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Wedding Planning Series: The Ultimate Wedding Budget Breakdown

Photo by HoneyLens Photography

You're engaged, now what? Check out the fourth part of Grace & Gold's "Wedding Planning Series," for their Ultimate Wedding Budget Breakdown (I swear we are going to stop talking about the budget soon!).

How should my budget break-down?

You have a total number, an approximate date, and you are considering a planner… you have done a lot! From here, you have 2 directions to go in: you can either start looking for a venue, or you can break down your budget into a specific categories/amounts so you know just how much you have for everything. I suggest breaking down your budget more, which is what we will discuss today.

However, if you are anxious to get a venue booked (especially if you are on a time crunch), a general rule of thumb is that 40-50% of your budget should be dedicated to your reception venue. This means the site fee, food, alcohol, service fees, etc. should be in this category. If your ceremony and reception are at the same location, you can get closer to the 50% mark, if not a smidgen over.

What about the rest? Well, I did some digging around. I looked at old client files, the major wedding planning websites, and a Google Search for “wedding budget calculator.” And dang…. there are a lot of opinions out there! Everyone had different types of categories, what was included in said category, and the most frustrating, when totaling up the breakdown they were often over “100%” of your budget. I was a math major in college, so that really drove me nuts!

So I put everyone’s numbers into a spreadsheet, tweaked some categories, made some personal adjustments (sorry, photography is super important to me!), and some eliminations. Here is what I came up with:

Ceremony: 3% of budget
This should include the site fee, officiant fees/donations, marriage license fees.

Reception: 45% of budget
This should include the site fee, food, beverages/alcohol, cake/dessert, rental items (additional chairs, tables, lounge furniture), as well as service charges

Paper Goods: 3% of budget
This includes save-the-dates, invitations, ceremony programs/signs, place cards or floorplan, menus, thank you notes and the one thing everyone forgets… Postage!

Attire: 10% of budget
Sorry ladies, this does not all go to your dress. This category needs to include the dress (and any alterations), jewelry, accessories, shoes, hair and makeup (don’t forget a trial!), and everything your groom needs (tux, shoes, etc).

Photography & Videography: 13% of budget
I went higher than most on this because I highly value it. This should include engagement photos (if you want them,  I highly suggest them), wedding day photography (at least 8 hours of coverage, preferably with a second shooter), additional prints/albums, and videography. If you don’t want video, you can re-distribute 3-5%, but I would still try to dedicate 10% to photography.

Entertainment/Music: 8% of budget
This should include ceremony musicians, cocktail hour music, reception music (DJ or band), and sound system for everything.

Floral & Décor: These are usually lumped together at about 10%
This should include all florals (personals like bouquets and boutonnieres, ceremony flowers, centerpieces, etc.), décor (card box, guestbook, signage, table numbers, lighting, accessories, anything extra you are adding), delivery and setup fees.

Transportation: Not always a factor, but around 3%

Planning: 5% of budget
At least for a day-of coordinator!

Woohoo, that equals 100%!

That’s it! Please not that there are some big things I took out that you need to consider or re-distribute: miscellaneous items, favors, gifts, and a 5% just-in-case-cushion.

My next recommendation is to go through this list and figure out what your priorities are—that will help you stick to your designated budget in that area. For me, that’s the reception, the photography, and the entertainment… but everyone has a different suggestion! There are lots of small ways to save in certain areas, which we can discuss in the future.

Stay tuned for next week where we can take these numbers and finally get you a venue!

Xoxo Emma