Budgeting 101

Congratulations!  You are engaged!  Break out the champagne! (there is a lot of champagne, am I right??) 

But now what?  If you are anything like me, the wheels have been turning and you haven’t been able to shut your mind off.  Where?  When?  What is the guest list?  Who is in my bridal party?  How am I going to afford this?  These, along with the million other questions you have, are all great!  But the best thing to do is to slow down, and make a plan.

The very first thing you will need to do is to set your budget.  Talk to your fiancé and any parents or relatives who may be contributing, and figure out how much you can afford.  The average wedding cost in 2016 was $38,183, according to http://www.TheWeddingReport.com.  $38,183!  Yikes!  Now just because that is the average, does NOT mean you need to spend that much!  There are plenty of people who have wonderful weddings for half of that amount, and others who spend twice as much.  You need to do whatever is best for you.  The last thing you want is to start off a marriage is piles on debt.  So how are you going to come up with this budget?

First things first:  pick the magic number.  Think about what the two of you can save and find out what your family may be contributing.  Also remember that you will be receiving monetary gifts at the wedding, but I wouldn’t rely on these too heavily when budgeting, as you have no way of knowing what you will actually get.  $100 per person is a good estimate, but be realistic and understand that many couples won’t double up and go to $200, they might only go to $150.  So again, keep it in mind, but please don’t rely on it. 

So now that you’ve picked your number…now what are you spending all of that money on??  From my experience in New England, you can have a lovely wedding for about $25,000 – $30,000 if you stay out of the major cities.  Since these numbers seem slightly more reasonable than the average of $38,000, so we will use that for our example breakdown.  Just remember that I am basing the breakdown on a $25-30k budget, so some numbers may be lower than what you will actually spend if you have special requests or different priorities.  All of these numbers can be higher or lower depending on what you are willing to pay more for, and what you are willing to sacrifice. 

The Breakdown

Ceremony/Reception Venue – 50% ($13,000 – $15,000)

Your venue is going to take up a major chunk of your budget.  This number includes the food, drink, and room rentals.  What the venue itself provides will vary by venue, but the budget should all add up to about the same.  Keep in mind that your costs will be dependent on the number of guests, so the larger the wedding, the more you will need to spend.  All food and drink prices will be based on the number of guests, so if you are looking to save money, keep that guest list tight.  Another major cost to consider when looking at venue pricing is fees.  Almost every venue is going to charge you tax, administrative fees, and gratuity, at a total rate of about 27%.  This additional cost is a major expense.  If the venue is charging $100 per person, you are actually paying $127 per person!  Make sure you are including those fees when comparing venues.

Dress/Accessories/Day-of Beauty- 8% ($2,000 – $2,400)

The dress can be a big variable when it comes to budgeting – it can be an area where you can save some money, or blow your budget.  It all depends on what you want, and what you are willing to spend.  Dresses can range from $100 – $20,000+ so make sure you are shopping within your pre-determined budget.  I would not recommend trying on anything that costs more than what you can spend; you don’t want to fall in love with a dress that you can’t afford.  This number also includes the budget for hair and makeup, which can be costly if you don’t plan for it.  If you are using a professional, you will need to pay for both a trial, and for the wedding day.  Hair and makeup can cost from $150-$400 for the bride.

Photographer – 8% ($2,000 – $4,000)

I put a wide range for the dollar amount here because I don’t account for a videographer anywhere else.  Photographers and videographers can be costly, but you want to make sure you are spending the money where it counts, and you don’t want to cheap out on the photographer and later regret it.  Do your research, get referrals, and check out their work before you make any decisions.

Music – 7% ($1,500 – $1,750)

Music is obviously an important aspect of any wedding.  My estimate is a little heavy, as you can absolutely find a great DJ for less, but you need to consider a few factors.  Deciding on a DJ or a band for the reception will affect the budget, as DJs are usually less expensive than a band.  But like a photographer, cheaper may not always be the way to go.  Make sure you do your research so you don’t end up with a “DJ” who is just a person with an iPod and a speaker. DJs are also the vendor who provides the lighting, so if you are interested in adding uplighting, make sure you discuss with your DJ.  And don’t forget about music for the ceremony!

Florist – 7% ($1,500 – $1,750)

The cost of the florist definitely depends on your taste and vision.  My estimate could be very high or very low, depending on where you want flowers.  One thing is for sure, you will need the florist for the bouquets. Keep in mind that the larger your bridal party, the higher the cost for the florist.  You will also need to decide if you will be doing floral centerpieces, as those will cause the florist budget to be on the higher end.  Money Saving Tip:  floral arrangements for the ceremony can often be reused at the reception!

Rings – 4% ($1,000 – $1,200)

Ring costs will depend on the styles you choose, but you should be safe in this ballpark.  Men’s rings can be very reasonable and cost about $400.  The bride’s ring will depend on the style and the diamonds.  If you choose a ring with large diamonds, you will be moving this number closer to $3,000-$4,000.

Transportation – 4% ($1,000 – $1,200)

Some mode of transportation is likely necessary for your wedding day, at least to transport the bride to the ceremony.  If many of your guests will be staying in a hotel, it is customary to provide a shuttle to and from the reception.  The shuttle will allow your guests to have a good time without worrying about driving home, and assures everyone will arrive when you want them to!

Wedding Planner – 3% ($750-$2000)

Ahh the Wedding Planner!  What a SUPER important part of the budget (wink, wink)!  In all seriousness, hiring a Wedding Planner can be a huge stress relief for you.  I included a wide estimate here because the cost can range drastically depending on what services you require.  If you hire someone to help plan the wedding from start to finish, you may see costs upwards of the top of my range.  You can also hire a professional just for day-of coordination to make sure everything runs smoothly, which will cost less than the full service.  Or you may choose a venue that has on-site coordinators included in the package, so you won’t need to hire anyone at all.

Stationary- 2% ($500 – $600)

Even though it is a smaller portion of your budget, invitations are a place you can save money.  My estimate is based on traditional invitations, save the dates, and programs, but there are may ways to cut these costs.  There are many websites that allow you to design your stationary products for a very reasonable price, especially if you purchase during a sale!  Don’t forget that you will need to buy stamps for all of these save the dates and invitations.  Money Saving Tip:  Use online RSVPs! You can save on the RSVP cards, and that extra postage!  (If you make your wedding website on http://www.theknot.com, you can build it right in to the site!)

Favors/Gifts – 2% ($500 – $600)

It is customary to have wedding favors at your reception (think coozies, match books, candies, etc.).  You can find tons of customizable ideas online, but you can also think outside the box and make a donation to a charity in place of a favor.  Or, skip the favor altogether!  My opinion is that most people are not going to notice.  I also included gifts in this category.  Make sure you are getting gifts for the bridal party to thank them for all of their help and support!

Suit/Tux –  1% ($250 – $300)

The groom also needs something to wear (crazy, I know).  Luckily, it is far less expensive than a wedding dress!

Buffer – 4% (1,000)

I always recommend including a $1000 buffer in your budget.  You may fall in love with a dress that is a little over budget.  You may find a kick-butt gift for your bridesmaids that you can’t pass up.  You may decide you are super pale and want to get a spray tan the week before the wedding.  There will be things that come up that you weren’t anticipating.  So plan for the unexpected and put some money aside so you don’t get sidetracked!





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