Budget ESP

Engaged? Congratulations!

You get to plan a wedding! You need to pick a date, decide on a theme, and figure out your budget.

Easy, right?

So, how much can you afford to spend?


Oh, not really sure? A reasonable amount? As little as possible? We need to save up?

Well, here’s what percentage of your (nonexistent) budget you should spend on invitations.

SIGH. We were both totally frustrated by figuring out a budget when we started planning. “Figure out how much you can afford and then take it from there” is great advice for some, but it didn’t work for us. We could spend all of our savings on a wedding, but we were kind of hoping to end up in something with more than one bedroom in the next five years. Basically, we would like to spend as much as we need to for a perfectly respectable but not over the top wedding. And we had no idea what that was.

Living in Chicago, some prices are greatly inflated, but it can be tough to know which ones. It’s also tough to know reasonable pricing on totally foreign items. Can you spend $1000 on flowers (maybe)? Photography (doubtful)?

This completely ridiculous Yelp thread sums up the issue. The poor guy wants to set a budget and is wondering about a reasonable cost per person for wedding cake. Replies include “are you sure you want to get married?” “Fondant tastes bad.” “What is the overall feel of your wedding?” etc. The guy is clearly looking for a number, so he can put it in his spreadsheet and move on with his life. And all he gets are more questions.

While you can start with a number and plug it into a calculator, that seemed silly to us. If we thought we had to spend $50,000 and put that into a calculator, it would find a spot for all of that money. If we wanted to get married for $10,000, it would tell us how to allocate that too, but probably wouldn’t give us realistic amounts to feed our guests.

So, maybe this will help you out. Below are my reasonable-from-what-I-can-tell amounts for your wedding budget. It seemed like many of things would cost about that much if you were to go with a pretty typical vendor (so not accounting for a sample dress, DIY invites or an iPod reception, which are all great ways to save money).

Apparel 3,000.00
Reception 16000.00
Music 1200.00
Gifts 800.00
Ceremony 1000.00
Decorations 500.00
Flowers 2000.00
Photography 3,000.00
Printing 1000.00
Transportation/Hotel/Rehearsal Dinner 4000.00
Total Expenses 32,500.00

Some of these I’m pretty confident about (God knows I looked at a lot of photographers!) and others I’m just starting out with (like flowers and stationery). Others will depend on your location and specifics as well as your priorities. But hopefully this helps.

My personal method has been to use numbers very close to these as guidelines that I don’t go above–basically I set my budget using the higher end of “regular” services. I’m already well under these numbers on several vendors but this is about where the bulk seemed to fall (or my best guess for things like gifts).

For references, here’s what weddingwire.com gave me when I put in $33,000.

Band 1320
Beauty & Health 330
Cake 825
Catering 12540
Ceremony Music 330
DJ 990
Dress & Attire 2607
Favors & Gifts 330
Flowers 2623.5
Invitations 990
Jewelry 660
Officiant 330
Other (Gifts & Hotel) 561
Photography 2310
Planning 907.5
Rentals 0
Transportation 660
Venue 3036
Videography 1650

Some items agree (my “Printing” was actually the exact same) while others seem off (although that likely depends on your location). But still, good references if you need them.

Shamrock found a good spreadsheet online that I made a couple of changes to once we had some idea how much to allocate for various things (it helped to do some venue research for more realistic cost estimates).

Did you have a hard time setting a budget? How do people know what things cost before they start planning?


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