How I Budgeted for Wedding Expenses

Save for something before you purchase. Have the funds available. Live within your means. We’ve heard these money phrases before. I know I have. They drive how we spend our money, and they played a role in our budgeting process as we prepared for wedding expenses.


When Charles and I got engaged, one of our first conversations was the wedding budget and what we pictured our wedding day to be. I am a spreadsheet nerd. I blame it on my financial background and the fact that I use Excel on a daily basis. Shortly after our first wedding budget conversation, I created a spreadsheet (with Charles help of course) that helped us track wedding expenses and determine what we needed to budget for our wedding day. Throughout this process I have passed this information on to several brides and thought it was time to put together a post on the topic. Who doesn’t love talking expenses and budgeting, right! Right?

Let’s start!

I looked at three areas when it came to wedding expenses and budgeting:

(1) What are we initially working with? What is our beginning balance and current funds for the wedding? Will additional funds come from other places (e.g. family, etc.)?

(2) How much do we anticipate spending? Realistically, what will our wedding day cost?

(3) How much do we need to save (if anything) for the big day? How are we going to save this amount? Is it realistic to save this amount in our timeframe?

Keep in mind this post explains budgeting for our wedding, but you can change “wedding” into any category you would like. It may be a dream vacation to Europe. Or saving for a new car. Or purchasing camera equipment to start a side job (that was me a few years ago). Whatever works for you and your life!  

What are you initially working with?

This is an easy place to start. What is the current amount of funds you have saved for your wedding (if anything)? Will family be helping out with the budget? If so, what amounts will family provide? Your family may want to cover everything associated with your wedding, or you may receive a specific amount. Either way tally up your total amount of funds to determine what your beginning balance is.

Keep in mind talking budgeting with family (or anyone for that matter) can be awkward. Have the conversation early and ask specific questions to know who is covering what. It will make the process a little easier. 

Let’s walk through a wedding example as we go through budgeting and expenses and pick easy numbers to use as we calculate the budget. Let’s say we are planning a wedding and received $10,000 from family and had $5,000 in savings for a total beginning balance of $15,000 for a wedding. Let’s continue!

What will your wedding day cost?

This question will take research. I first listed every expense I anticipated having for the wedding. I used budget information from Pinterest (search wedding expenses and budgeting) to get an idea of common expense categories associated with a wedding. Think categories such as apparel, ceremony, reception, flowers, photography, stationery, etc. Next, I estimated how much we would spend on each expense category. For example, I estimated apparel (e.g. wedding dress, suits, engagement outfits, rings, etc.) would calculate to 12% of our overall wedding budget. I found the percentages for each wedding category through Pinterest and my wedding planning binder. I did this for every expense category listed based on online research to get an idea of how our money would be spent.

Back to our wedding example. If we chose to save no additional funds and 12% of our budget was apparel, this would calculate to a total of $1,800 to spend for that category ($15,000 * 12% = $1,800). Which led me to a few questions. Does $1,800 for all apparel make sense for our day? Is this a realistic number?

I feel like this is an important point to mention here: If you absolutely must have something specific in your wedding, budget for it. If you want the designer gown, budget for it. Or the fabulous photographer, budget for it. Or a food truck at your reception, budget for it. Know beforehand what you are picturing for your day so you can budget for it and not be disappointed later on (or worse stressed for money). 

Why did I list wedding expenses and gather percentages for categories? To understand estimated amounts to see if our beginning balance was realistic with how our money would be spent. This came in handy when we toured and priced possible venues as well as other major wedding expenses.

Let’s go the wedding example. You have reached out to a few vendors for estimated costs and gathered pricing for the major categories of ceremony, reception, and photography. You start to see that your $15,000 will cover major expenses. However, with the additional expenses listed (the additional expenses amount to $5,000 with $15,000 for major wedding expenses) you can see your budget will need to increase. This brings me to the last question…

What do we need to save (if anything)?

At this point in our example, we have a beginning balance of $15,000. We have an estimated amount of $20,000 for expenses (based on categories and percentages). So, we subtract the beginning balance from the estimated expenses and see that we need to save $5,000. Now that we understood how much we need to save, we need to know if this amount is realistic in the timeframe we have.

Let’s say for our example, you get engaged in July. By the end of August, you are ready to estimate expenses and book venues. You have an anticipated wedding date of June in the following year. So, you have 9 months to save (from September to May as most venues are estimating payment one month before the wedding). From September to May, let’s  say you have 20 pay periods to save based on a bi-weekly pay schedule.

To figure out how much you need to save each period, take your total amount needed to save ($5,000) and divide it by the total number of pay periods you would be saving through (20 pay periods). This calculates to an amount of $250 per pay period.

Next, you need to ask yourself if this amount is reasonable to save. If no, go back to your budget and see which expenses you can cut/decrease. Or, ask if you can find any additional funds from other sources. If this amount is reasonable, then you have your wedding budget, you can start your savings plan, and you can begin booking venues.

I hope you found this post helpful! I wrote about this topic because I have passed this spreadsheet on to other brides over the last few months and received positive feedback. I thought it would be fun to write a post, and it was! If you are planning a wedding, feel free to download and use this spreadsheet as necessary.

Wedding Budget

Enjoy your day!

– Ashley “AKA the Future Mrs. Hooker”

5 thoughts on “How I Budgeted for Wedding Expenses

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