How to Create the Ideal Wedding Budget
Whether you’re envisioning a casual party or a lavish, big-budget production, it’s wise to start with a financial plan. No matter who is helping or footing the bill, a wedding budget helps everyone involved understand the financial expectations. This might not seem like a big deal, but it can help you avoid disagreements and misunderstandings.
What's more, a wedding budget breakdown can help make your dream a reality. Aside from keeping costs in line, your budget can act as a blueprint for everything needed to make your big day unforgettable.
How Much Does the Average Wedding Cost?
According to The Knot’s 2021 survey, the average wedding budget is around $34,000, but costs vary widely depending on what kind of wedding you have—and even where you have it. For example, weddings with more than 100 guests cost $38,000 on average, while those with under 50 guests came in around $15,000.
Where you plan to tie the knot can also raise costs. In the South, for example, couples spent $26,000 on average, while weddings in the Northeast ran about $36,000.
Wedding Budget Breakdown (and Where to Cut Costs)
A lot goes into your big day. Before you lay out a wedding budget, it can be helpful to decide what you want to commit to (and where you can save).
Wedding venues range from simple spaces you decorate yourself to all-inclusive sites handling everything from catering to day-of coordination. Consider what is included for each venue and what you’ll have to cover yourself. A venue price that includes a bar package, for example, can check two boxes on your budget.
Keep in mind venues tend to book up far in advance. Locking in a venue early can help you strategize your wedding budget.
Some couples opt to provide transportation for their guests, especially if the location is off the beaten path or if the ceremony and reception are at separate locations. Some venues offer shuttle services, but this may not be the most affordable option. Compare several companies to make sure you’re getting a good deal.
Food is a big part of the wedding experience. While buffet style meals are often cheaper than formal, multi-course dinners, remember it is your day. If you want to cut costs by swapping dinner for snack bars, host a brunch wedding with a DIY omelet station, or rent your favorite food truck to cater, it is up to you.
Open bars can liven up a party, but they can also add a significant cost. Narrowing the selection to wine and beer or offering one or two “signature drinks” as opposed to a full bar can be a more cost-effective option.
When choosing a venue, ask if they provide chairs, tables, tents, linens, or any other furniture you might need. If they don’t, make sure you factor rental costs into your budget.
Photography and videography
Some couples opt for an amateur to cut costs, while others prefer recruiting a full team to produce high quality photos and videos. If you want to save money without relying on Uncle Earl to get a snapshot of the first dance, consider hiring a photographer for half a day only. You can schedule the photographer to shoot the most important moments to you—be it the ceremony or cutting the cake—and rely on friends and family for the rest.
Hair and makeup
Some brides hire a professional hair or makeup artist to help them and their bridesmaids get ready for the ceremony. You’ll save the most by going DIY, but if you want a professional, consider reaching out to a local cosmetology school. They may be able to recommend students or recent grads who offer discounted rates.
Most people choose between a live band or DJ as the main entertainment for a wedding. Bands tend to be more expensive, but they can add a unique touch to your reception. A DJ, however, can typically play all your favorite songs and read the crowd to determine what music will keep the flow.
For the budget savvy couple, you can choose to create your own playlist and hook your computer or phone up to the venue’s sound system. Just make sure to ask a friend or coordinator to keep an eye out for technical issues.
Flowers, signage, candles, and other decorative items add up fast. Have a clear picture of your wedding’s aesthetic before creating your wedding budget. Buying more than you need or changing themes halfway through can quickly bust your budget.
Your wedding dress or tux can be a substantial line item in your wedding budget. To save money, consider sample sales or off-the-rack purchases and have alterations made if needed. Some couples also opt for unconventional garb to save cash—like shorts and a simple dress for a beach wedding. No matter what you choose, make sure to factor in the cost. Even smaller expenses add up.
How to Budget for Your Wedding
In the preliminary stages of wedding research, you may need to adjust your total breakdown based on money conversations with your partner and family members. Your wedding budget should accurately reflect everyone’s financial abilities without adding an element of stress.
1. Set a limit.
For many couples, it helps to know the max spending limit before creating your wedding budget. From there, you can decide how much to allocate to each part of your wedding. Sometimes it’s helpful to allocate percentages to each category according to their importance to you.
2. Get organized.
It’s easy to make your own budget spreadsheet. In one column, write down all the elements you want to include in your big day—from venue to extras. Include cost estimates so you can see if you’re likely to stay within your budget. Include columns to keep track of potential vendors and their costs so you can compare options and make informed decisions.
2. Decide on the guest list.
Generally speaking, the more people you invite, the more expensive your wedding will be. But not everyone invited will be able to come. On average, 60%-75% of wedding invitees RSVP "Yes.” Keep that in mind as you send out invitations and plan your wedding budget.
3. Plan for unexpected costs.
Some costs may creep up on you—like stationary for your wedding invites and a guest book for the reception. These might seem like small expenses compared to the other line items, but make sure to include at least a ballpark estimate in your wedding budget. If you overestimate the cost, you can always reallocate the funds towards another line item or save it for your honeymoon.
4. Find ways to save.
As you create your budget, identify what really matters to you, then find ways to save on the things that don’t. For example, if you prefer “quality over quantity” when it comes to your guest list, you might opt for a smaller venue or destination wedding, then splurge on catering and an open bar. If you envision a wedding full of flowers, you might choose a spring wedding with a garden venue.
You can also economize through unconventional options, like renting a venue that isn't typically used for weddings and crafting the decor yourself.
Wedding Budget Mistakes to Avoid
No matter how carefully you plan your wedding budget, it’s easy to overspend. Avoid these common pitfalls to help stick with your plan.
Not having a predetermined wedding budget.
Most people have at least some idea of how much they want to spend on a wedding. But if those paying—be it a couple or their families—don't discuss what they have in mind, they risk big misunderstandings when the bills are due.
The best way to get everyone on the same page and to stay on budget is to agree on a total number, then divide it up into expense categories. You may still exceed your budget in a few categories, but you can compensate by looking for savings in other areas.
Exceeding your guest list.
One of the fastest ways to overextend your budget is to invite more people than planned or getting more RSVPs than expected. Focus on getting that list right so that even if lots of people can come, you'll be able to afford it.
Outsourcing decor that can be DIY.
If you have spare time but not a lot of spare cash, you might not need to pay a premium for stationery, decorations, or wedding favors. Figure out which projects you can handle yourself (or with help from family and friends) to cut costs.
Spending too much on a wedding cake.
If you've dreamed of a fairy tale wedding cake all your life, you may be disappointed to find out just how much an exorbitant, multi-tiered, elaborately decorated cake can cost. Unless a fancy cake is your absolute top priority, explore cheaper options like cupcakes, a candy bar, or presenting a dummy cake for display while serving sheet cake to guests.
Not being realistic about your budget.
Setting an unrealistically low budget can lead to disappointment. If you expect to have a 300-person wedding in an extravagant venue with a sit-down, multi-course meal, you may not be able to fit that into a $10,000 budget. If you have budget constraints but also a lot of dreams, consider setting a "goal budget" and a "stretch budget"—and ensure you absolutely do not spend more than the top number.
How to Budget as a Guest for Wedding Season
The engaged couple aren’t the only ones spending money during wedding season. As fun as it is to be a guest or member of the wedding party, it can get expensive. A wedding-guest budget can help you keep expenses under control.
Decide on your wedding guest budget.
If you’re planning to attend a wedding or two (or more) this year, start by listing all your likely expenses. For instance, being someone's maid of honor may involve more costs than attending as a guest. Think through your financial situation and determine a reasonable dollar amount you can spend towards the season ahead.
Get creative with wedding gifts.
Wedding gifts can be expensive and can add up fast if you have more than one wedding. If you want to stick to the registry, consider splitting a gift with a friend. Another option is to go off-registry and buy the couple something unique and meaningful with a slightly lower price tag. For example, you could frame the couple’s wedding invitation for them or make a honeymoon care package with travel-sized sunscreen and snacks for the plane.
Buddy up to share travel expenses.
Whenever possible, find a friend to split the cost of rental cars, vacation homes, or hotel rooms. Buddying up can save a lot of money in your wedding guest budget while also allowing you to spend time with old friends or family members.
Decline pre-wedding events.
If you know deep down that the bachelorette weekend or other pre-wedding events will put you over-budget, tactfully opt out. The wedding itself is the priority, and your friend or family member will understand if you explain.
Rent your outfit.
Rather than buying an expensive new outfit you may only wear once, consider shopping secondhand, renting, or borrowing your wedding attire. Buying an outfit for a single event can be prohibitively pricey, so evaluate your other options before investing in something new.
Consider a Wedding Loan
Applying for a wedding loan from LendingClub Bank can help you afford your dream wedding. A personal loan from LendingClub Bank allows you to take out a lump sum upfront, then pay it back over time. With low interest rates and fixed payments, a personal loan from LendingClub Bank can be more cost-effective than other options, like putting your wedding expenses on a credit card. What’s more, paying a wedding loan back over time may improve your credit score, which can set you and your partner up for financial success down the road.1
The Bottom Line
Creating the wedding of your dreams starts with making a wedding budget inline with your needs and wishes. In some cases, a personal wedding loan might be the more financially smart choice to pay for your big day. With a wedding loan, you receive a set amount of money that can help form the backbone of your wedding budget, and then pay it back over time with monthly installments. This means your wedding day—and the weeks leading up to it—can be blissful and stress free.
Wedding Budget FAQs
Got questions? We've got answers.
1. What is a good budget for a wedding?
Wedding costs vary widely depending on what kind of wedding you want and where you want to get married. However, a good budget is one that you and your family can comfortably afford. Whether you opt to pay for everything yourself upfront, get help from family, or take out a personal loan, you’ll want to ensure you can cover those costs and payments before you commit.
2. Is $20,000 enough for a wedding?
While it is true that couples spent $34,000 on average for weddings in 2021, according to The Knot, there is no “perfect amount” to spend on a wedding. With careful planning, you can spend as much—or as little—on your wedding as you want and still make the day memorable. The key is to create a budget you are comfortable with ahead of time and stick with it.
3. What should be included in a wedding budget spreadsheet?
Your written financial plan doesn’t need to be complicated. Keep it simple by listing estimated costs from biggest to smallest. If it feels overwhelming, consider grouping smaller costs into broader categories. For example, table linens, folding chairs, and tabletop décor could all go under a “rental” category. To save yourself time and frustration later, it is also helpful to include the names and estimates of vendors and venues on your spreadsheet.
4. How do wedding loans work?
Wedding loans are personal loans that can help you manage your finances for your big day. Personal loans may have lower interest rate than the average credit card and allow you to pay the money back in fixed installments. When you opt for a wedding loan, you don't have to deplete your savings or delay the wedding until you've saved up the necessary amount and paying back your loan overtime can even increase your credit score.1
Reducing debt and maintaining low credit balances may contribute to an improvement in your credit score, but results are not guaranteed. Individual results vary based on multiple factors, including but not limited to payment history and credit utilization.