1/ Start budgeting early
Image by Rebecca Yale Photography
Soon after your engagement you may feel the (totally understandable) urge to browse for beautiful dresses online, or scope out prices for venues you like. It’s good to be clued up on prices, but this information is so much more useful in the context of the budget, which supplies a realistic and carefully considered estimate for how much you’ll spend per category or per item.
For this reason, ‘wedding budget’ should be right near the top of that wedding planning checklist! Have the right discussions, set up your system early, and the rest is mostly maintenance and persistence – leaving you free to get on with the fun stuff with peace of mind.
2/ Set your priorities and look at sample budget breakdowns
Image by Mint Photography
Setting your priorities first will pave the way for a smoother budgeting process, signalling where you should allot most money and where you should look to save or compromise. At first it might seem like everything is a high priority – food, location, attire, music, photography, flowers – but realistically you need to single out two or three above all else.
Usually, you’ll then allocate more of the budget to the top three than to other areas, within reason. But it also helps to look at some typical budget breakdowns to ensure your budget is realistic. One such example is below:
- Reception (including venue and catering): 40%
- Honeymoon: 14.5%
- Photography and videography: 10.5%
- Wedding attire: 7%
- Engagement rings and wedding bands: 6%
- Flowers: 5%
- Music: 5%
- Invitations: 2%
- Miscellaneous incl. celebrant: 10%
Don’t forget to build contingency into your budget, too – usually between 5-10%. This acts as a ‘just in case’ cushion of money – not allocated to any particular area but available for any unforeseen costs.
3/ Start the conversation
Image by Kristen Weaver Photography
Determine who will contribute to the wedding, whether that’s just you two, either set of parents, or a mixture. You’ll then want to get together and talk money. Decide how much you’re comfortable spending as a couple, and then, if any other family members want to contribute, arrange to meet person. It’s completely up to you and your family dynamics whether you speak to your parents separately or as a group, or whether you attend as a couple or individually.
Some parents find it easiest to talk about fixed amounts of money, others are more comfortable dividing up the wedding into different categories (flowers, photography, catering etc.) and paying for one or several of those categories. There’s no single right system. The best approach is an open discussion about preferences, whether that means going down ‘traditional’ divisions of expenses between the bride and groom’s side or splitting categories based on personal interest or connection, or some other criterion.
4/ Get organising
Image by William Iven
Whether you make your own budgeting spreadsheet or use software/a premade template, you’ll need some sort of organisational tool to set up your budget and track expenses.
If you’re creating one from scratch, look for software that can automatically calculate various totals, percentages or differences and save you the trouble (Microsoft Excel is a classic and Google Sheets a good free option). You’ll then start off with a column listing everything you’ll spend money on for the wedding, whether services (photography, calligraphy), rentals (furniture, lighting, attire) or purchases (decor, gifts).
5/ Estimate costs
Next, you’ll need estimate costs for each item. The estimate will be based on your priorities and how you choose to allocate your total fund. You’ll also need to be realistic - it never hurts to budget a little more than you think you’ll need.
Of course, the estimate can only be a rough guide until you’ve got specific suppliers in mind - don’t worry if they end up a little off. You just have to remember to keep the budget balanced: if you spend too much on one thing, you’ll have to cut corners on something else.
6/ Track actual costs and payments
Image by Jodee Debes Photography
As you engage vendors and make purchases, add in columns for the actual cost, payment due date and amount paid. You can also add additional columns to track deposits, or just for making notes, if that would be helpful for you.
With those columns in place, your budget is all set. Now you have to put it to good use, which means entering all those wedding expenses and due dates into your organisational tool or tracker. Opening a separate bank account specifically for wedding expenses is a useful way to keep on top of transactions, but you’ll want to set aside time at least once a week to record each payment in the spreadsheet/tracker to ensure you stay on top of where the money is going!
7/ Ways to save
Image by Vicki Grafton Photography
Weddings have a reputation for costing the earth. If you need to cut costs, remember that your head count will affect the budget more than almost any other factor – more people means more space (bigger venues) and more tables (more food, more centrepieces, more décor). Reducing the size of the wedding is therefore much more cost-effective than trying to save bits and pieces across different areas.
Another key money-saving approach is to cut out what you don’t really need or want. Some couples feel pressure from an imaginary ‘wedding rule book’ that dictates what you must have to make your wedding dreams complete. The reality is, you’ll find your wedding far more enjoyable if it reflects you and your idea of a great celebration, rather than someone else or society’s views on the matter!
For even more tips for how and where to save your pennies, check out our articles on how to get the most out of your wedding budget, easy ways to save money on your wedding, and where to save vs. where to spend.