The average cost of US weddings in 2020 was $20,300. If you think that’s a lot, it’s worth mentioning that’s actually a $4,400 decrease from 2019. 2020 was a weird year for weddings and for everything else, honestly, but wedding costs are expected to go back to a more normal range for 2021.

The most expensive state to get married in is Massachusetts, and the least expensive state is Arkansas. Depending on where you live, the cost of an average wedding can vary by tens of thousands of dollars.

Are you wondering how to make a wedding budget that both gives you the experience you want without ruining you financially?

Let’s take a look at what you need to know!

Wedding Budget Breakdown

When you think of a wedding budget, the two things that might first come to mind are “how stressful” and “how expensive.” It doesn’t have to be that way, so long as you make a budget ahead of time and carefully plan out how much money will go to each category.

It’s super important to determine ahead of time who is going to be paying for what as well as correctly and realistically allocating funds. You also need to find a way to track how much money you’ve spent and start saving early so that you can afford the wedding you want.

Catering and Venue

The biggest chunk of the money you’ve set aside for your wedding will go to the cost of venue, rentals, and catering. This includes renting out the venue space of your choice, alcohol, hiring caterers for food, and rentals like chairs, dinnerware, and tables.

You should assume that this is going to be about 40% of your budget, while some couples might spend close to 50% of their wedding savings on this portion of the event.

Some couples will include the cost of the cake into this part of the budget. Others create a separate category, with it being roughly 2% of the total budget.

Videography and Photography

Hiring photographers and videographers who can capture your special day is absolutely essential. If you cut corners on this cost, you could end up heartbroken when your photos are unusably bad or the inexperienced photographer you hired loses the SD card where your precious memories are stored.

This should take up about 12-15% of your budget.

Entertainment/Music

As a part of wedding planning, you’ll have to decide whether you want a DJ or a live band for your reception. There can be a huge variety in terms of home much hiring bands or DJs can cost. You’ll want to do a good amount of research before selecting a band, as they are a huge part of what sets the tone and vibe of your wedding.

It’s a good idea to set aside between 7 and 12% of your budget for music and entertainment.

Decor and Flowers

You’re likely going to want to spruce up the venues of your ceremony and reception with special lighting, decorations, bouquets, and flower arrangements.

Set about 8-10% of your budget aside for decor and flowers.

Beauty and Wedding Attire

This includes the closet of the dress, tuxedo rental, accessories, shoes, and anything that you’re buying or renting to make sure you both look like royalty. You’ll also want to consider the costs of makeup and hair as a part of this.

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For this part of your budget, prepare to spend about 9-10% of your budget on wedding attire and beauty.

Wedding Planner

Not everyone will hire a wedding planner, but those that do are often glad they did. Weddings can be extremely stressful to plan, meaning that it can take away from the bride and groom’s ability to simply enjoy their special day.

If you can afford to, consider hiring someone to facilitate wedding planning for you. This can let you chill out and really be present for this incredibly meaningful day.

The cost of a wedding planner is often about 3% of the total budget.

Transportation

Hiring transportation can help make sure that all guests get to the correct place at the correct time. This might mean hiring a limo for the wedding party or hiring a shuttle or a bus to run between the hotels and the venues.

About 2% of your wedding budget should be set aside to pay for transportation costs.

Stationery

Your save-the-date cards and invitations are the first impression your guests will get of your wedding day. This means that you’ll want to make sure they reflect the vibe and tone that you’re going for.

Also included in your stationery budget are your thank-you cards, ceremony programs, menus, and more.

2% of your budget should be reserved to cover stationery costs.

Gifts and Favors

It is common for couples to give gifts to guests as a way for them to remember their special day. Sometimes even the smallest gestures can make a big impression.

Generally, about 2% of the wedding budget goes towards favors and gifts.

Officiant

It will usually cost about 2% of your budget to hire an officiant to legally marry you. You’ll want to find someone who shares your vision for the day and understands the type of ceremony you and your spouse-to-be are looking to have.

Wedding Bands

Don’t forget to add your wedding bands to your wedding budget checklist! You want to make sure you find rings you both love, as they’ll be on your fingers for the rest of your life. Allocate about 2% of your budget for this aspect of the wedding.

Determining How Much You Want to Pay For a Wedding

What these different percentages mean is going to be pretty different if your wedding budget is $5,000 versus $50,000. Before you start researching venues and calling DJs, it’s a good idea to figure out just how much money you can afford to put towards a wedding.

First, you’ll want to figure out who is going to be contributing to the budget. Some couples might be entirely on their own, while others might have help from parents or family members. You’ll want to find out how much people are willing to give or if they are interested in paying for a certain aspect (i.e. your grandmother who really wants to buy your wedding dress.)

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Then it’s time to start crunching the numbers. Be realistic and try to determine how much you can comfortably afford to spend. Consider your monthly income and any money you have set aside in savings.

Also, think about where that money could otherwise. Remarkably, the average cost of a wedding in 2018 was upwards of $44,000. That’s a decent amount of money and could cover a 20% down payment in some neighborhoods. While having a dream wedding can be a truly amazing experience, remember that there is an opportunity cost to everything.

How to Afford a Wedding

For most people, a wedding is the most expensive party they will ever throw. Many people claim they are going to stick to a budget they’ve set and do a bunch of the work themselves, only to still be shocked when they end up with the final bill from the caterers and the venue.

It is possible to save up for a wedding, but you do have to be organized and realistic.

First, you will want to take the amount of money you would like to spend on a wedding. If you have a budget of $30,000 and you’re getting married in a year, that means that you need to save $2,500 a month. If that’s more money than you can save a month, you can either push the wedding back further or temporarily reduce your monthly expenses.

This is where it gets important to be realistic. Will your dream wedding cost $60,000 but you can only put aside $700 a month? That means that you will need to save for your wedding for more than seven years. Consider how much you’re willing to sacrifice for a ceremony and reception that lasts for one day.

While you enter your saving period, you can cut back on your monthly expenses. There are likely things you put money towards that aren’t necessary, like gym memberships, eating take-out, and extra streaming services. Tighten up your budget and avoid impulse buying things like prepared drinks or clothes that you don’t need.

You also might consider making bigger sacrifices if it’s really important that your wedding is a dream come true. You might move in with one of your parents or sell one of your cars.

Using credit cards responsibly or looking into a personal loan is also one way of approaching the issue. You can compare personal loans here.

How Big Is Your Wedding Budget?

Breaking down your wedding costs into different categories can help you make sure you stay on track with your wedding budget. Whether you’re having a small ceremony with just your closest family or an enormous blowout where you invite everyone you’ve ever met, it’s important to allocate a certain percentage of your budget to the different types of costs. That way, you can avoid an outcome where you’re surprised when you end up getting the bills.

Did you find this article about making a wedding budget useful? If so, check out the rest of our blog for more articles to help you live your best life!

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