How Much Should You Budget for Your Wedding?

by Lyle Daly | Sept. 1, 2019

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If you're going to tie the knot, you'll need to have a budget.

When you start planning your wedding, one of the very first things to do is decide on a budget.

If you've looked at the average cost of a wedding in the United States, then you'll know that it isn't cheap. The Knot reports it as $33,931, enough to make eloping look that much better.

To be fair, that figure includes the cost of an engagement ring, which may already be paid for in your case. It's also a nationwide average, so it won't help much for determining how much your wedding will be. For putting together your own wedding budget, you'll need to figure out a couple important details.

Smiling men dancing at their wedding

Image source: Getty Images

Estimating the cost of a wedding

There are two key factors that play the largest role in how much a wedding costs:

  • The location -- A wedding in a major metropolitan area, such as San Francisco or Manhattan, could easily cost three to four times as much as a wedding in a mid-size city or town.
  • The number of guests -- More guests means you need more seating, more food, and more drinks, all of which result in a more expensive wedding.

What you want in your wedding is also important. If you're going for a luxurious wedding, then you'll need to set more money aside to pay for it. Couples who don't mind a smaller, less flashy ceremony can often find ways to cut their wedding costs. And those who just want something simple and inexpensive can get legally married in most parts of the United States for under $100 (although it gets more expensive if a trip to Vegas is involved).

So to start estimating your own wedding costs, you'll need to do the following:

  • Decide on a location.
  • Put together a guest list so you know approximately how many people will be attending.
  • Talk with wedding planners in the area about how much weddings typically cost.

While you won't have an exact figure after this, it will give you a good idea of what you can expect to pay.

How to set your wedding budget

Now it's time to see whether that price tag you found is realistic. Here's how to set a wedding budget:

Check yours and your fiancé's current savings.

This will be the start of your wedding fund. It's important to note that you shouldn't include your emergency fund in this calculation or any of your savings you already have earmarked for other purchases, such as a home or car down payment.

Decide on an amount you can both save per month.

Make sure this is an amount that you can handle without stretching your budget too much.

Calculate how much you can have saved by your wedding date.

All you need to do here is multiply your monthly savings amount by the number of months left before your wedding, and then add that to your original wedding fund.

See if your family will be contributing.

If you plan to fund your wedding entirely on your own, then you can skip this step. But the bride or groom's families often help out with wedding costs. If that's going to be the case at your wedding, then you need to have an idea of how much your families are willing to contribute.

Let's say you and your fiancé have $6,000 in your bank accounts to put towards your wedding. You plan to get married in 16 months, and you can save $500 per month. By the month of your wedding, you'll have $14,000. Your families say they're willing to contribute $10,000, bringing you to a wedding budget of $24,000.

Deciding how much to spend

Once you have your wedding budget, you'll know how much you can spend without going into debt. You can then compare this to the estimated wedding costs you put together for your area to see if your budget is enough. If not, then you'll need to either find ways to reduce your wedding expenses or save more money before the big day.

One final point to consider is how much you and your fiancé are comfortable spending to pay for your wedding. Some couples want that perfect wedding day and will pay plenty for it, whereas others balk at the idea of spending tens of thousands of dollars for a single event.

You'll need to discuss this as a couple to decide if you're willing to spend up to your full wedding budget, or if you'd prefer to go with something less costly so you can save more towards future expenses.

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