How To Tackle the Wedding Budget

After the joy of the engagement settles in, and it is time to start the wedding planning process, a major factor in determining how to begin planning is deciding on a budget. It can be daunting – where do you even start?
Creating and sticking to a budget - without freaking out Wedding budget
Creating and sticking to a budget – without freaking out.

About three weeks after our engagement, I decided to begin planning. As the reality started to set in that we had to arrange a large and expensive event, I had a minor anxiety attack over how we would to pay for this wedding. I was looking at the big picture and the total cost of the entire event of getting married.  Food, dress, venue, drinks, gifts, decor, etc, etc… cha-ching! Cha-ching! It’s overwhelming!
My fiancee (now husband) is an amazing guy, and this is proof: He immediately calmed me down, then he took action in creating a plan.  The key is to break the expenses into smaller chunks, and then chip away at them, rather than hyperventilate over the big total.

The first step in our action plan was to set up a joint bank account, where $100 from each of our paychecks would be direct deposited for each pay period. We probably could have allotted more than $100, but it seemed like a great starting point that we could change later on if needed. We did this right away, and even though we did not have a date picked out yet, we had decided that the wedding would be held at least a year out, or longer.  Giving yourself as much time as possible to save will greatly reduce your stress level over the budget. Don’t procrastinate on this!

He then setup an Excel spreadsheet, where we initially just made a rough guess on the number of guests and costs for each part of the wedding. This served as our baseline budget. From there, we could further think about (and discuss) what things we felt we should spend more on, and what things to hold back on. To me, this translated to: “What things I could DIY, and what could I splurge on?”

I DIY’ed my flowers, and went with silk bouquets and boutonnieres instead of fresh flowers.  This is a major money saver. I decided on potted succulents for the tables and centerpieces, and I periodically stopped by Home Depot every few weekends to pick up a few different species of succulents and potted them myself (Home depot has the best selection of succulents, by the way). My aunts and I DIY’ed the centerpieces with fabric, and electric tea lights.  I hand-poured my own candles and got some help from my parents and my hostess in wrapping the candle jars in lace for the tables.

Money-saving wedding planning ideas: Setting a budget.
The bouquets I created – much easier than I thought, and you cannot even tell that they are not real flowers.

I called in some favors. My mother, who was recently retired, and had been taking various cake decoration classes would be tasked with baking the wedding cake. My longtime friend who owns a chair cover and photo booth operation would provide those services. I found a great photographer that wasn’t overpriced, on recommendation from another friend getting married in the same year.

I decided to splurge on the wedding dress,and the DJ.  The wedding dress could always be sold after the wedding to recoup some of the cost, and anyone who works in the wedding industry will tell you how important the DJ is in setting and directing the mood of the party.  From that point on, we just had to find the right venues and vendors that could match our budgetary needs.

Money-saving wedding budget tips
Mom did a darn good job on the cake

I asked some of my Real Brides their thoughts on budgeting, and what strategies they used in their planning…

How did you decide on a budget for your wedding? What did you do to meet your goals to make/stick to that budget?

Hillary: We determined how much of our own money we wanted to spend combined with the set amount that my parents had set aside for my wedding, and then settled on that being our max budget. 
We were actually under budget – hooray! We knew which church and what venue we wanted to get married in, and once we received quotes we knew that we would be able to make that happen with the budget. I used a Google Excel Doc that allowed me to estimate all wedding fees, so we knew where we had to pinch pennies and where we could be more lax. I worked with the florist to lower the quote a bit, and with the DJ to lower his fees (just happened to be nice people and we got married in an “off season” time). Things like my wedding shoes and hair/makeup came out of my own pocket, so that other things both Craig and I enjoy would be taken from the overall wedding budget.

Valerie: I would say the most important part of deciding a budget is to be reasonable and realistic. I think a lot of people are not realistic. It’s almost best to price things out and decide on a budget from there. That way you can decide what’s important and what you don’t need. It’s important to not depend on “making the money you spent back” through gifts.

Devon: Budget was based on what we could afford on our own. No one was helping to pay for the wedding except myself and my husband. I had to decide what was important to really spend money on, and what mattered to me more.  This is why I had a small intimate wedding with close family only. That’s what mattered to me the most. 
I changed my wedding venue 3 times before settling on where I had it (which still wasn’t what I really wanted) because of too much involvement and persuasion from outside people. I lost my own wants and needs in the process.

Kristin: For deciding on a budget, my husband and I sat down and looked at what we wanted and how much our families would help out. We had a long engagement (20 months) to help financially with the wedding. We blew our budget out of the water! We thought that making our own flowers would help with the costs. It would have cost just the same as if we had a florist do our flowers but I had a good time with my bridesmaids crafting. We chose a venue that allowed us to use whatever vendors we wanted instead of having to choose from a preferred list. I feel like if we had to choose from a preferred list, the costs would have been even higher. We also got all of our tableware from Sam’s Club. The summer before our wedding there was Groupon for a Sam’s Club membership. We definitely saved by using Sam’s club. We also had a ‘stock the bar’ engagement party. We told everyone to bring something they would like to drink at the wedding. We had a wide variety of liquors at our wedding because of this party and everyone got to enjoy their favorite drinks. We bought the beer and wine through Meijer’s liquor stores. We did the Franzia box wine because it is cheap and it still tastes good. The boxes went on sale 2 months before the wedding. Normal price was $21 for the large box and we got them on sale for $13 each. Meijers also had sales on the beer. We just did basic beer such as Bud Light and Miller Lite. We are more of craft beer people but for weddings people typically don’t care about the kind of beer they just want there to be enough.

Obviously every wedding is different, and what worked for me may not work for you.  It’s important to make realistic goals within a realistic time frame.

Other sources of assistance:

I found this Wedding Cost Estimator that provides data on what other couples spent in your area.

The book in the photo is The Everything Wedding Organizer by Shelly Hagen.

I also found a cool downloadable Wedding Budget Planner.


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Lisa Written by:


  1. April 7, 2016

    Great resources you have here. and it’s nice to hear first hand experience!

    • Lisa
      April 7, 2016

      👍🏽 thanks!

  2. I told you I’d visit! Great blog. My best friend is getting married in 3 weeks and man I wish we’d had this a year ago. A lot of the planning was easy as far as what she wanted but there was some procrastination on both of our parts but luckily the hard parts are over. I just HAVE to get my dress hemmed this weekend lol

    • Lisa
      March 29, 2016

      Yay! Thanks… hopefully you broke the seal! Thanks for your nice words.

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