It’s happening! You’re engaged, you’re planning a wedding and you’re realizing just how expensive this whole thing really is.
Your wedding day will likely be one of the most memorable days of your life and certainly of your relationship, but it will also be one of the most expensive. According to Market Watch, the average cost of a wedding in America is $35,329. While that’s the average, you don’t have to spend that much or accumulate wedding debt to have the wedding of your dreams; it just takes a little more planning and prioritizing what’s really important to you.
Start with a Total Budget
Before you can start breaking down budgets for each individual aspect of your wedding, you’ll have to figure out how much you’re willing to spend overall.
“You’ve got to start with a hard number,” says Lesley Smith, content strategist for the wedding app, Ceremony. “Researching what individual services cost is great, but having an established threshold will help you focus on the things you really want to feature on your big day.”
I know what you’re thinking, “How do I figure that out?” Fair question. First, take a look at what you have saved up, that’s a great starting point. Next, plan how much you will save between now and around the time you’d like to get married.
Do you have any family members or close friends who have offered to help pay for the cost of your wedding? This might be awkward, but you need to find out how much they want to contribute. Talking about money isn’t easy, but it’s necessary if you want to make a budget.
After you add up what you can bring to the table and what your loved ones want to contribute (if anything), that’s your wedding budget. From there, you can start making individual budgets for each individual section of your budget.
Areas to Budget
Now that you have your overall budget, you’ll need to plan financially for each individual area of your wedding. This will help you stay within your overall budget and see how each additional element adds to the total cost. Some areas you may want to budget include:
- Ceremony site
- Wedding planner
- Invitations and paper goods
- Band or DJ
- Décor and rentals
- Wedding dress
- Hair and makeup
- Groom’s attire
- Rehearsal dinner
- Wedding cake
Research Local Pricing
It’s pretty easy to find the national average couples spend for different aspects of their wedding, but remember, that’s an average. The area you live in could be higher or lower than that. For example, according to The Knot, the average wedding in New York City costs $78,464 but in Chicago, it’s only $60,035. Even big cities prices range.
Try your best to do some local research to find what people usually spend on things in your state, or even better in your immediate area. A quick google search can result in message boards or local articles showing you more realistic numbers of what you can expect to pay in your area.
Another resource is a wedding planner. A local wedding planner is aware of the average costs in your area, or they know where to go to find out. They also have relationships with other vendors in the area and might be able to save you more money in the long run.
Set Your Priorities
Sit down with your fiancé and take a look at your budget. Decide which two or three things are really important to you guys. What is going to make or break the day for you?
If you two have a vision of driving off in a vintage car but don’t really care if the cake is elaborate, or if there’s even a cake at all, reallocate that money appropriately. Maybe you really want a live band instead of a DJ. Budget more money for the band and take away a little money from some other areas that don’t matter as much to you.
You’ll also want to talk about your guest list. The number of people you invite has a big effect on your budget. The more people, the larger venue you need, more food, more tables – you get the picture. Establishing a head count will help make budgeting more accurate.