9 Tips for Creating the Perfect Wedding Budget with a Breakdown in 2021

Wedding budget planning allows you to see the big picture before you shell out the big bucks. It may come as a surprise how much weddings actually cost — according to multiple studies, the average wedding cost adds up to $30,000.

Anja Winikka
October 14, 2021

Wedding budget planning allows you to see the big picture before you shell out the big bucks. It may come as a surprise how much weddings actually cost — according to multiple studies, the average wedding cost adds up to $30,000. If you live in a city with higher than average cost of living, then the price may be much more. The same goes for your guest list––more guests means more money. But don’t panic just yet. There are plenty of ways to manage. Most important is that you start saving and setting aside money for the wedding. We recommend opening a high-yield savings account for your wedding expenses. Over the course of your engagement, the two of you can add money to the account while earning interest at the same time! 

Beyond setting up a smart savings plan, you’ll also want to do a little research. (There are a ton of ways to save money on a wedding.) Spoiler alert: The easiest way is most effective way to save, is to cut down on the guest list. (Try taking your favorite 100 people out for dinner on a Saturday night.) If you have a reception, you’re buying dinner and drinks for 50 to 200 people. Nixing expenses like live bands, liquor, and plated dinners can save thousands of dollars. Make a wedding budget checklist of your must-haves, and then consider all the wedding extras you could live without. 

When you’re planning a wedding, knowing how much you’re going to spend will save you the stress of paying for costly surprises. Having a wedding budget will also ensure that you don’t spend more than you need to. 

Wedding Budget Breakdown

Don’t feel like you have to allocate your budget according to the following breakdown. These numbers can easily fluctuate based on your priorities -- maybe you’ll have a backyard wedding and save on the venue, but spend more on drinks and entertainment. This is how it works for most weddings, but most weddings are not your wedding.

  • Venue: 30% 
  • Food & Drink: 20%
    Keep in mind that if catering is included in your venue, then you’ll essentially be allocating 50% of your overall budget to the venue and catering.
  • Flowers and Decor: 10%
  • Photography and Videography: 9%
    This is a great example of a cost that can vary quite a bit: If you want to document most of the day, you could easily spend $5,000. If you opt for a four-hour package, you could spend less than $1,000. 
  • Entertainment: 7%
  • Wedding Attire: Dress, Tux, Jewelry, Hair, and Makeup: 5%
    Make sure to factor in getting your wedding attire tailored. Tailoring a wedding dress or a tux usually costs hundreds of dollars. Ornate details and lace can make alterations more expensive.
  • Transportation: 2%
  • Officiant and Wedding License: 2%
  • Stationery and Invites: 2% 
  • Wedding Guest Favors: 2%
  • Wedding Rings: 2%
  • Cake: 2%
    This is often separate from your catering service. 
  • Wedding Planner: 2%
    If you don’t want a full-service wedding planner, a day-of wedding coordinator might do the trick. 
  • Tips: 2%
    Chauffeurs, entertainment providers, and catering staff should all get tips. 
  • Wedding Insurance: 1%
    For just a couple of hundred dollars, wedding insurance can protect your wedding from natural disasters, health emergencies, and liabilities. Fun fact: couples who use Maroo to pay for wedding expenses, get wedding cancellation insurance included! 
  • Extras and Unforeseen Events: 1%
    Put something aside for the unexpected. Trust us — there’s always something.

Wedding Budget Checklist 

No matter how much you spend, it’s likely going to be the biggest party you throw, so make every penny count. 

  1. Have “The Talk” with Your Parents 
    Although Millenial and Gen Z couples tend to get married later in life, it’s still common for parents to contribute to the cost of a wedding. Research shows that parents often cover as much as two-thirds of their childrens’ weddings. In 2016, only 1 in 10 couples paid for their wedding by themselves. Traditionally, the bride’s family helps pay for the wedding and the groom’s family contributes to the honeymoon. 
    If your parents express willingness to cover some of the costs, get a concrete idea of the dollar amount they wish to spend. You could say something like, “I’ve heard the average wedding costs around $30,000. How much do you think makes sense for a wedding budget?” Even better: have an idea of your budget before you talk to your folks. 
    Keep in mind that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, or a free wedding. If your parents’ wedding contribution covers the cost, they will probably want to have input on the celebration. Make sure to address these expectations when you initially discuss your budget. 
  2. Create a Wedding Budget Spreadsheet
    Keep track of what each person contributes on your wedding budget spreadsheet. It may also help to have a column for your expected wedding expenses and another column for the actual cost — that way it will be easier to catch where you’re going over budget. 
  3. Get Comfortable
    During the wedding planning process, it saves money and time to be frank about budget. If a vendor suggests something you can’t afford, tell them exactly how much you plan to spend. 
  4. Set Expectations
    You can’t start planning unless you have some idea of what your big day will cost. Before you decide on a budget, get quotes from potential vendors. As you collect quotes from vendors, keep track of each quote on a spreadsheet. 
  5. Don’t Be Shy -- Ask for a Discount! 
    It’s also never too soon to start practicing your negotiating skills. 
  6. Strategize Your Payment Plan
    Charging expenses to credit cards that you can’t pay off is never a good idea. Look at your options for wedding loans before you go into credit card debt. 
  7. Prioritize
    Ask yourself: How much of your wedding is for you and your partner, and how much is for your guests? This is your day, but you want to make sure it’s as lovely a memory for your guests as it is for you. (What we’re trying to say: Don’t skimp on the food and drinks!) 
  8. Dig into the Details
    When a vendor provides you with a quote, review each line item for the ceremony and reception. You might see something like lights or fancy linens that you could live without. Venues often charge extra for upscale tables, chairs, linens, and decor. 
  9. Time is Money
    Remember that your staff won’t work for free. If you pile on demands, expect to see that reflected on your bill. If you stay longer than planned at your venue or ask to see lots of proofs from your photographer, make a mental note to adjust your budget. 

You’ve Got This! 

Wedding planning isn’t easy, so cut yourself some slack. Martha Stewart wrote on her blog, “Preparing for any party takes a lot of effort, a lot of time, and a lot of advanced planning, but it's all worth the effort for a wonderful gathering of friends.” She was talking about a dinner party for 11 people. If Martha Stewart thinks small-ish dinner parties are a lot of work, don’t feel bad if you feel overwhelmed by planning a wedding for 100-plus friends and family. 

Spend some quality time with a spreadsheet, assess your financial situation, and know that your budget isn’t nearly as important as your creativity and love for the people on your guest list.


Anja Winikka has spent more than 15 years marketing to and engaging with both engaged couples and the small businesses that power the weddings industry.