7 Steps for Setting (and following!) a Wedding Budget

Setting a wedding essentials budget is a smart way to stay on track with spending during your wedding planning. Here we offer a practical step-by-step guide to help keep things sailing smoothly toward your big day.

Step 1: Take a Realistic Look at Your Finances

If you and your fiance are handling to the bulk of the wedding costs, figure up how you can each comfortably contribute to the budget without going into the red (starting a marriage in debt is not a wise decision!). Money is a touchy subject, and being honest and upfront about how much you have to spend on your wedding will not only squash confusion, it will also lay the foundation for how to resolve money issues once you’re married.

Step 2: Be selective with the guest list

An important step in setting your wedding essentials budget is to determine how many people you will want to invite to your ceremony and reception. The guest list dictates the amount of space you’ll need to accommodate your well-wishers, the quantity of food caterers must prepare for the reception meal, and other key budgetary considerations. Besides, it’s a no-brainer that the less people you invite, the less you’ll need to spend!

Step 3: Verify if others plan to contribute to your wedding expenses

Families of the bride and groom will often offer to pay for some—if not all—of the wedding essentials expenses. If you’re uncomfortable asking your parents for cash, how about asking them to purchase certain items like the wedding cake, or let them pick up the tab for the rehearsal dinner. Whether your family pays a portion of your wedding costs or foots the entire bill, having others contribute to your wedding budget will certainly relieve the stress of limited cash flow.

Step 4: Open a separate "wedding" account to track spending

Once you’ve pulled your wedding funds together, you’ll want to place them into a bank account solely devoted to paying wedding expenses. This way you won’t mix everyday money with your specially allocated funds.

Step 5: Determine where you want to spend the most/least

Some wedding essentials-centered items and services automatically come with a hefty price tag. Point blank. Period. But knowing where to shell out the big bucks and where to cut costs can make all the difference in your planning. Create a list of wedding services that you don’t mind spending more money on, and those that you’ll be fine with scaling back from. For example, you might want to hire a pricey, but renowned wedding photographer to snap every moment of your wedding day, but opt for a beer and wine only reception instead of an open bar. No matter where you choose to save or spend, it should be something you can both agree on.

Step 6: Pick a financially-feasible wedding essentials date

Certain times of year are more expensive for having a wedding. Holidays generate the most money in the wedding industry (Labor Day weekend, Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Years). Vendors are also in higher demand, so expect an up-charge in services if you’re setting a date around these times. However, if you’re able to show flexibility with your wedding date, you’ll find some great deals. And never be afraid to negotiate—many wedding wedding essentials vendors are willing to work around your budget.

Step 7: Resist the urge to splurge

It’s easy to get swept up in all things opulent when dreaming of your wedding day. You want everything to be perfect . . . but not at the expense of a small fortune. As Step 5 states that while it’s OK to pay a little more for big-ticket items (i.e. food and beverage, photography, floral design), you should still remember to impart good judgment with your spending. For instance, as much as you’d love to give each of your bridal attendants Swarovski crystal picture frames as "thank you" gifts, there are less-expensive options they’ll appreciate just as much as the pricier versions. Remember to shop smarter when selecting items for your wedding; you’ll soon find that most everything under the sun has a less-expensive counterpart.

Setting a wedding essentials budget is the best way to manage spending as you plan your wedding. Knowing exactly what you can (and cannot) afford will help you better communicate with vendors, and each other, as you prepare for the wedding day of your dreams.