It’s no secret weddings can get expensive. And though they’ll likely cost a good chunk of change, they don’t have to break the bank. After you, your fiancé, and your respective parents agree to a set budget, you’ll need to take a few extra steps to make sure you don’t blow it when pushy sales persons and pricy wedding amenities come your way. Toa void a total breakdown and bankruptcy, consider the following:

Be reasonable.

While planning, you’re going to come across the crème de la crème of wedding options. But these “luxury” upgrades can run you somewhere in the thousands, and place you well over budget. When looking at wedding invitations, ask yourself if you really need letterpress or if the thermographic (more budget friendly) option is just as nice looking. If at every turn you’re wanting top notch wedding décor and arrangements, check your budget and assess how many of these “number one” options are realistically feasible.

As much as the wedding is about you, your fiancé and your big day, be sure to put extra money into things that both you and your guests (and your parents) can enjoy, like music or food. Or, consider saving some extra dough to splurge on your honeymoon.


You’re going to want certain things in the wedding that your fiancé may not and vice versa. Being flexible and compromising about where and how much money you should spend; it will encourage you and your fiancé to share in making your dream wedding together, rather than competing over two individual visions for the big day.

Be realistic.

Wanting a dream wedding and creating a realistic budget are often irreconcilable tasks. It’s no secret that the budget is the most challenging aspect of wedding planning. With money being one of the top causes for divorces in America, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if it was also the cause of many a “never-to-be” weddings; when the budget gets tight or blown way out of proportion, fights may ensue, leaving a sour taste in both of your mouths regarding planning the rest of the wedding. To avoid premarital divorce (if there is such a thing) consider the following tips about making a budget and sticking to it.

Stay firm with your Guest List.

Though it’s tempting to squeeze in an extra person here and there, the truth is people equal money. With the average cost per head totaling up to somewhere between $50-100 a head, forgoing your headcount to make room for those suddenly extra friendly family members and acquaintances will likely blow your budget for people you won’t even remember being there when all is said and done. Was it worth it? Probably not. Make sure and only invite people who mean a lot to you now and who you know will mean a lot to you in the future (think at least five years or so).

Also, when it comes to inviting guests who have been casually dating someone you may not be acquainted with, don’t feel pressured to invite them. Simply address the invitation in your guest’s name only and don’t create a space for them to respond “+1.” Should inquiring minds want to know if they can bring their fling of the month, politely tell them that it’s simply either that its not in your budget or that you’re trying to keep the guest list down to the closest most important people in your life.

Manage Your Money Wisely

Rather than arguing over whose account wedding finances are coming out of, consider opening a joint wedding account. Decide on an amount of money both of you will contribute to the account monthly, and record and save all receipts related to wedding purchases as your wedding planning unfolds. That way, planning becomes a team effort in every respect and you can work as a team to keep each other accountable for expenses you may make individually.

If you’ve been saving up money in CDs, stocks, or other short-term loans, consider pulling a set percentage to contribute to the budget. Anything you don’t spend put back in your respective investment accounts after the wedding.

When paying for wedding expenses try and use a credit card that has rewards and benefits like air miles, cash back rewards, etc. You can then put this “free” money towards your honeymoon expenses or use it as a cushion when trying to get back on track after the wedding splurge mayhem subsides. Also, consider adding family members, like parents, to the card so you can benefit from their financial contributions as well.

Find the Hidden Costs

Want a cake but didn’t plan on having to pay a $3-4 per head cake cutting fee? Want tray
passed hors de oeuvres but didn’t plan on having to pay extra hourly wages for the wait staff? Did you remember that you’ll have to tip the wait staff, and the DJ, and the wedding planner, and all the other people who may have helped on the big day and will be waiting for the handout at the end of festivities? All these hidden costs significantly dent the budget, so be sure and factor them in beforehand so you stay realistic when deciding between Gerbera Daisies and Slipper Orchids (sure, most brides will want the latter, but with all these unforeseen costs, can you still afford them)? And when budgeting for invitations, don’t forget to calculate postage costs for both invitations (which may cost more based on weight and shape) and of course, the response cards.

Get Crafty

Rather than relying on wedding vendors to supply you with everything overpriced, consider doing some of the decorative work yourself. Not only will it make the wedding more personal, and all the more special because of it, it will also save you tons of money. From linens to flowers to centerpieces, getting creative and crafty and opting to make these things yourself could save you thousands of dollars. And, when you get compliments on how beautiful everything looks, you’ll feel all the more gratified. Lastly, don’t be afraid to get the family and wedding parties, particularly the bridesmaids, involved.

Plan for a Planner

Though it may seem initially counter intuitive, hiring a wedding planner can actually save you money in the long run if you’re smart about how you use them, which should be as your number one resource. Wedding planners plan weddings for a living. Consequently, they know all the ins and outs about weddings, budget dos and don’ts, and when and where and how to best spend your money. In short, they’ll be the best resource you have in trying to make your dream wedding a reality on your humble budget.

Leave Cushion Room for Overages

No matter how careful you are, you’ll probably go over your budget, unless, that is, you try and account for overages with a “cushion” account. The typical budget overages for a wedding is somewhere around %5-10.

These overages sneak up by way of unforeseen costs such as tipping vendors, last minute flower and/or décor changes; weather precautionary expenses (such as renting a canopy tent for rain or heaters for the cold); last minute oops like wedding gown stains or cufflinks for the groom’s suit; and of course, all those little things you often forget to account for in your budget, such as the guest book pin, sashes for the bridesmaids, those extra rounds of cocktails you’ll buy family and friends at the rehearsal dinner, that extra hour you’ll order the night of the reception…

Plan on encountering some of these overages yourself and set some money aside in an emergency fund; that way, when fate or circumstance rears its ugly head, you’re already covered.

Find a System and Use It

Whether you’re going to use an online wedding budgeter or buy a wedding planning book and use the resources allocated in it, plan on using any, all, or some of these free resources to your advantage. We’re a fan of electronic wedding budgeters because they not only break up budgets by typical expense percentages (e.g. you should spend x% on your gown, y% on your food, z% on your venue…you get the point), but as you make purchases the budgeter will instantly reflect the new percentage breakdown and available budget finances. If an online system isn’t for you, consider a spreadsheet, like Microsoft Excel.