Bella's Ultimate Guide to Wedding Budgets

Planning a wedding budget

Most of us dream about a fairytale wedding. The stunning dress, the breathtaking venue, incredible menu, gorgeous flowers …

Usually, the sound of a credit card swipe is conveniently left out of this fantasy.

But there’s no need to panic. You can still get your Kate Middleton vibes on while sticking to a budget.

Today, you will become a financial genius! We are going to teach you everything you need to know about those necessary wedding budgets.

What Does the Average Wedding Cost?

Outdoor wedding ceremony

Photo: Ryan Nicole Photography

In the United States, the average cost of a wedding with a 150-person guest list is around $30,000.

I know, I know. It sounds expensive.

But, you have to remember that not everyone spends that much. Some people spend way more (see: Chelsea Clinton’s $5 million reception in New York), which is probably why the average is so high.

In reality, most people are able to hold memorable, GORGEOUS weddings for a fraction of the average cost.

How Much Should I Spend on Each Element of a Wedding?

Here’s what the average couple spends on each part of their wedding budget:

  • 40% — Food/drinks  
  • 13% — Clothing/dress/accessories 
  • 12% — Photography 
  • 10% — Venue 
  • 8% — Flowers/decorations 6-12% — Music/entertainment 
  • 3-5% — Invitations, thank you notes, and save-the-dates 
  • 2% — Ceremony 
  • 2% — Transportation
  • 1-5% — Miscellaneous
These percentages are helpful, as you can apply them to a budget of any size. 

Whether you plan to spend $5,000 or $50,000, expect that roughly 40% will go toward your meals and wedding cake, 13% will go toward the dress and tuxedo, etc.

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Prioritize Your Budget by What is Most Important

The breakdown above is an average of what most couples do — not everyone.

Use it as a guide, but adjust it to your needs. How you divvy up your total budget is entirely up to you!

Here’s one thing to keep in mind:

If you want all of your guests to enjoy themselves, make the venue, reception, food, and beverages top priority — those are the real crowd pleasers!

Best man giving speech at wedding reception

Photo: Real Bella Weddings

After that comes the fun part: YOUR DRESS (and the rest of the wedding attire, too).

This will likely be your next biggest expense.

Flowers, entertainment, and photography are usually pretty important to couples — and that’s where budget tweaking comes into play.

If you care more about the music than the flowers, opt for a few small floral arrangements and put the extra money into hiring the best DJ you know.

If you don’t need a stretch limo or a fancy car to get you to and from the venue, use that money to hire a great photographer.

Stick to Your Plan

Before you start planning your dream wedding, figure out how much you want to pay for it.

If you and your partner are paying for it alone, be realistic about what you can afford. You don’t have to empty your bank accounts to throw a great reception!

If parents or relatives are helping, have a clear dollar amount in mind before you start buying dresses and booking vendors. Don’t assume that they’ll absorb the cost if you go $5,000 over your flower budget.

Once you decide on a dollar amount, make sure you stay the course. YOU GOT THIS!

But we hear ya. It’s easy to start slipping and spend more than you said you would — especially when it comes to the outfits.

Wedding reception table

Photo: George Street Photography

Use the planning process as a little marriage practice on the C-word: COMPROMISE.

Be willing to compromise where you need to. If it means having to choose a different venue or not being able to get a wedding dress from your favorite designer, that’s okay. There are plenty of other designs out there that are just as beautiful but cost much less (we promise, we would know!)

Don’t Forget About Unforeseen Expenses

It’s crucial to set aside some extra money for unforeseen expenses.

A lot of couples don’t think about these until it’s too late — and that’s the best way to bust your budget at the last minute.

You’ll have to pay for trials with your hairstylist and makeup artist, for example. You’ll also want to feed the DJ, photographers, officiant, and other vendors at your reception. Plus, you have to pay for a marriage license and other small things along the way.

By keeping some cash on hand (and in your budget), you can avoid racking up a big credit card bill in the process.

Should I Hire a Wedding Planner?

The idea of hiring someone to take over the planning process is very appealing. It’s always nice to have someone to coordinate venues, negotiate with vendors, and ensure that everything runs smoothly.

But obviously, not everyone has the budget to pay a planner. Many wedding planners charge an extra 15% of the total cost of your wedding for their services. For example, if you spend $20,000 on your ceremony and reception, a good planner could cost you another $3,000.

There is incredible value created along the way with the guidance of an excellent planner. Ultimately, it’s up to you to figure out whether or not that’s in your budget. This is definitely a decision to make early on so you can work the cost into your planning and budget from the beginning.

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How to Save Money on Wedding Costs

Scenic view at a wedding

Photo: Real Bella Weddings

Dust off that internal bedazzled coupon book! We’re about to talk cost-cutting.

Here are a few easy things you can do to save a few bucks (while still throwing a stunning and glamorous wedding):

Enlist the Help of Family and Friends

Utilize all your resources. Yup, that means all of the rad people in your circle. If you have any creative, talented, or organized friends or family members, ask for their help.

Supply Your Own Alcohol

Another great way to save on expenses is to BYOB: not your guests — you.

Even if you have an open bar, you’ll save a ton of money by bringing the drinks yourself. If your wedding venue allows you to do this, take the opportunity!

Limit the Size of Your Wedding Party

THIS IS SPARTA! Sometimes people gotta get knocked off the list — and that’s perfectly fine.

Sure, it’s fun to ask fifteen of your closest friends to meet you at the altar. But a big wedding party comes with a big bill. After all, that’s more people at the rehearsal dinner, more bridesmaids gifts, and a handful of other added expenses.

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Don’t Be Afraid to Break Tradition

Don’t feel pressured to get married in an expensive hotel or country club. That’s not the only way to throw a magical wedding. Some of the best receptions happen in barns and backyards!

Your wedding day is all about you and your partner, so plan it how you want. If sticking to your budget means having a cocktail reception rather than a sit-down dinner, or opting for cupcakes instead of a three-tiered cake, go for it!

There’s no doubt about it — weddings can get expensive! But even with a small budget, you can pull off an amazing event that you and your guests will remember for a lifetime.

Create your budget and stick to it. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of wedding planning, but if you can’t afford something, find an alternative instead.

After all, sticking to your wedding budget is a great way to show your partner that you’re going to be financially responsible ‘til death do you part!

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