Below are my 6 top tips for making managing your wedding budget simple! The best part is that you can download a comprehensive wedding budget tracking spreadsheet for FREE! This spreadsheet lists everything you may want to include in your budget so that nothing is forgotten.
Plan Your Wedding Budget Before Purchasing
Whether it’s buying your dream dress or splurging on a gorgeous venue, the temptation to jump right in and start buying things for your big day is so real. Ultimately, it’s important to know what you have to spend and how you want to spend it before you start spending. Otherwise, you might go over your wedding budget or not have the funds for everything you want.
First, along with your fiancé, you should speak to your families and determine who will be contributing to the wedding fund, exactly how much and if they wish for that money to be used for something specific. Once you know the total budget that you have to work with, as a couple, you should decide what’s most important to you. Identify the 3 most important elements of your wedding day (for example, photography, catering, live music) and what 3 elements are the least important to you. Next, divide your total budget into different categories so you have a guideline of what you can spend in each.
You can use the following breakdown as a guideline, making adjustments in areas that are more or less important to you.
48-50% Reception (venue, food, beverage, rentals)
10-12% Photography & Videography
5-7% Wedding Planner
Budget for the Unexpected
You may underestimate certain wedding expenses, which is easy to do if this is your first time planning a wedding. With this in mind, set aside a portion of your wedding budget to give yourself some wiggle room. I promise this will help you breathe a little easier in the long run. Frequently, couples will incur unexpected expenses and if properly planned for, they do not have to derail your budget. Maybe your first hair and makeup trial did not make you look or feel like the gorgeous goddess you are. It will help to have an emergency reserve to pull from to pay for another hair and makeup trial.
Control the Guest List
It’s extremely important to factor into the wedding budget the number of wedding guests you plan to have. Usually, the largest expense for a wedding is the food and alcohol, which have a per person cost. Also, the larger the guest list, the more you will spend on details like stationary, favors, rentals, and decor. As a result, the size of your guest list will be the biggest factor to affect your budget. For this reason, it is best to find out how many guests you will be inviting between your families. Keep this number in mind as you create your wedding budget.
If your budget is tight, be mindful of continuing to add guests to the list. Having an open conversation with your fiancé and parents about the cost per person and how many guests you can afford based on your budget can help prevent the guest list from becoming larger than you can afford. If you are trying to keep the guest list on the smaller side, prepare and practice how you will address that with friends, family or coworkers who are not invited. Sooner or later they may ask if they are invited. Having an honest and thoughtful response prepared can save you from some awkward conversations or inviting someone because you don’t know what else to say.
Don’t Forget the Small Stuff
The smaller expenses will add up and if not accounted for and can put you over budget. Creating a comprehensive budget that includes every expense that you will incur is imperative for keeping your budget on track. For example, you may need as many as 4 stamps per household invited. You will need a stamp for save the dates, invitations, rsvp return envelopes and thank you cards. Four stamps per person for a wedding for 100 guests add up to $147 at the current rate. Other small items often overlooked are the marriage license, ribbon for favors, cake knife and server, cake topper, place cards, table numbers and the list goes on.
Service Fees, Gratuities, and Taxes
If applicable, service fees for catering are generally around 20%. If your catering bill totals $10,000, your gratuity would be another $2,000 on top of that, and another $700 for taxes (Georgia tax rate 7%). Consider that tax will be added to all of your purchases and for bigger ticket items like your wedding dress, it can add substantially to your budget. Gratuities are expected for hair and makeup artists and suggested for other wedding vendors who’ve done a good job including musicians, drivers, and officiants.
Keep Track As You Go
Unless you are one of those people that live for spreadsheets and crunching numbers, spending hours at a time on your budget is not likely to be a fun wedding activity. The best practice I can recommend is updating your budget whenever you make a purchase or sign a contract. As soon as you complete the transaction just go ahead and log it. This way the work you have to do to track finances doesn’t pile up. And you will always have the most up to date, accurate budget information to consider. Additionally, keeping a spreadsheet in Google docs is a great option. You can update it from the app on your phone or any computer. If you maintain your budget digitally, you aren’t tied to carrying a notebook or binder around and you don’t have to remember to do anything when you get home.