One of the first questions brides and grooms (or their parents) have to answer after she says “I do,” is “How much is this going to cost?

Some couples are fortunate enough to be able to plan a wedding without worrying about a budget, but most families will need to prepare for this significant expense. Some sources report the average cost for a wedding in the U.S. is over $30,000.

Regardless of your financing or your total budget, it’s important to know where your money is being spent. Fortunately, it is entirely possible to host an elegant, memorable wedding without breaking the bank or going into deep debt. With a little smart, strategic planning, you can stretch your wedding budget dollars to create your dream wedding.

Where to Begin

You’ll want to figure out the most basic financial details right away. For instance, who will be paying for the wedding? Traditionally, the bride’s family often covered the cost. Sometimes, the families will split expenses. Sometimes, neither family is able to chip in. 

Whether you’re paying or relying on family generosity, you’ll need to create a comprehensive budget. Knowing your targeted budget will give you an idea of how much of it to spend on each element of your wedding day or where you can trim back in order to afford that dress of your dreams. 

Once you’ve squared away who is paying for what, it’s time to take a look at potential costs.

Wedding Budget Essentials

Expect your reception to take up the bulk of your wedding budget – as much as 50 to 60% of your overall budget. The cost adds up quickly for food, drink, entertainment, facility rental, the cake, and everything else that makes for a great party. 

It’s important to talk to your venue about what is included in their rate and what you will have to budget for separately.

Other must-haves include:

  •   Wedding gown and a tuxedo or suit for the groom
  •   Wedding Planner or Coordinator
  •   Photography and/or video services
  •   Flowers
  •   Ceremony costs like a church rental fee and officiant charges

The cost for each of these items can vary quite a bit and some venues have preferred vendors that you are required to use. Make sure you include that question when you do your site visit.

Plan for unexpected expenses, as well. Set aside at least 5% of your overall budget for the little things that are sure to pop up on your wedding day. You don’t want to be caught unprepared if your wedding gown needs a quick repair, for example. You may need to pay the venue for unexpected guests or pay for valet services, thanks to a big storm.

Commonly overlooked expenses include:

  •  Extra photo prints
  •   Postage for thank-you cards
  •   Wedding gown storage
  •   Ring sizing
  •   Gifts for your wedding party
  •   Weather-related expenses like unexpected tent rentals
  •   Hair and beauty treatments leading up to the big day
  •   Alterations
  •   Rehearsal dinner or bridesmaids luncheon

After the Wedding

If you are planning a honeymoon, be sure to account for it in your budget. Even if you’re planning a quick trip, you’ll feel better knowing you’ve set aside enough money to enjoy your time away together.

Merging two households after the wedding or moving into a new house almost always creates unexpected expenses. Be sure you don’t spend money that you might need for moving trucks, furniture, and household items.

Saving Up for Your Big Day

Set a realistic timeframe for building up your wedding day savings. It might be tempting to borrow the money or put the expenses on a credit card. You are likely to regret that choice later, however. 

Don’t feel pressured to overspend. You can create a beautiful, memorable day without spending too much. Try incorporating DIY decor elements, off-the-rack bridal attire, and creative reception venue selections.

Whether your budget is big or small compared to the average, remember that your guests are there because they love you and want to celebrate this momentous occasion with you. You and your guests will remember the most important parts of your big day, no matter how much you spend.

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