements after months of pulling from it to figure out where all of your money has gone and what is still left for each category. Nowadays, it’s simple to do this using one of the many budgeting tools and apps out there, but you can also do it yourself using a spreadsheet or even pencil and paper. The most important thing is that you keep track of what you’re spending.

Expect the Unexpected

A bride and groom walking through a grassy field in the rain and holding an umbrella.

This might sound counterintuitive, but it’s essential for you to know that some wedding expenses you didn’t prepare for are definitely going to come up during this process. Because of this, it’s important to include a “miscellaneous” category in your budget so that those expenses don’t destroy all the work and planning you’ve done, and so that you can move past those hiccups without much fuss. Ultimately, coming up with a realistic wedding budget is all about looking at the real-life resources in front of you, the priorities you have for your wedding, and then making a plan and executing it with care and intention. This will work for any wedding budget and for any couple—just plan ahead, know what’s important to you, and be honest about what you can and cannot afford. If you do this, you’re sure to have an amazing wedding that sticks to your budget and still highlights exactly what matters most to you and your spouse-to-be!

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