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How To Set A Budget For Your Wedding

Nikita Thorne Updated:
8th of March 2023

You may have been dreaming of your perfect wedding for years, but don’t let your ideas get ahead of your finances! Creating (and sticking to) your budget is arguably the most important part of wedding planning. When you first start planning, it can be difficult to know how to budget for your wedding. But, have no fear... we are here to help! In this blog we will walk you through exactly how to set your wedding budget so you have a good starting point for the rest of your wedding planning.

In all the excitement of wedding planning, it can be easy to just start looking without actually knowing how much you have to spend. No matter your wedding dreams, it’s all about making your finances work for you – and that starts with knowing what your wedding budget is. If you have already got a budget figure in mind, use the Guides for Brides budget calculator below to find out how other couples would allocate your wedding budget. If you haven't got a figure in mind yet, read our how to guide.

How To Set Your Wedding Budget

Whatever your situation, here are some general guidelines for how to budget for a wedding! Or hear our top tips in our podcast episode below: 

Step 1: Figure Out Who is Contributing to Your Wedding Budget

Cancel or Postponed Wedding

You may already know that you and your partner will be solely paying for your entire wedding - in which case this is an easy step for you! However, it may be that your parents or other family members wish to contribute to your wedding budget. So, finding out who is willing to chip in is a good first step to calculating your wedding budget. 

Of course, this can be a tricky conversation but one you should have sooner rather than later. While it is no longer the expectation that the bride’s family will pay for the wedding, it’s worth seeing if either of your families wishes to help or pay for a specific cost. For example, your mum may have always dreamed of buying her daughter’s wedding dress, in which case that’s something you can remove from your wedding budget. 

Step 2: Decide What You Can Afford With Your Partner

Beautiful young couple relaxing in a living room and using laptop

Once you know if you’ll be receiving any help from your family, you can focus on your own contribution.  You will need to figure out how much you and your partner can realistically and comfortably afford to spend. First, how much do you have in savings and how much of this are you willing to put towards your wedding? You should always keep an emergency fund to cover things like a car breakdown, plus it’s best not to dip into a special saving fund for something like a house deposit.

Second, write down exactly how much income you both get each month. Then, take away all your consistent financial commitments, such as your rent or mortgage, transport costs and food budget. On top of these, you’ll have extra, fun expenses such as days out with friends and birthday or Christmas presents, so set aside a realistic amount for that. After you have made these calculations, what is left is the amount you have to spend on or save for your wedding each month. 

Step 3: Estimate Your Guest Count

Hands-on bride planning her wedding

The cost of a wedding is generally based on two things: the guest list and the level of luxury you are wanting. The number of guests will determine the size of your venue and how much food and drink you'll have to provide. Your guest count will also generate the number of several items such as invitations, cake slices, and wedding favours. So, the size of your guest list will determine roughly how much you need to be aiming to save. If you realise that your guest list is too large for your wedding budget, you either need to give yourself more time to save, or cut down your guest list to a more realistic figure.

Top tip: 45% of the average wedding budget is spent on the wedding venue (or marquee) and the catering. To understand what you can afford based on your guest count, work out what 45% of your total budget is and then divide that number by your total guest count. This will give you the cost per head and give you a better idea of venue / catering affordability.

Step 4: Create an Emergency Fund

Wedding Budget Emergency Fund

During your wedding planning, you will find that small, unexpected costs are inevitably going to pop up! So, it’s a good idea to have a contingency fund that you don’t touch in case of emergencies. We suggest setting aside around 10% of your wedding budget and simply pretending it doesn’t exist until you absolutely need it. 

Also, you may want around £500 spare for the wedding day itself. This is in case of last-minute emergencies, such as your wedding transport breaking down and needing to hire taxis or extra food and drink charges. If you don’t use it, then that’s an extra £500 for your honeymoon fund!

Step 5: Figure out Your Biggest Costs

Wedding Fitness | Guides for Brides | Plan Ahead

Your wedding venue will inevitably be your biggest cost. So, you should first start by working out your budget for this element. This should cover your wedding venue hire, plus your food and drink charges which generally works out to be 45% of your total budget. So, your first big decision should be to find quotes for hire and cost per head from venues you’re interested in and see whether they fit in your wedding budget. Also, not every venue will offer the same kind of package. So, find out all the costs upfront and adjust your budget accordingly.

In fact, there are some common unexpected costs that many couples forget to consider in their wedding budget! For example, paying for the postage of your wedding invitations, not just the stationery itself. So, enquire about every cost with your suppliers, including delivery and service. Costs are never hidden, so your venue and suppliers will be more than happy to explain any additional costs to make sure you can budget effectively.

Top Tip: The Guides for Brides wedding budget planner uses data from real couples to help you work out what to spend your budget on. You'll be able to see how much other couples would spend on certain elements of the day based on your budget bracket. It's the perfect starting point to help you figure out what you can afford and it's totally adaptable to your situation.

Step 6: Prioritise the Rest of Your Wedding Budget

Bride and groom discuss their wedding plans

Your remaining wedding budget is for everything else, from wedding attire and wedding rings to stationery, flowers and décor. To assign the rest of your wedding budget, start by drawing up a list of non-negotiables with your partner. This could be anything from fancy invitations or live music for the evening reception to an open bar or a fireworks display. If you can’t imagine your wedding without it, you need to prioritise it in your wedding budget and start looking elsewhere to save. Always remember that an extra £500 for the dress of your dreams needs to be cut somewhere else. However, be sensible about non-negotiables: pick two or three, otherwise you will have no budget left! 

Book these priorities first, so you can continually adjust how much you have to spend elsewhere. You may also want to make another list of things that you want at your wedding but don’t feel the need to spend too much on, such as a massive wedding cake. This will help if you find you’re spending more than you need in this area.

Ready to get planning? Use the Guides for Brides budget tool in our free, online wedding planner to stay on track with your spending.

Nikita Thorne Guides for Brides

About the author

Nikita Thorne

Nikita is a wedding planning expert and newlywed having tied the knot in 2023. She is the host of Guides for Brides - The Wedding Podcast and regularly speaks at wedding industry conferences and national wedding shows to inform and inspire couples who are planning their big days. She keeps on top of the latest wedding trends in design and fashion and loves to see the new innovative ideas from wedding professionals across the country. If you need practical planning advice, Nikita has been through the entire wedding planning process, so is your best contact!

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