The prospect of getting hitched often gives a couple butterflies — about their enormous wedding budget. But marrying your special someone doesn’t have to mean going into debt. A wedding planning and budget breakdown can help you prioritize which elements matter most to you, so you can achieve the wedding of your dreams without going overboard.
We’ll review the average wedding cost breakdown of common wedding items big and small, mistakes to avoid, and cost-cutting tips that will make the whole process easier on your wallet and your peace of mind.
Average Cost of a Wedding
Based on a survey of 1,000 people, SoFi’s recent survey found that the median cost of a wedding is $10,000. As you might expected, individual figures can vary greatly: If you get hitched in the grand ballroom of a hotel in Chicago with sweeping views of Lake Michigan, it’s going to be much pricier than gathering with just immediate family and your best friends to exchange vows by that same lake.
In real life, the average cost of a wedding varies widely based on location. In Idaho, Oklahoma, and Wyoming, wedding expenses total around $16,000. Over in New Jersey, New York, and Washington, D.C., the big day exceeds $40,000.
We’ve rounded up the items that will account for most of your wedding budget.
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Major Costs to Include in Your Wedding Budget Breakdown
Next, consider this breakdown for a major, $30,000-plus wedding with all the bells and whistles. While the median cost of a wedding is considerably lower, this will give you an idea of how expenses may be broken down. Most couples go all-in on just one or two priorities for their big day.
Average Wedding Costs
|Bride’s Hair Stylist
Mind you, these are the costs incurred by and for the bride and groom. The groomsmen and bridesmaids will incur their own costs for being in the wedding.
Figure Out What You Can Afford
No one is born knowing how to plan a wedding. To set your wedding budget, start by asking yourself a few questions:
• How much of your savings are you willing to use for your overall wedding budget?
• Are your parents or other relatives planning to contribute financially?
• How much can you reasonably save each month from your salary?
• How long will it take to save the amount of money you need?
• Is a wedding really worth the amount of money you want to spend on it?
Getting clarity on these answers will help you come up with a starting number.
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Typical Wedding Budget Allocation
Budget allocation involves assigning a percentage of your overall fund to each category. Use the percentages below to get a rough idea of how much you can pay for your venue, catering, etc. According to The Knot, a typical budget allocation looks like this:
Wedding Budget Allocation
|Lighting & Decor
|Hair & Makeup
|Cake or Desserts
These numbers don’t add up to 100% because alternative options are offered for the same category, such as live music, DJ, or guest entertainment. In combination with the average wedding costs table above, you should be able to project your total budget without any major surprises.
Common Wedding Budget Mistakes to Avoid
• Not budgeting enough for wedding budgets. Many couples underestimate the amount of money they’ll spend on a wedding. When there’s no plan, everything becomes a priority and you’ll go through money faster than you can imagine. Be sure to make both a wedding budget and a savings plan to make it happen.
• Not communicating with loved ones about the budget. If you have parents or other loved ones helping to cover expenses, be sure to have a conversation with them to avoid overestimating their contribution.
• Not saving long enough. Once you know how much you’ll need, be realistic about how long it will take you to save that money. You may want to consider pushing back your wedding date to have enough time to save for it. (Too late to save up? Learn about wedding financing options.)
• Going into debt. Many couples put wedding expenses on a credit card. If the balance isn’t paid off within the month, you’ll end up paying high interest rates on top of what you budgeted.
• Forgetting to budget for unexpected costs. Surprise bills always come up. Keep a small amount reserved for unexpected wedding expenses.
• Not keeping track of your spending. With wedding expenses, it’s easy to lose track of which bills you’ve paid. A spending app can help you monitor expenses and stick to your budget.
7 Cost-Cutting Tips When Planning a Wedding on a Budget
If your list of wedding expenses far exceeds your budget, don’t panic. Trimming your costs isn’t so hard if you know how to go about it. These ideas can help.
1. Limit Your Guest List
Consider shortening your guest list to include only close friends and family members. This can be a blessing in disguise for certain types of weddings. For instance, a destination wedding is especially difficult to coordinate for more than 100 people.
2. Host the Ceremony or Reception at Home or Outside
The wedding venue is often your biggest expense — unless you move the ceremony outside or to a private home. You can reserve a park pavilion for around $100. A permit to hold a wedding ceremony at a national park is around $385. Forgoing a fancy venue puts a lot of money back in your pocket.
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3. Source Second-Hand Items
Utilizing a few previously owned items is a real budget saver.
• Wedding decor. Gently used decor is often sold online at a fraction of the cost. Keep your eye on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, eBay, and Etsy, for items that work with your theme.
• Wedding dress. A wedding dress that costs thousands brand-new can be thrifted for a few hundred dollars. If you really want to save money on wedding attire, consider borrowing a dress from a good friend or family member.
4. Ask Friends and Family to Gift Their Skills
Do you have a photographer in your network? What about an aspiring caterer or florist? While it’s worth paying for their skills, you can also try exchanging something of value. Babysitting for busy parents is always a winner.
You can also ask for services in lieu of a gift. Tactfully articulate your desire to start your new life on a budget, while respecting their need to earn a living. If they say they can’t do it, don’t push.
5. DIY Whenever Possible
Many details that cost a fortune to outsource may be pulled together with the help of friends and family.
• Centerpieces. Your table decor can be made ahead of time by the wedding party or a group of aunties.
• Invitations. It’s so easy to make your own wedding invitations. Even if you’re unskilled, you can use online tools like Canva to create your design. Save the result as a photo file for cheap printing. Image files cost as little as 19 cents to print. Compare that to formal invitations that typically cost several dollars each to print.
• Catering. Know someone who makes an incredible main dish or specializes in smoked barbeque? They may be willing to help out for little more than the cost of groceries and supplies.
• Flowers. Making your own bouquet from flowers sold at the farmer’s market or grocer is an easy way to save a lot of money. Check out a YouTube video tutorial and you’ll be on your way.
6. Use a Dummy Wedding Cake
A dummy wedding cake is one that is made just for appearance. It’s frosted to look like a real cake but underneath it’s just styrofoam or cardboard.
7. Time Your Wedding Strategically
Wedding season traditionally runs from May to October. This is when demand is highest — and prices too. If you can plan a wedding for the off-season (say, December or March) demand and prices are lower. You may be able to get the venue you want for the price you want.
8. Scout Out Vendors
While you’re saving money for the wedding, you might as well suss out suitable vendors and venues at other weddings. Make notes on what you like, and book services way ahead of time for a better deal.
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The Secret to the Wedding of Your Dreams
Your dream wedding doesn’t have to spawn a nightmare budget. Be mindful of what you really want and what you can really afford. If a backyard potluck is all it takes to make you happy, then don’t worry about what other people say you “should” do.
Do what you want — and feel great about sticking to a budget that frees up funds for other purposes, like your first home or a lengthy honeymoon. Because saving for a dream wedding is just the first step in a couple’s life together.
Budgeting for a wedding can help you start married life on the right foot financially. First, find out the average costs in your area for major wedding expenses — venue, catering, music, photography. Then determine how much money you can pull together from family, your current savings, and however many paychecks you’ll receive before the big day. Budget allocation (assigning a percentage of your funds to each category) can help you separate your wants from needs. For example, you may want a live band and sit-down dinner for 200, but you only need a DJ and lots of passed hors d’oeuvres. If you scrimp on some items, you can splurge on others.
The right tools can make budgeting a lot easier. SoFi has a free money tracker app that offers a complete picture of your financial health. For saving, investing, and paying off debt, take a look at SoFi.
How should your wedding budget be broken down?
Spend according to your values. If you value how you look, allocate a large portion of your budget to the dress, tuxedo, hair stylist, and makeup artist. If you value memories created by a video, allocate enough budget for that service. It all comes down to priorities. Spend more money on the things that are important to you, and save money on things that are incidental, and you’ll most likely be happy with your decisions.
What is a good budget for a simple wedding?
Since tastes and costs vary so much, it’s hard to offer an exact number for a simple wedding budget. Getting married doesn’t have to cost much more than the marriage license fee, but if you want to celebrate with loved ones, you’ll need to save money to make it happen. With a little creativity, it’s possible to make your wedding ideas come to life on any budget.
What is a low budget for a wedding on average?
For a low-budget wedding where no meals are provided for guests, plan on spending a few hundred dollars. At the very least, you need to pay a fee for a marriage license and an officiant. You can wear something you already have, eat a potluck meal, and take your own pictures — and it will still be magical.
Photo credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio
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