Wedding planning can be an exciting and creative venture, from selecting your color palette to choosing your first dance song. One of the less fun, but important parts of preparing for a wedding is proper planning to cover all the little details. But with some research and a careful eye, you can create the wedding you’ve always imagined for the right price.
What are the factors that influence wedding cost?
The average wedding cost varies quite a bit, depending on where you’re getting married and what you want to prioritize. Below you’ll find a wedding cost breakdown, including how much of your budget to allocate for the most common wedding expenses.
Location and venue
Your venue is a central part of making your dream wedding come true, so it makes sense that it’s the top item in your wedding budget, usually ranging between 35 to 40 percent of your total spending. The cost of a wedding venue will be influenced by several things, from specific location and city to what features and perks they offer. Some venues may seem to have a greater price tag, but if they offer all-inclusive deals that can help you save in other areas. The key is to find a venue that’s transparent and receptive to helping you achieve your wedding vision.
Size of the guest list
A lot of weddings are priced per headcount, so guest list size also plays a big part in estimating wedding cost. For each yes RSVP, you’ve got to account for additional food, beverages, tables, chairs, and favors. Inviting a smaller guest list can be effective for saving on wedding costs. But if you don’t want to leave anyone out of the celebration, there are plenty of ways to get creative here.
Season and date
Since wedding season runs from May to October, demand for wedding venues and vendors is especially high during these months. And that competition can lead to a price surge. Setting a date during the off season can reduce your spending, so you have more wiggle room for a cake from that award winning bakery. Day of the week and time of day also play a role here, with daytime festivities and weekday dates not in as big of demand, and therefore may cost less.
While time of year does make an impact on most of your budget, buying off season isn’t a blanket rule for all your expenses. For items like your flowers and menu, buying in season is the way to go, when crops are at their most abundant. And a bonus of buying in season local produce is that it’s the more eco-friendly choice.
Catering and liquor
After your venue, food and beverage tends to be the second largest cost, usually accounting for close to 30 percent of your budget. Your catering bill will depend on whether your vendor package includes alcohol, as well as how many staff members are needed for serving. It’s also becoming common for couples to provide snacks at the end of the night, which can add to a great guest experience. And of course, don’t forget to plan for your wedding cake.
Wedding attire and beauty
You should look like a million bucks on your big day, but you definitely don’t need to spend that much to do so. Between your wedding ensembles, accessories, hair, and makeup, it’s common for couples to spend a little less than 10 percent of their budget here. This cost will also vary depending on if the couple is also covering hair and makeup for the wedding party.
Photography and videography
It’s worth it to invest in a photographer that knows how to catch the special moments in the right light, at the perfect angle. Some couples also like to hire a videographer, so they can relive every little detail. Costs for photographing or filming your wedding can range between seven and nine percent of your budget.
Decor and flowers
Decorations are a huge part of setting the tone for your wedding, and there are tons of affordable ways to create the right atmosphere. Decor is one of the most fun aspects of a wedding to DIY, if you or a close friend want to get crafty. Flowers are an essential part of most wedding decor, and you can save on floral embellishments with hacks like buying wholesale from a flower market. And if you pick a venue that’s already adorned with the perfect decor, that’ll save you both money and time.
What’s a party without music? Your celebration needs a soundtrack, and there are many choices for wedding entertainment. You can hire a live band or a DJ, or create a playlist and ask a loved one to press play. If you want to walk down the aisle to a string quartet, make sure to factor ceremony entertainment costs as well. Some couples also like to hire non-musical entertainers, such as other performers or face painters to keep kids occupied.
Hidden costs in wedding planning
It’s not just the big-ticket items. The little costs that come with a wedding can add up quickly. Here are some common hidden wedding costs, so you can plan ahead.
Wedding stationery and postage
From the invitations and save-the-dates to signage and programs, consider how much to allocate toward printing costs. It’s often only a small percentage if you plan ahead. In the digital age, this is also a potential area for cutting costs, if you prefer to send invites over email.
Transportation and accommodation
Transportation and lodging costs can range, depending on if you’re providing accommodations for guests. If your ceremony and reception are at different venues, it can be a thoughtful gesture to provide a bus or shuttle between locations. If you’re having a destination wedding or have family flying in, you may also want to reserve hotel rooms. Guests will pay for their own lodging, but holding a block of discounted rooms requires a deposit from the couple. And finally, you, your fiancé, and your wedding party will need a way to get to and from the venue.
Tips and gratuities for vendors
Your wedding vendors have put in a lot of work to make your big day extra special. It’s good wedding etiquette to show your appreciation where it’s due. Set aside cash tips for your hairdresser and makeup artist, anyone making a delivery, entertainers, and reception staff and caterers. There may be rules around tipping individual staff in your contract, so double check the fine print. Some vendors are optional to tip, such as your florist or tailor, but it’s a nice gesture if you’re happy with their service.
Last-minute changes and contingencies
Since so many of your vendors need to be booked well in advance, making changes to the schedule can come with unexpected costs. It’s important to be aware of all policies around cancellation or postponement in your contract. Even if your venue doesn’t require insurance, it can be worth investing in to make sure you can get your money back in case of the unexpected.
How to allocate your wedding budget
Once you know what your total budget is, you can work your way backwards and create a detailed spending checklist. Now that you have a general idea of what costs the most, you can budget according to your biggest priorities. If your heart is set on a live band, you can save by limiting how many types of liquor you serve at the bar. Or if your designer wedding gown is non-negotiable, consider arranging the flowers on your own. It’s about figuring out what matters most and planning early, so you can get everything you’re wishing for on your wedding day.
Ways to save on wedding costs
No matter what your budget is, your perfect wedding is within reach with the right preparations. Here are some ways to reduce wedding costs without sacrificing quality.
Prioritizing the budget
Once you’ve got your checklist of budget items complete, sit down with your partner and identify your must haves. You may still be able to find ways to save on those high priority things. But the main objective here is to figure out what you don’t mind compromising on, since the less important stuff is usually easiest to cut or reduce.
Explore creative DIY decor ideas
No one understands your vision for your big day better than you. Handling the decor yourself not only cuts costs, but is a great way to make sure everything is in place exactly as you want it. You can create paper lanterns or design your own photo booth backdrop, or it can be as simple as adorning your venue with fairy lights.
Choosing the right vendors
Your vendors make a big impact on your budget, but choosing the right ones isn’t as cut and dry as choosing the lowest price. The more important thing is to find vendors that work well with you. You should be able to get a fully detailed written summary of all costs up front, so there are no surprises. If you get a good feeling from a vendor with a higher initial price tag, remember you can usually negotiate. The key is finding vendors who demonstrate clear, transparent communication, so you get the most valuable wedding experience at any cost.
Shop outside the wedding industry
Adding the word “wedding” to any online search will lead to marked up prices, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box. There’s no reason that gorgeous vintage white dress can’t be a wedding dress just because it wasn’t sold in a bridal shop.
Plan the wedding you’ve always wanted at any cost
With a little creativity and organization, you can pull together the perfect wedding at any budget. It’s just a matter of figuring out what’s most important and planning accordingly. From knowing the most affordable seasons to choosing vendors you click with, there are many ways to save on every wedding detail your heart desires.