How to: Set a Pain-Free Wedding Budget

Updated: Mar 17

Step-by-step guide to setting—and sticking to—a reasonable wedding budget with your partner

Engaged couple considering wedding costs

Congrats! You’re engaged. But wait! Before you start scrolling through Pinterest and pulling out the credit card, take a step back. Now is the perfect time to get on the same financial page as your fiance. Yep, it’s time to put on your big kid pants and talk finance with your boo.

Creating a realistic wedding budget is the first of many financial conversations you and your soon-to-be spouse will have. So, why not master your approach to money convos now?

First, as with any financial conversation, set the mood. Find a place and time where you have no distractions, nothing else needing your attention, and you both feel comfortable being open. Set an intention to listen and share and be willing to compromise.

Second, get your feet wet with some high-level questions. On a scale of 1-10, how fancy do you want our wedding to be? How big? What kind of venue? Will you get married in a church? Inside or outside? Destination or local?

Lastly, once you’re ready, dive into the specifics. Knowing exactly what you’ll need to purchase will help you build and stick to a more accurate budget. Consider inviting your parents to join this conversation, if either your parents or your fiance’s parents plan to contribute to wedding costs.

The below items will help guide you through setting your wedding budget:

Do you want to send Save the Dates? Paper, online?

What kind of invitations do you want to send? Paper, online?

How many guests? Make a spreadsheet and fill in as many people as you can think of on both sides of your families, then add friends. Your guest count will help you determine a venue.

Are you getting married in a church or at the venue? Account for fees for the church/venue itself and any necessary staff like a priest or officiant and musicians.

What kind of dress do you want? How much are you willing to spend? Beyond the dress, consider other accessories like belts, jewelry, a veil and shoes that are each separate costs. Give yourself a dress budget and don’t try on anything above your range.

Where do you want the reception? Some venues include other helpful services like an event planner, catering and decorations which can help drive down your costs and headache of managing multiple vendors. As far as location, keep in mind that local venues will cut down on hotel and transportation costs for your (local) guests.

What kind of photos and videos do you want? How much are you willing to spend on this component. Keep in mind photography is the typically the second most expensive component of your wedding, next to venue. Some companies have packages for a photographer and videographer, and/or combined services like engagement photos, bridal portraits and wedding day photography. This fee does not include printing your photos or having an album made.

Do you want a cake? Fondant or buttercream? How big? Fondant tends to run a bit more expensive, but it also gives your cake a creative flair. If you’re not into cakes, you could always do a dessert table and serve cookies, macarons or have several local pies.

Do you want flowers? How many? Consider bouquets for the bride and bridal party and flower arrangements for the church, centerpieces and general venue. Along with photography, flowers tend to take a large share of your total budget.

Will you get your hair and makeup done? Local salons offer packages for you and your bridal party. Other vendors who specialize in weddings and events could be less expensive. While it’s not expected, some brides elect to pay for their bridesmaids’ hair and makeup.

Are you providing transportation? You can rent a small party bus or limo to transport the bridal party to and from the venue. Some couples choose to provide a party bus for wedding guests, too, but that is not expected. Consider booking a private car to take you and your husband/wife back to the hotel after the wedding.

Where are you staying and getting ready? Booking the same bridal suite for the night before the wedding and the wedding night tends to make life a little easier. Depending on your style, you’ll need to book two rooms for the night before the wedding. Consider proximity to/from the venue, especially if your guests will be staying there.

Are you getting gifts for your bridal party and parents? Traditionally, the bride and groom get little gifts for their bridesmaids and groomsmen. Typical bridesmaid gifts include robes and earrings, which will come in handy for the wedding. Typical groomsmen gifts include flasks, pocket squares and cufflinks.

Are you handing out party favors? While not expected, some couples choose to give parting gifts to wedding guests. Little trinkets like fresh jars of honey,

Are you going on a honeymoon? Ah, yes. The much-needed vacation to celebrate your nuptials. Are you staying in the US or traveling abroad? For how long? Consider getting/renewing your passport and build that into your budget, just in case.

you’ve set your wedding budget, start planning your dream wedding. (PS: we have some wedding hacks to help you slash that budget.)

Open and regular conversations about money will set the foundation for a healthy relationship. Start the habit now of talking finance every 4-6 months, or when any life-changing events occur like a new job or baby.

Great news! The Pocketnest app is now available! Download Pocketnest and get your finances in order—in just 10 minutes a month! No jargony finance-speak, pricey fees or in-person meetings required.

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