Setting the Right Budget for Your Engagement

Women in a circle look at a friend's engagement ring

Congratulations to any newly engaged couples! You both might not know what to expect, and you might feel overwhelmed. Friends and family will probably shower you with advice and ideas—much of which may be beyond your budget or ideal wedding plans.

An engaged couple show off a ring

The budget for wedding events vary for lots of reasons, and while the average wedding can cost over $20,000, some can cost under $1,000. It all depends on how large your wedding is and whether you follow all the traditional formalities. There are many websites that offer free wedding cost estimators, and they are worth checking out.

In the meantime, here’s a quick breakdown of just a few of the wedding arrangements to consider.

Engagement Party Costs

Engagement parties are usually held within two to three months after your engagement. Traditionally, these events would be thrown by a parent, another relative, or a close friend. It can be held at someone’s home as a barbeque, a cocktail hour, or just wine and hors d’oeuvres. Restaurants are another popular option, but it can be pricey. A pot luck could be an inexpensive, but fun option. This is generally a small, intimate affair with family and close friends of the engaged couple (and their dates and spouses). This event offers some of the future wedding guests a chance to get to know each other beforehand.

Couples celebrate at a barbeque

Rehearsal Dinner

To calculate the cost of a rehearsal dinner, you’ll want to factor in how many people are in your wedding party, their spouses or dates, and the cost of invitations, which will be minimal.

Here’s a basic, quick count as an example: The couple (2), two sets of parents (4), four bridesmaids with dates (8), maid of honor with date (2), four groomsmen with dates (8), best man with date (2) = 26 people. If you are planning a sit-down dinner at an average nice restaurant, expect to pay $50-100 per person, plus two drinks, which could be about $20 for each person. The total cost could be over $2,500.

However, some couples may choose to go to a good local pizzeria, which could slash that cost by more than 50 percent, and that would include pitchers of beer or carafes of wine.

If you host your party at home, you could provide home-cooked appetizers and or meals, aged wine, and tasty desserts, and the costs would be significantly lower. Some people even do well with a pot luck, providing the wine or other drinks, and dessert. Some even forgo the dinner completely.

In the earlier times, the rehearsal dinner was put on by the groom’s parents, as the bride’s family traditionally paid for the wedding. However, traditions do not have to observed and budget concerns can be an issue. What was usual and customary for our parents do not have to be observed by us, as many cannot afford a large or formal dinner. You can get creative by finding less expensive ways to celebrate after the rehearsal, and the attendees do not have to be the entire wedding guest list.

Gifts for Your Bridal Party

The bride and groom gifting their maid of honor, bridesmaids, best man, and groomsmen shows appreciation for everything they’ve done for you. By the time you have the rehearsal party, they’ve most likely made sure you’ve had an enjoyable time at your bachelor or bachelorette party and much more, and you want to show how much they mean to you. This would be an ideal time to present gifts to these individuals and each set of parents as well.

There are many ideal gift ideas that don’t need to be expensive. Find a gift that is either personal or an excellent quality useful item. There are many ideas on how much to spend and whom to gift, but it always depends on your budget. Also, it is not necessary, and many gifts can be small tokens of gratitude as well.

Illustration of gift boxes

Other Pre-Wedding Parties

A bridal or wedding shower is often held in the home of the maid of honor, close friend, or relative. It would include the cost of a brunch, a lunch, or an afternoon tea with refreshments and activities, such as games or quizzes, plus the invitations. The costs would vary based on how many guests are invited, but it can be affordable. Guests would include your family, closest friends, fiancé’s mother, sister(s), and other close family and friends. Gifts would be things that the couple would use at home, such as small kitchen appliances, kitchenware, etc.

Many couples opt to have a joined shower for both the bride and groom, which include the male guests as well. It could be a BBQ with cocktails and smores, a buffet, or a catered event. Just make sure this is clear in the invitation, so the gals won’t be bringing the naughty lingerie when gifts are opened in front of guests. Gifts can include groom-friendly items, such as BBQ supplies or things he can use in the kitchen. Gifts can be for both of you to enjoy together, such as linens, barware, a coffee mug set, a corkscrew and bottle stopper set, and other things that the couple will use make their home more comfortable.

Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties

These parties are generally planned and hosted by the best man or maid of honor, or sometimes they are thrown by a brother or sister. Grooms and brides are not expected to pay, but that also depends if it will be local or out of town, as they pay for their own travel, hotel, and meals. Talk to your best man or maid of honor to let them know what you would enjoy doing. The host should also speak with attendees to see if there are any spending limitations, as these costs are shared. The number of guests could vary based on who they would like to invite and where it will be held, as a local event could be more the merrier, without the prohibitive costs of travel involved.

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