Congratulations! You’re newly engaged. Once you have declared your relationship status and had your fair share of celebrating, it’s time to start getting prepared for your wedding with a wedding budget breakdown.

This means creating an expense spreadsheet with categories and percentages of the expenses.

Weddings are expensive. And you may have already looked up “planning a wedding on a budget” to see what’s possible.

While you may have dreamed of a beautiful wedding in your mind – the venue, dress, flowers – it is important to set a reasonable budget.

Why a wedding budget breakdown matters for your finances

Lending Tree discovered that 30% of engaged couples will rely on debt to fund their wedding. That is certainly not a good way to start your married life together in debt.

Understanding what you can really afford will keep you out of those statistics. Plus, you can have a wedding on a budget that is both fun and classy.

To keep your wedding from becoming too costly, here are some tips to help you create an affordable wedding budget while still maintaining your long-term goals in mind.

Tips for creating a realistic wedding budget

Wedding Wire’s Newlywed Report discovered that most couples pay around $16,000 for their wedding day but end up paying closer to $29,000. This likely occurred because couples set a rough budget and did not account for the considerable venue and catering costs that often exist.

Just like your budget, you will need to make a plan for your wedding expenses.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in planning a destination wedding and worry about minor details that contribute to unnecessary expenses. For this reason, it is essential to create a wedding budget spreadsheet.

You should also be aware of what is important to you and how much you are willing to spend. Rather than simply determining the overall average cost of a wedding and assuming that yours will also be the same, you need to focus on your own needs.

When performing an internet search for the words, “planning a wedding on a budget,” be aware that the search results will be varied and dependent on personal knowledge.

You can have a gorgeous wedding without harming your finances with a practical budget. A realistic budget lets you do that.

Before you lay out a wedding budget breakdown determine how much you can afford

As your wedding budget list is made, it is a good idea to sit down and discuss and prioritize your long-term goals as a couple and what you hope you can afford for your special day.

Some questions you’ll want to answer together include:

Once you know these numbers, add up their totals and use that total as your wedding budget breakdown.

Download our free wedding budget spreadsheet

If you have an SSD, here’s a great free spreadsheet that will help you lay out the expenses we mention below! Simply click the thumbnail for your download!

Wedding budget breakdown example (In percentages)

Once you’ve determined your “number of,” it’s time to set up a typical wedding budget breakdown. Let’s say you’re planning to spend about $20,000.

This is just an example; you may choose to spend more or less on your special day.

We can identify each of these topics in greater detail along with the typical budget percentage for each.

Reception costs 45%-50% (The largest cost in your wedding budget breakdown)

The foremost category in your wedding budget spreadsheet will be for the reception. The reception’s cost will typically account for a large portion of your budget, which is about 45%-50%. Costs will include the price of the venue, food, wedding cake, rentals, etc.

So, to get the wedding expense breakdown, you would divide your total budget of $20,000 by 45% to 50%, which is between $9,000 and $10,000.

Ceremony costs 2%

Consider allocating about 2% of your wedding budget toward the reception and ceremony itself. This includes your officiant and marriage license fee.

Some people plan to hold the ceremony in the same location as the reception. So the venue is part of your reception costs mentioned earlier.

Otherwise, you will have to pay for a facility, which is not included in this amount.

Wedding attire 9%

A luxurious wedding dress, tuxedo, makeup, and hair can cost a lot of money. It usually ranges between 8% and 10% of your wedding budget. So, based on our results, the estimated cost is between $1,600 and $2,000.

Wedding rings 3%

Don’t forget to add the cost of your wedding bands to your wedding budget. Of course, this is not the cost of the engagement ring; that’s an entirely different expense.

But the bands are a symbol of everlasting love that represents your union, so it’s an important component of your list! They’re about 3% of your budget if you’re cheap.

Photography and videography 15%

The largest expense in your wedding budget will be the photographer and videographer. You can budget about 15% of your total budget for this level of frugality, or approximately $3,000. The photographer and videographer’s cost may be much higher.

Search for a photographer with outstanding ratings to ensure they catch the best images of your special day!

Flowers and decorations 8%

If you want a beautiful display of red rose pedals or twinkling lights decorating the location, the cost of flowers and decorations could be between 8% and 10% of your total wedding budget. Add around $1,600 to your wedding budget spreadsheet for flowers and decorations.

Entertainment and music 7%

Do you want a DJ or a rock band for your wedding day? Either has unique budget and travel expenses. However, you can set aside up to 7% or $1,400 of your budget for entertainment by blocking off that amount on your spreadsheet.

Wedding invitations and stationery 3%

Greeting cards, invitations, and menus, oh my! You must consider numerous types of wedding stationery when planning your budget for your wedding.

Between save-the-date cards, wedding invitations, ceremony programs, and more, this is going to cost about 3% of your budget. Be sure to review your guest list to see how many invitations you may need and calculate costs from there.

Transportation 2%

If you choose to provide transport to your customers to guarantee they arrive on time, it will cost you about 2% of your budget in expenses. So budget approximately $400 or so if you decide to go this route. You can also only provide transportation to your wedding party to reduce the costs.

Bridal party gifts 2%

Yet another factor to budget for in your wedding budget breakdown is your bridal party’s gift budget. You may choose to purchase keepsakes for your wedding guests as well, so be sure to include these expenses in your total. It will cost you about 2% or about $400.

Wedding insurance 2%

Don’t let unexpected incidents spoil your special day. Be sure to have wedding insurance added to your budget spreadsheet for your wedding day! The insurance plan covers lost items, deposits, rings, and other items.

Be sure to get liability insurance to cover any injuries if they were to occur. These insurance programs could cost 2% of your $1,000 budget.

Miscellaneous and unplanned expenses 2-5% (A necessary inclusion for your wedding budget breakdown)

It’s a good idea to set aside 2% to 5% of your budget for miscellaneous, unexpected, or emergency expenses. A buffer of about $400 to $1,000 is recommended for this purpose.

Examples of things that might happen are needing a day-of wedding planner or requesting an additional hour for the photographer. These are expenses that you might not be aware of until after the wedding.

Remember that wedding costs vary by location, time of year, date, etc., but you can obtain average wedding costs online to get an idea of what to expect.

Save for your wedding and also keep your emergency fund intact

Once you know how much things will cost and have your wedding reception budget plan arranged, you can begin preparing to save. Create a line item into your current budget and start setting aside money for your big day.

Make sure to forego unnecessary things to save for your special day. Things like coffee shops, gym memberships, vacations, shopping, and so on, may need to be put off while you save for the day.

It’s important to maintain a solid emergency fund while setting aside savings for your future wedding. This is because life is unpredictable whether or not you get married. Your emergency fund should not be directed toward your wedding expenses.

12 Ways to leverage your wedding budget breakdown for the most savings

Of course, your wedding date represents your tastes. Fortunately, that’s very simple to accomplish without spending a lot of money. You’ll need to put in a little more elbow grease, however. Here’s how you can get the most out of your wedding budget without spending any more.

1. Negotiate with vendors to lower your wedding budget

The first tip that may be obvious is to haggle prices and contracts with the vendors you use for your wedding.

Caterers, photographers, florists, and DJs may often work with you on your budget. Be willing to negotiate and pay a lower price if you cannot find an amount you’re comfortable with.

For example, ask a caterer to provide sample menus and prices for each meal, then decide which items you can forgo (for example, maybe you only need two passed hors-d’oeuvres instead of five).

You will have an easier time negotiating prices with them if you go back. Florists, photographers, and DJs may also be willing to accept less to negotiate the deal. You may be able to save a lot of money or free up money to spend on other funds for your wedding party.

2. Don’t go crazy with expensive wedding stationery

It’s easy to go crazy over your wedding stationery, and those costs can add up fast.

Some expensive letterpress invitations can cost as much as $7 per piece – Yikes. Instead, consider printing inexpensive invitations that are just as attractive. You’ll be surprised at the options available.

One of my most popular online printing services is Minted, where you can buy attractive wedding invitations for an affordable price.

3. Skip the catered, sit-down dinner

Scheduling the meal at the wedding venue is how to save money when planning a wedding. Many wedding venues offer in-house catering services because of the significant markups they receive on these meals.

If you can find a location where you can bring your own caterer, you can find one that also makes great food and fits within your budget.

A more economical alternative is to select a family-style banquet with shared platters that can be shared throughout the table. This will save you up to 20% on your catering costs.

Although formal catering is expensive, it’s a wonderful way to have an intimate wedding. A family-style meal creates a friendly atmosphere for wedding parties that would prefer a small, more intimate ceremony.

What about another potential host site? Dinner is expensive because events typically feature expensive meals like steak. Lunch is a more moderate meal, and people usually drink less alcohol in the daytime, so you save a good deal of money there, too.

Wedding Budget Breakdown
Wedding Budget Breakdown

4. Consider a second-hand dress

If you’re a bride who finds that your dream dress is too expensive to buy new, consider buying one from secondhand wedding dress websites like or Up to 75% off the latest styles can be had at these websites, which dry-clean and preserve dresses for future use.

Another option is to rent out formal wear. You can rent your dream wedding dress instead of spending thousands of dollars to wear it for a single event.

The same also goes for the groom’s suit. Suit rentals are also an option and it is a cost-effective way to save on materials that have longer usage periods than items that are frequently worn. Having preowned or rented wedding-related items is an important part of having a low-cost wedding.

5. Get married any day but Saturday

Saturday is the most expensive day to get married, especially in the fall and spring. Why? Because everyone tries to get married on Saturday!

You may be able to find your dream venue at a 10% to 40% discount if you get married on Sunday or a weekday.

And if you choose to schedule your wedding during off-peak seasons like winter or early spring, you can save a lot of money! Scheduling your wedding for a cheaper day can save you the hassle of a lot of planning.

6. Serve signature cocktails to save on alcohol costs in your wedding budget

Serving signature cocktails is an excellent way to show your personality at your wedding. This helps you control the amount of money you spend on alcohol (whether you serve alcohol), since the flavors available are limited. You would still be serving great drinks, though.

7. DIY your decor and use seasonal items

Easy ways to have a wedding on a budget are to use your friends’, bridesmaids’, and family’s skills. Utilize the talents of your family members, friends, and bridesmaids! Take advantage of their expertise to make your wedding and reception decor.

You can use Pinterest to find awesome decor items at significantly reduced prices than you would pay to an event planner or florist.

And since floral arrangements can be quite costly, buying flowers, boutonnieres, and corsages from Sam’s Club and Costco can save you money. These stores offer many unique arrangements and commonly sell flowers in bulk for a discount. Buying flowers this way could save you thousands compared to using a florist.

Create your wedding ceremony palette, then watch some YouTube videos on putting together an arrangement. It’s totally possible!

8. Choose a cheaper photography package

You saw in the wedding budget breakdown that the second-most expensive expenditure was the photographer.

Many people take extremely great care when choosing their wedding photographers, so if there are photographers that you like, you should choose their least expensive wedding collection.

Does having a photographer at your wedding for 10 hours make sense when your family and friends will be photographing the event as well? Thirty minutes of photos when the dancing begins are enough, as, after that, the dancing is repetitive. Plus, these few pictures rarely make it into the album.

9. Skip the fancy wedding cake

However, that doesn’t mean you should shell out hundreds of dollars on a three-tier wedding cake. A fancy confection could cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. As often as not, guests are too busy eating cake to even pay attention to what kind of cake you served.

Save money by ordering a single, six- to eight-inch tier cake atop a Styrofoam base. If you want to serve cake to your guests, purchase sheet cakes from Costco or your local bakery for about $40 each. Your guests will not know the difference, and you can get those glamorous cake-cutting photos.

10. Forget the wedding linens or bring your own

If tables do not need to be covered, bring rustic wooden tables to your venue. You can save anywhere from $500 to $1,000.

If you enjoy making your own home-furnishing items, purchase beautiful linens in bulk online or a craft or fabric store. YouTube and similar tutorial sites can help teach you how to design and install your own linens.

11. Ask a friend to officiate

You can save between $200 and $400 by asking a friend to officiate your wedding. A friend can easily get ordained online for approximately $50.

Additionally, if you do not like asking a friend to officiate for the first time, asking a friend you know who is acquainted with officiating weddings is an option.

12. Consider a smaller wedding to save money

Selecting a smaller wedding is how to organize a wedding on a budget. Smaller and simpler weddings can be just as beautiful as large elaborate weddings.

The huge difference is how much money you will save. Your wedding is only for a day, and your marriage is for a lifetime!

So it is better financially to wed than to throw away money on a oneday wedding if you do not actually can afford the cost of a multi-day affair.

Extra things to remember with your wedding budget

You want to have your fantasy wedding but still not spend a fortune. Here are a few tips for saving money while not skimping on quality.

Extend your engagement

Create a wedding budget breakdown. If the projected cost of your wedding seems too costly, consider expanding your engagement. It’s an excellent way to reduce the amount you need to put toward your reserve every month while enjoying that exciting planning stage.

Track your spending

You should track your spending to ensure you are staying within your budget. Use your wedding budget spreadsheet to account for all expenses. Small expenses such as hair accessories, place cards, and cake toppers often add up, so use caution!

DIY and get creative

And here is great news – there are tons of creative methods to save on your wedding. From do-it-yourself options to rethinking the wedding date, there are innumerable thrifty choices available.

Use a wedding budget breakdown to save on your dream wedding!

The budget breakdown for a wedding can serve as a template for a customized budget. You don’t have to spend the typical amount on a wedding if you don’t feel it is best for your budget. Remember, your honeymoon is for more than just one day’s festivities!

Being financially responsible is vital to the success of your wedding. Use a wedding checklist to keep track of all of your expenses and avoid overspending. Get help with the planning of your dream wedding with our free guide!


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