By Kristina Russo | American Express Credit Intel Freelance Contributor
7 Min Read | December 21, 2022 in Money
As with any personal budgeting, wedding budget plans start with goals: first imagine the style and size of the wedding you want.
Use average wedding costs and benchmarks but don’t feel constrained by them.
Consider available sources to fund your wedding budget.
Search for tools and apps to help you stay on target.
Congratulations, you’re engaged! If you’re not sure where to begin, you’re not alone. A wedding is often the first big event that couples plan together, so they may not have a frame of reference for how much things cost or how to establish a useful wedding budget.
To top it off, postponed plans and pent-up demand due to the pandemic have rendered many past standards less useful. Putting together a wedding budget that is thrifty without being cheap can be a challenge – but it’s certainly possible.
Let’s explore the key considerations, average costs, financing sources, and planning tools that can help you create your wedding budget.
A good first step for a wedding budget is to establish an overall wedding vision with your partner. Outlining the nature of the event you envision helps guide the many detailed decisions to follow. Common big picture wedding budget considerations include:
Most importantly, develop a range for the number of guests, since that’s the single biggest driver of a wedding budget. In fact, some of the tools and apps discussed below equate costs on a per-guest basis – which could help you zero in on who is worthy of an invite.
In 2019, the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. was roughly $40,000, including the cost of the engagement ring and honeymoon.3 During the pandemic, the nature of celebrations and the average costs changed significantly. Current averages are getting back to pre-pandemic levels, with one notable difference – the number of guests. Back in 2019, the average guest list was about 130 people. In 2021, it was closer to 105. With weddings still averaging around $40,000, this reflects a significant increase in cost per guest.
Of course, there are also significant regional differences within those national averages. Average costs in the New York metro area top $40,000, while the average in Oregon is roughly half that.4
That said, the average wedding budget breaks down as follows:
Remember: These average costs and typical budget elements are important as guides, but don’t feel obligated to hit the averages. Weddings should be as unique as you and your partner. For example, choosing a date that falls on a Thursday or Monday could help with tight venue schedules – and shave a little off the costs.
One more thing: The best wedding budget planning must account for the unexpected. Many wedding planners recommend setting aside a 5-to-10% contingency fund for the unexpected or hidden costs that inevitably arise. In addition, it may be wise to increase the contingency fund for rising prices, as supply chain issues, inflation, and high demands are causing the prices of paper, food, and labor to creep up.6
In the end, most couples engage over a dozen vendors for their special day. To help keep your wedding budget on track, it’s a good idea to do a fair amount of comparison shopping before engaging any particular vendor.
Getting proposals and quotes from as many vendors as you can increases your bargaining power, leads to more planning ideas and, importantly, gives you more confidence in your estimates. One bride-to-be told me she and her partner “religiously got quotes from as many vendors as humanly possible before even deciding what a fair price was for a service.” Unfortunately, this may require a significant investment of your time, as many vendors will only give actual prices in person (the same bride-to-be said she automatically disqualified vendors who wouldn’t give a “ballpark price” over the phone).
And here’s a wedding budgeting tip that is often overlooked: tips. Gratuities are often sizeable and customary – or even required – but may be excluded from proposals.
Hand-in-hand with creating a wedding budget is evaluating the source(s) of funds to pay for the big day. Most often, weddings are funded by some combination of a couple’s personal savings, family contributions, wedding gifts, and debt.
There are many tools and apps available to help you create and track your wedding budget. Wedding budget spreadsheets, checklists, and templates are available on many different wedding websites. You can use mobile apps to establish budgets, research vendors, and track costs. These apps can also help organize vendor communications and documents, even compare quotes from multiple vendors to highlight the best deals. And they are portable, which helps you stay strong when you’re on-site at a vendor tempting you with a super cool upgrade. Quick online searches can point out the right tools for you.
Creating a wedding budget is an essential first step in planning your wedding. Gaining an understanding of the information and tools available can help make the process less intimidating and stressful. And having a wedding budget helps you focus on what’s important to you … whether it be food, dress, music – or the hashtag.
1 “Hometown vs. Destination Weddings,” WeddingWire
2 “When is Wedding Season?,” The Knot
3 “This Was the Average Cost of a Wedding in 2021,” The Knot
5 “The Knot 2021 Real Weddings Study,” The Knot
6 “Couples Cut Wedding Expenses as Inflation and Demand Make Walking Down the Aisle Pricier,” CNBC
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