Money & Matrimony

A budget is a critical step in your wedding planning.

There are a lot of things to look forward to when planning a wedding. Unfortunately, you can’t get to the fun stuff until you tackle the budget. It might seem mind-boggling, but it doesn’t have to be. A well-done budget will keep costs under control and alleviate stress during the wedding planning process.

Do Your Research
You’ll need an idea of how much weddings cost before you can figure out a realistic budget. Go online to find printable budget worksheets and wedding expense calculators to keep track of your finances. Remember that your wedding location, date and guest list will factor into the price. For instance, intimate and informal weddings in small towns are usually less expensive than large, formal events in urban areas.

Contact multiple vendors to get printed price lists for the different categories of your wedding. Expect to spend roughly half of your budget on the reception, which includes the venue, centerpieces and catering. Your other big expenses will be attire, flowers, entertainment, photography and videography.

A good starting point is to estimate $100 per guest. This gives you $50 for their food and drink and $50 for other expenses. Set aside 5 percent of your budget as an emergency fund for unexpected expenses that might come up. And don’t forget to include the cost of your honeymoon.

Who Pays
Determine early on who will be paying for your wedding. Will you cover the costs yourself or will you have full or partial help from family? Traditionally, the bride and her family pay for the ceremony, reception, transportation and photography. They also pick up the tab for stationery, the groom’s ring and the bride’s wardrobe. The groom’s side takes care of the groom’s outfit, fees for the marriage license and officiate, the bride’s bouquet, all corsages and boutonnieres, the honeymoon and the bride’s rings. Both families split the bill on pre-wedding festivities such as the engagement party, bridal shower and rehearsal dinner.

Of course, these are just guidelines. To figure out what will work best for you, try talking to each family separately. Ask if they can commit to a certain dollar amount or specific aspects of the wedding. Another option is to come up with a budget and divide the expenses equally among all family members. If you and your partner end up going it alone, don’t worry. According to, 37 percent of couples contribute financially to their own weddings.

Set Priorities
Have a discussion with your future spouse about what is most important to both of you for your wedding day. Pick three to five must-haves and devote the bulk of your budget to these items. For example, if you decide to splurge on food and photography, consider spending less on flowers and entertainment. Stay focused on your priorities and the rest of your budget will fall into place.