Budget Breakdown

The following list represents the average percentages of the total wedding budget spent on each category. You may find that yours is more or less than the percentages given, especially if you are planning a very non-traditional wedding. However, we believe the list can still be a valuable tool in the planning stages, if nothing more than to give you an idea of how each category breaks down in a "typical" wedding.

    • Reception Site/Food/Beverages40 - 50%
    • Photography/Videography10 - 15%
    • Apparel (Includes Brides and Grooms)8 - 15%
    • Flowers (Including bouquets, boutonnieres, and floral decorations)7 - 10%
    • Music (Both ceremony and reception)6 - 10%
    • Invitations (Includes all paper products such as invitations, inserts, thank you cards, programs, etc)2 - 5%
    • Cake2 - 3%
    • Miscellaneous (Includes Officiant, rings, marriage license, transportation, favors, non-floral decorations, gifts, etc)2 - 6%

Budget Trimming Tips

For those couples trying to keep their wedding budget from going through the roof (the average wedding in the U.S. is coming in at $20,000 - $25,000 depending on the region), the following budget trimming tips may prove helpful. Again, these have been gathered from various magazines, websites and through our own experiences with weddings.

  • The biggest hit to the wedding budget is the number of invited guests. The number of guests effects the size of the reception site, the amount of food and beverages you must have, the size of the cake, the number of favors, and so on; almost every category of your wedding budget! To keep your budget reasonable (and your wedding more intimate and meaningful), invite only those closest family and friends. As we have mentioned in other areas of the website, a good rule of thumb is this, "If you would not invite them to dinner at your house, do not invite them to the wedding."

  • Along those same lines, keep your bridal party small. Many couples today are opting not to have any attendants or only one each. At first glance you might not think that having attendants would increase your budget, but it most certainly does. There are luncheons to host to show your appreciation; there are individual gifts to buy; and if any of your attendants cannot afford their attire, it usually falls to the couple (or their families) to pick up the tab. In addition, the more people in the bridal party, the more time and energy (and therefore stress) trying to coordinate everyone. If you feel you want to "involve" someone because they are particularly close to you, there are many tasks and/or responsibilities that can be given without having to make them an attendant. And just because you were an attendant in someone else's wedding does not make it mandatory for them to be one in yours. On your wedding day, you do not "owe" anyone back for something they have done for you previously or because of their relationship to you.

  • Consider having the ceremony and reception at the same location. Couples can save a significant amount of money in time, travel and package deals by having everything at one location. More and more areas of the country are seeing an influx of businesses/buildings specifically designed to host wedding ceremonies and receptions. Many of these have beautifully landscaped and fenced back yards with gazebos and fountains, as well as lovely interiors in case of inclimate weather (or nice weather if you prefer to have your wedding indoors). In addition, these places commonly include dressing rooms for the wedding party, a variety of decorations from which to choose, and may have relationships with other vendors that could result in additional savings to the couple. If your city does not have a business like this, don't forget that many hotels can serve the same function. Finally, a private residence can accommodate both a ceremony and reception quite easily in most cases.

  • Having your ceremony and reception at the same location can also save you money on transportation. (No need to drive you anywhere between functions.) Another way to save on transportation is to rent a Lincoln or other luxury car instead of a limo. It is just as elegant and you save a bundle! Or if someone's father owns a nice luxury sedan, use that. Have a trusted friend or relative play "limo driver" as their gift to you and you're all set!

  • Consider scheduling your wedding on a day other than Saturday. Depending on what part of the country you live in, you can save a significant amount of money if you schedule on a different day. Since most weddings are booked for Saturday, the vendors and venues get top dollar for this day. Also consider an alternate time of year. If spring and early summer are the popular wedding times in your area, then schedule your wedding in fall or winter. You will most likely save money and won't have to worry that your date is not available. Both of these could be huge factors if you only have a few months to plan your wedding rather than the more typical 12 to 18 months.

  • Check out e-bay for all your wedding needs. You'll be amazed at the potential savings that can be found there.

  • Purchase a make-your-own-invitations kit. There are dozens of nice styles available in stores today and, with a decent printer, will work just fine for most weddings. We would challenge the majority of guests to know the difference between higher-priced invitations done at a print shop and ones printed on a good printer. Also, another great way to save money in this department is to invest in a wedding web site. There are seemingly hundreds of businesses on the web that will host your wedding web site. Look for one that allows your guests to RSVP online. These web sites usually handle this via a database that keeps track of your invited guests and RSVP's. The database also allows you to record gifts and, after the wedding, lets you track whether or not you sent a thank you card. With a wedding web site you can also include directions to the wedding/reception complete with maps; list local hotels and lodgings for your out-of-town guests; give information about your gift registry; provide information about showers, luncheons, etc.; and even lets you share the story about how you and your significant other met, became engaged and so on. This eliminates the need for all those inserts in your invitation and allows people to quickly RSVP rather than having to remember to mail it. And whereas people could easily lose the directions or forget the shower date, it's always there online. For those really progressive couples, we would suggest sending email invitations. While some would faint at this suggestion, they would have to admit that a.) most guests simply throw the invitation away, and b.) it's definitely more convenient for most everyone concerned. If you choose to send email invitations though, do take the time to create a nice, print-comparable invitation. Do not simply send an email. Now that would be tacky!

  • Rent your wedding dress; have someone make your wedding dress; check out consignment shops, sample sales, etc. Look to evening gowns, prom dresses and bridesmaid dresses for your wedding dress. If you're not very traditional, you'll probably find something lovely and less expensive because it does not have the word "wedding" in front of it. Also, more and more Brides are wearing dresses that are not white or ivory. (If you knew the tradition behind the white dress, you probably would choose something else as well.) This increases your options for finding something unique, beautiful and at a huge savings.

  • Have your baker make a smaller wedding cake that you will display and cut at the reception. Then have them make a sheet cake (using the same cake recipe and frosting) that will be used to serve your guests. Or, another option that is becoming more popular is to have nicely-decorated cupcakes placed on a 3 tiered stand to resemble the shape of a wedding cake. NO cutting needed. Each person gets their own cake, so to speak. Also cream puffs (an old French wedding tradition) drizzled with chocolate and/or caramel; a variety of pastries, brownies, carrot cake, cheesecake or even truffles can be served in place of a wedding cake. Your guests will be surprised (and probably pleasantly so) and will certainly remember it!

  • Have a buffet style reception rather than a sit down meal. While there may be those relatives who will just be appalled at this idea, they are not paying for your wedding. While it is customary to provide some sort of food, especially if you are asking people to be at your wedding through a typical meal hour, there is no law (or wedding police) to say it has to be a sit down meal. You can serve the exact same menu, but as a buffet. People only take what they want, which also means less waste. Children are not given an adult sized portion or food they won't eat. You will save on both quantity of food needed as well as the cost of servers. (Do your homework though; buffets can sometimes cost more than sit-down meals.) Other ideas for the reception are a brunch for an early wedding; dessert and coffee; dessert and cocktails; or hors d'oeuvres and cocktails for later weddings. These alternatives also work well if you are going to have a "shorter" reception (i.e., not as many hours as usual).

  • Along the same lines, serve only beer and wine rather than having an open bar. And have the guests toast with wine as opposed to champagne. Or have a cash bar. (Many couples have done this at their wedding and no one seemed to mind at all.) If your reception facility allows it, buy in bulk at the local club/membership store and bring your own. Again, these are perfectly acceptable alternatives that are becoming quite popular nowadays.

  • For the ceremony, consider having a solo instrumentalist and/or solo singer for your music. Another option is to have someone play a cd with the music you will use. For the most part, people will not remember if you had "live" music or a cd for the ceremony. For the reception, check into the cost for local DJ's before you go with a live band. However, realize that some DJ's charge the same if not more than a band, so shop around. If you are not going to have dancing, consider a trio, duet or solo performer. Or if you are having a small or at-home wedding, make a couple of mix cd's with your favorite tunes and have someone play them for you. As long as there is music playing in the background, most people don't even notice.

  • Hire a professional photographer/videographer for the ceremony/posed photos only. Then have a few chosen friends and/or family take candids at the reception. We are reluctant to advise you to have anyone other than a professional do the ceremony/posed photos since inexperience can cost you dearly in the area of memorable moments, and bad photos are a reminder forever. However, do shop around. Include photographers who do not have the word "wedding" in front of their business name. Make sure (in writing) you will get all the proofs and negatives...always...period.

  • There is no need to go crazy with decorations. For the most part, people are watching the Bride and Groom, not checking out the room to see how many flower arrangements, candelabras or lattice archways there are. (Sadly, we probably all have that one relative who is counting the flower arrangements, but alas, they are not why you are doing any of this.) Position a couple of nice flower arrangements or plants near where the couple will have the ceremony (and photos taken) and a few more sprinkled through the reception area. For tables, keep centerpieces low, simple and elegant. Big over-done centerpieces tend to be more distracting and inhibit people speaking to each other across the table. Consider using little white lights in place of other, more expensive decorations. Also, use more greenery and fewer florals. If you must have flowers, use silks (or polyesters) interspersed with real. This will reduce the cost and give you more options. (We saw this trick used by a notable florist in the Dallas area. They decorated the archway with silk flowers and vines, then interspersed real roses throughout. It looked beautiful and "real", but only a few of the flowers were actually real.)

  • There is no need to purchase favors for your guests. Yes, you read that right. You have invited these people to join you on your wedding day to celebrate this most joyous of occasions with you and your beloved...to wish you well and give their blessings. You are going to feed them and provide drink in most cases. They received an invitation, a very nice keepsake, and if you have a wedding program, another nice keepsake. In many cases you are going to entertain them with music, dancing and possibly some fun (or funny) activities. They do not also need a "gift" from you. The tradition of the favor actually stems from the practice of furnishing the guests with small items of food, herbs, seeds or other similar items to throw at the couple for good luck/prosperity. It became common practice for the guests to keep the favor as a remembrance of the wedding. Somehow, over the last century, the tradition of giving favors and showering the couple with confetti, rice or bird seed have become two different activities. In addition, advertisers (and the super wealthy) have led couples to believe they must provide a "nicer" gift to their guests as remembrances. Pish Posh! Having said that, we do think it is acceptable to have favors such as bubbles, rice, confetti, or sparklers to send off the couple in a "tradition"-al sort of way. However, there is no need to provide one favor for every person invited. Simply fill a few baskets with the favors and position them around the room. This way, guests can take one if they wish to participate, but do not have to. We would say maybe a little more than half as many favors as you have guests.

  • Search the internet for more budget trimming ideas. There are literally hundreds of really good ideas out there. Be creative, and don't be afraid to think outside the box. Generally speaking, the "rules" of wedding etiquette have been written by the idle rich and advertisers. Do not believe for a minute that you must include anything that does not have personal meaning for you.

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