Nearly to Newlywed: Setting a Budget

Happy Wedding Wednesday, y’all!  Today we are going to talk about wedding budget and the importance of setting one at the beginning of your wedding planning.  I also want to stress how important it is to remember that it’s quite likely that you’ll go over said planned budget by a bit.  I believe the amount the professionals say is to plan to go over your budget by about 20% so be prepared and try and save a little more if possible!


When I first started my planning, the first step I took was to prepare my guest list because that was really the driving force behind where I could host my wedding.  I have a very large family and my husband and I have a lot of friends we wanted to include in our day so we knew it was going to be large [and by large, I mean like 400 people invited – but planned that no more than 350 of those people would actually attend].  For those of you who have planned a wedding, are planning a wedding or have researched weddings, you are well aware that a guest list of that size can really soak up a large chunk of a budget.

While we prepped the guest list, my husband and I talked with our parents to see if they would be willing to help us pay for our wedding – which was kind of like step 1a to determining a budget.  I had done quite a bit of research on the cost of weddings in Minneapolis prior to us getting engaged [yes, I’ll admit I was a little wedding crazy, but hey, we had been dating for over 5 years… I figured it would be coming soon… or at least that’s what I continued to tell myself until it did!] so I had somewhat of an idea of how much some of the services cost for the type of wedding I wanted to have.  After we determined how much help we would receive from our parents, I moved onto prepping an excel spreadsheet that listed out each service and what I estimated the cost to be [example below].  This spreadsheet also helped me keep track of who to pay, when it was due, how much our deposit was and when remaining balances were due.  So this helped through the entire planning process, not just the beginning budget.  The spreadsheet, as you can see, is really simple and to the point – which worked perfect for me!

Screen shot 2013-09-17 at 11.04.14 PM

The first step to take when starting your budget is to breakdown what exactly you see your wedding looking like and what services you plan to use.  For me, I knew I really, really wanted to have a photo booth, but I also knew they weren’t cheap so I had to pull the funds to cover that service from another vendor, or eliminate something all together.  My next step was to look into vendors that could fit within our budget.  With my size guest list one of my biggest vendors to book was my venue.  Not only did this drive the date of my wedding, but I also new it would eat up most of my budget when planning for food and alcohol.  [I’ll have a separate post on choosing vendors and how and why I chose mine.]

As a side note, and I’ll got into this into this in more detail in other posts, your date can also drive your budget.  In Minneapolis, much like other parts of the country, there are peak and off-peak seasons; peak seasons usually include late spring, summer and early fall months, off-peak usually includes late fall, winter and early spring months.  Off-peak rates can be more than half the price of peak season rates so if you are looking to stick within a budget, I suggest first deciding on how important the date and season is to you.  If you don’t mind a winter wedding, then that’s a quick and easy way to cut costs!  These off-peak rates extend to a lot of vendors, not just your venue – photographers, photo booths, DJs, etc. all tend to have lower rates because they’re trying to book business!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

For those of you who are currently planning your upcoming wedding, I know there are a ton of sites out there that help you set a budget in your initial planning stages.  I referenced sites like the Knot, Wedding Channel and Martha Stewart Weddings, and many wedding blogs, but I never once felt like their budget planning tools helped me estimate a usable budget for my own day.  Don’t get me wrong – I definitely used these sites as resources for finding vendors but rarely does a vendor ever put what they charge for their service just out in the open… and if they do it’s a starting rate and seldomly the rate you will end up paying.  Plus, I had an idea of how much I wanted to spend on certain services/vendors and I didn’t feel like I was able to customize it as much as I could with my own spreadsheet.

With all that said, I wanted to pull together a breakdown [by percent] of my own wedding, by service, to give you an idea of where our money was spent. [Let me tell you, I’m pretty proud of this pie chart below!]


To elaborate, here’s what falls into each category, starting with the biggest expenses –

  • Food/Alcohol – this includes the appetizers and dinner for each guest, along with host wine and beer; it also includes the service fee [gratuity], bartenders and taxes.  This also includes the cost of our cake and cupcakes
  • Photography – this includes the total cost of our photographer and our photo booth
    • Photographer’s fee included:
      • Engagement session, edited photos, CD of images and rights to all images
      • Wedding day – 8 hours of coverage, 2nd shooter, CD of edited images and rights to all images
  • Attire – this includes my dress, accessories [shoes, garters, veil], hair and make-up [including trial], groom’s attire
  • Venue – this fee is just the cost of the venue, not including food/beverages.  This fee covers the set up and teardown, tables, chairs, linens, china, stemware, glassware, etc.
  • Flowers – this included the bridal party and family flowers [bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages], ceremony flowers and centerpieces
  • Music – this is the cost of our DJ.  We used a DJ for both our ceremony and reception to cut down on costs
  • Stationery – this includes the cost of our Save the Dates, invitations and enclosures, programs, table numbers, escort cards, day-of thank you’s and postage.  This does not include the cost of our post-wedding thank you notes because I haven’t figured that out yet!
      • The majority of this 4% was from our invitations and enclosures.  To try and save money, I designed our Save the Dates and had them printed through an online site.  I also designed the programs, table numbers, escort cards and cards for my bridal party and parents.  All of those items were printed on my home computer with the exception of the programs, which were printed at Office Depot
  • Rings – this covers the cost of our wedding bands, my engagement ring is not included in this total
  • Favors/gifts – this includes the cost of the gifts for our wedding party as well as the cost for the welcome bags each hotel guest received and the baskets that were set in the men’s and women’s bathrooms [posts on all of these gifts to come later!]
    • We’re planning on getting a few other gifts for those who helped out greatly with our day [our parents in particular] but those amounts are still undecided and thus not added to this total
    • Also, we used our photo booth as our favors, but that amount is still captured in the photography expense
  • Rehearsal dinner – pretty self explanatory
  • Ceremony – Our ceremony was pretty basic and a lot of the fees that could be included in this area were already wrapped up into other expenses [stationery, music, flowers].  Ultimately, this was the cost for our officiant, who was actually a friend of my husbands
  • Misc. – there were a bunch of random things that I’m sure I forgot or didn’t live in a category above so I just guestimated this 1%

I hope this gives a better idea of breakdown by service for when you’re prepping the budget for your big day!  Now, these percentages can change when it’s your event because maybe you feel strongly about spending your money on services that are different than those listed above – for example, maybe you plan to have a string quartet or a variety of musicians at your ceremony, or a live band instead of a DJ.  Maybe you want flowers galore or a more expensive photographer – whatever it is, it’s your day so spend your money where it’s important to you!



PS – I mentioned in a paragraph above that you should expect to go over your budget.  I will tell you that we went about 30-35% over our planned budget.  Yikes!

PPS – sorry this is a novel – I just wanted to make sure I provided as much help as I can! 🙂

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