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How to Create a Wedding Budget

A wedding budget should be a simple breakdown of wedding expenses.

With a wedding budget you can avoid overspending. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
With a wedding budget you can avoid overspending.

How to Create a Wedding Budget

Figuring out how to create a wedding budget may be one of first big hurdles a couple deals with when planning their big day. Even more challenging, however, may be sticking to that budget and guarding against the temptation to splurge. Careful budgeting is important if a couple wants to begin life together without undue debt.

Getting Started on a Wedding Budget

The first thing an engaged couple should do is determine how much money they have to pay for the wedding. Rather than taking out a loan, the couple should find out how much money their parents are willing to contribute and ask themselves how much they will be able to save prior to the wedding. Once the total figure is set, it is time to determine where the money is going to go. It helps to start planning early and to shop around for the best deals for each budget item.

A Typical Wedding Budget

Though each couple may choose to allocate their resources differently, Real Simple
suggests the following wedding budget breakdown:

  • Reception (site fee, food, drink and wedding cake) -- 50 percent
  • Bride and groom's attire, including accessories -- 10 percent
  • Flowers and decorations (bouquets, corsages, boutonnieres and flowers for the ceremony and reception) -- 10 percent
  • Photographs and video -- 10 percent
  • Music (ceremony musicians and reception band or DJ) -- 10 percent
  • Favors and gifts for attendants -- 3 percent
  • Ceremony site fee, marriage license and officiant fee or church donation -- 2 percent
  • Stationery (invitations, programs and thank-you cards) and stamps -- 2 percent
  • Rings -- 2 percent
  • Transportation -- 1 percent

Some couples choose to eliminate some items, make inexpensive substitutions or take advantage of family and friends who are skillful at cake decorating, photography or making music. It may also help to play around a bit with the numbers using online budget tools. Such tools show how adjusting the percentages for each budget category will change the dollar amounts allocated for that category. One such budget estimator tool, which works with most major spreadsheet programs, is available at Vertex42.

Tips for vendors should also be figured in when calculating a wedding budget. According to The Knot, tipping is expected for the officiant, reception staff, hairstylists, makeup artists and any delivery or set-up staff, whereas tipping for other vendors is considered optional. Sometimes a tip is specified in a wedding vendor's contract, but the amount may also be left to the payer's discretion.

Staying on Track With a Wedding Budget

Almost half of couples spend more than they plan to on their wedding, according to Elegala. With this in mind, couples ought to consider setting aside 5 percent of their total budget before allocating money to any other budget items. This money should be reserved for things that may have been overlooked or that end up costing more than expected. One approach is for the couple to make it their goal to come in under budget on several items to counteract this tendency toward overspending.

Setting up an account specifically for wedding expenses will make it easier to keep track of how much has been spent. The account should be an interest-bearing account. If there is enough time, putting a portion of the money into a certificate of deposit for roughly six or more months will give an even better return.

It is important for those planning a wedding to shop around for everything and to be upfront about how much is in the budget for an item or service. Couples can ask each potential vendor to provide estimates at the low end and the high end of their price range, and then make informed selections based on priorities.

Making Payments to Wedding Vendors

When budgeting, the couple should be aware that a certain amount of the money will be needed right away. A deposit is nearly always due upon booking a vendor. Each vendor's payment schedule will be unique, so it is important to read all details before signing a contract. Generally, for big-ticket items, such as photography and food, one or two payments may be required after the deposit but prior to the wedding day, perhaps 30 or 90 days before the event. The balance will usually be due sometime in the two weeks prior to the event, if not on the wedding day itself.

To help stay on budget and make certain all payments are made on time, a vendor payment chart can be helpful. Wedding Guide Chicago offers a simple, ready-to-print chart for recording all wedding-related payments. Other sites, including Brides.com, offer online tools that help couples manage payment schedules, as well as all other wedding planning tasks.

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