Budget Madness made simple

Budget breakdown



This is usually the first question that I ask a couple. For wedding planners the budget is a tool that we use as a compass of sorts. It guides us and helps us make the best decisions for our clients and to provide the best service possible. However, for the couple the budget is so much more. For many couples the budget is a source of stress, confusion, doubt, uncertainty, arguments and many emotions. Here I would like to provide some information and tips on how to handle your budget and/or how to plan how much you will need or how to maximize what you can you get with what you have.


Couples fall within 3 categories. First category is the dreamers. These are couples that want the wedding of their dreams and are willing to pay for their dream wedding. They have a vision of what they want and are planning a fairy tale. The second category is the pragmatics. These are couples that are looking to spend their money elsewhere not on a day. And the third category is the couples that are in between. Whether you want to spend $3,000 or $300,000 the tips in this article will help you.


When discussing the budget with couples the first question I ask is: What are your priorities (1-3 priorities)? Or what are you not willing to compromise? This gives me a sense of directions in making the budget. In this blog I will give you the general starting point for the budget I use and based on the answer of these questions, I make some personalized adjustments. If the couple has different answers to all of them, then the 3 of us discuss it until we find all 3 priorities that they agree on. Looking at their list I will take the ones they agree on, if any, and they figure out where to go from there. I have had couples that could not agree on anything, so I ask them for 1 each. Here are some examples of how they help me plan better and create an unforgettable pleasant experience:


Budget – a couple comes to me and tells me that one of the 3 things they are not willing to compromise is their budget. Therefore my primary goal is to fit within their budget. That might include me finding them different options and not bothering the couple with options that will be outside of their budget.


Photographer – a couple comes to me and tells me that one of the 3 things they are not willing to compromise is their photographer. Therefore my goal is to find their dream photographer. This might mean that I will have to adjust the budget and discuss with them their options. Some couples are flexible with their budget, so they might decide to increase the budget for their photographer.




Here is the breakdown that I use as a start: 


It is very basic:

  • 50% Reception
  • 10% Music
  • 10% Attire
  • 10% Photography
  • 10% Flowers and Décor
  • 5% Ceremony
  • 5% Stationary


Wedding Budget Breakdown.jpg

Based on the couples’ priorities I would take about 2-3% for Emergency Funds. These are expenses that the couple might want to add at the last minute. It could be an additional guest that forgot to RSVP or they don’t like their cake topper anymore and they want a new one or new shoes or a new hair piece. Anything can happen. In my experience, most of the time I would take 1% from the music and 1% for the flowers and décor.


Stationary – the most common mistake is that couples forget to include their Thank you cards in the budget. Another common mistake is postage costs that gets overlooked. Many couples send Save the Dates, Invitations with a return RSVP and Thank you notes. So keep this in mind when calculating the postage cost. Some couples use wedding websites for additional information and online RSVP’s. This might be something to look into. Also, if you are trying to save on shipping, you can order your Save the Dates, Invitations and Thank you cards all at once.


Ceremony – unfortunately, the most common mistake made is that people do not include this part of the wedding in their budget. Since most couples get married at the same venue as their reception they allocate this expense in the wrong place. For those couples that are getting married in churches, this is a separate expense and could add up fast. However, don’t forget the cost of the marriage license, any rentals you might need for the ceremony and the cost of the rings. These 3 expenses get overlooked very easily.

Flowers and Décor – the most commonly overlooked expense here is the delivery or shipping. Sometimes couples choose to shop online for their center pieces, which is a good idea because it could save them money. However, the shipping cost is overlooked quite often. I advise my clients to also account for additional time just in case they are not satisfied with the quality once the package is delivered. Also, some florists charge an additional delivery fee on top of the cost of the flowers, the arrangements and the service fees. 

Photography – overtime, overtime, overtime. Sometimes scheduling can be challenging and in our effort to make the best out of our wedding, we might overbook the photographer. Talk with your photographer and make a plan of the best way to utilize this service if you are on a tight budget. Also, include any prints in this part of the budget.

Attire – this and the reception are the 2 places couples make the most mistakes. This part is only 10% of the budget and people think that this should be a lot more. Unless money is taken from elsewhere, this should be your starting point. Here is where couples go wrong: they don’t consider alterations, undergarments and accessories. For example, if your attire budget is $2,000 first you will need to split the money. Let’s say that the groom will get $500 out of the budget for his suit/tux, alterations and any accessories he might need for the big day. The rest of the money, $1500 goes to the bride-to-be. At this point, most brides go wedding dress shipping and are looking for a $1,500 dress. My process is reversed: from that total I subtract an allocated amount for undergarment and accessories. Let’s say that after the undergarment and accessories are purchased, we are left with $1,200. While wedding dress shopping, I tell my clients to be clear that their budget is $1,200 for the dress and alterations. The reasoning behind this is most bridal salons charge different amounts for their alterations. So at bridal salon X the alterations will cost $200 and at bridal salon Y alterations may cost $400 for the same work. This will help the sales person to guide you better and not suggest something to you that is out of your reach or budget.

Music – the most common mistake when it comes to music is not giving the musicians enough time for set-up and tear-down. Most DJ’s and bands get paid by the hour so give your vendors enough time to set-up and tear-down. The last thing you will want to happen is to not have music playing for your ceremony because the DJ’s didn’t have enough time to properly set-up and test, or to be charged overtime because you didn’t plan the tear-down time.

Reception – this part is where couples have the most questions and where things can go really, really wrong with the budget. This part of the budget technically includes the venue and catering. However, there is so much more. Here is a list of commonly overlooked expenses to keep in mind:

  • Rentals
  • Insurance
  • Tasting Fees
  • Non-Approved Vendors
  • Meals for the Day Of
  • Coat Check
  • Valet Parking
  • Power
  • Rental Transportation
  • Vendor Meals
  • Cake Cutting
  • Corkage
  • Unexpected Guests
  • Gratuity
  • Set-up and Tear-down
  • Overtime

Rentals can be something that couples often times are unaware of the real cost. Renting tables, chairs, plates, glasses, silverware, linen, napkins can cost you a fortune. One way to minimize cost could be renting a venue that provides tables and chairs. This will minimize delivery cost. Also, in most cases when renting chairs and tables, you will need them for 3 days, the day before the wedding, the wedding day and the day after. Other expenses you might not foresee are: 

  • Bridesmaid Proposal Ideas
  • Beauty Trials
  • Extra Beauty Needs
  • Presents for Parents
  • Hotel Room for the Night Before (if applicable)

Here is what I have for you today.

Let me know if this was helpful.


Thank you for your time.