Top tips for setting a wedding budget

Budget saving tips for weddings

We have all seen the meme of a bride/groom with the caption “I’m planning 2 weddings, the one inspired by Pinterest and the one I can afford”.  Few of us have the luxury of an endless budget and even less so now as we head into 2023 with rising costs for nearly everything these days. So here are a few tips on how to set a wedding budget, and hopefully stick to it.

Work out how much you can afford/are happy to spend.

Sounds obvious right?? But this is often overlooked and there are a few things to remember:

  • A wedding can be a huge financial expense, so before you part with a cent, find a figure you’re both happy to live with.  
  • More than likely you do not have a clue how much a wedding costs, and why would you? Unless you have planned one it’s not something you would know. So talk to married friends and family, and do some research on what things actually cost by contacting suppliers.
  • Avoid polls or surveys on the typical costs of a wedding – these are often unrealistic.  
  • If your parents want to contribute to your wedding, try to have the money conversation with them early on. That way, you you know how much you have to work with, or if they want their money to cover specific items (like your dress or drinks reception, for example).  
  • Be realistic about how much you can save in the time you have.
  • Remember most of the payments will be made towards the end of the planning, so make sure you have enough in the kitty then to cover the payments.  

Set the budget – then reduce it!

Once you’ve decided how much you can afford to spend on your wedding, no matter what the figure is, try shave some off of it.  

  • Try shave off somewhere between 10% and 15%, depending on whether you tend to overspend or not.  
  • Plan accordingly with the revised figure as your new working budget – that way, the money is there as a back-up for any unexpected costs.

Half the budget – this is what your venue costs!

Divide your working budget in half and that’s roughly the figure you have for your venue.

  • Under that you should cover your reception venue hire, your food (cocktail hour, main meal, late night snacks), and your wine and other drinks.
  • Know this figure, along with your price per head cost, when you go to venue viewings.  
  • Once you’ve booked your venue, re-adjust your budget if necessary.
  • Remember, a marquee wedding has lots of extra costs whereas a hotel venue might include some extras in their package.  It is not always more cost effective to go with a marquee wedding. 

Work out your price per head?

Make a guest list, and have a realistic figure of how many guests you expect to have in attendance.

  • Divide the amount of money you have for your venue by the number of guests you expect, and that is your price per head.
  • Many venues will quote per head, so having this figure before you start checking out venues is extremely helpful.
  • Don’t forget there may be additional charges such as ceremony room hire, corkage or additional menu surcharges that won’t be included, so if you know your budget will cover €120 per head, it’s best to look at packages that are €100 per head or less, so you don’t get any nasty surprises when the rest of the costs are added in.

Decide On Your Priorities for the Rest of Your Budget

The remaining 50% of your budget covers everything else, and this can add up pretty quickly. You may also decide to include your honeymoon in it.

  • Decide on your non-negotiables – remember you may not agree on this so have a chat about it early on.
  • It’s also wise to make a note of the things that don’t really matter to you at all.  This is where you can save money.
  • Spend the budget on those things that matter to you, not what you think is expected of you.  

Get accurate information on what things costs

Divide out what you expect to spend on all the different suppliers from your remaining 50%.

  • Get quotes from several different suppliers before you allocate a figure to them (particularly for your non-negotiable items). Don’t guess the costs.
  • When you’re getting quotes from suppliers remember to ask if VAT, delivery, and service fees are included in their quote.
  • Don’t forget to factor in hidden costs and last-minute expenses from the very beginning, as these can eat substantially into your bottom line. Décor rentals, gifts, fees, tips and even the honeymoon are often left off the initial budget.  Allocate an amount in the budget at the start to cover such things.  

Offers Of Gifts From Friends & Family

This can be a great way to stay on budget and is definitely worth exploring, but like anything when dealing with family and friends, you need to make sure it is not going to cost you more in the long-run.  

  • If someone offers to provide a service at your wedding, first make sure you are comfortable and happy to accept.  Are you happy the quality will be what you want. Will they need insurance for whatever they are providing and if they do not have it, who will be liable for the cost?  Will they handle the pressure that comes with a wedding.
  • If someone offers to make your cake, are they covering the cost of ingredients too or simply their time in making the cake.
  • Someone offers to do your decor – are they insured, and if not, who is liable if someone damages or injures themselves? Will they dispose of the items afterwards or are you expected to to?
  • Photographer – unless the person is a professional photographer and you have seen many examples of their work, avoid this.  Saving a few quid will not make up for having bad wedding photos.
  • Make-up/Hair -are they experienced enough, do they have the right kit, do they have assistance and are you expected to pay the assistants?

There are some offers of services from friends/family that do seem to work.  Borrowing a nice car for example or something I have seen at a few weddings is a family/friend doing the ceremony music.   Each time the person has been an experienced musician and it was a lovely personal touch to the ceremony.

Stay on track!

We all start out with the greatest intentions, but then we get caught up in everything and lose track of the budget, or abandon it altogether. This leads to stress and anxiety, when you should be enjoying the lead-up to the big day.  So keep on top of those numbers.

  • Get a spreadsheet,  and try to keep a running tally of the money coming in, the deposits and expenses going out, and the balances due at a later date. You need to be able to see just how much you are spending.  This makes you less likely to splurge on impulse. 
  • Book your priority vendors first (the venue, wedding celebrant, photographers, bands – remember these tend to get booked early) then stagger the rest of your bookings throughout your engagement.  
  • Remember that once you’ve made a booking, your deposit is often non-refundable.  If you realise you can’t afford a certain supplier, you’ll lose money even if you cancel them. Leave booking the non-important items until later in the engagement to make sure you can actually afford them.  

Be Realistic

My final tip is to be realistic.  We all want the perfect wedding day but ask anyone what makes a great wedding and the answer is nearly always the same – good food, good music and a bit of fun.  And you cannot buy atmosphere.  I have been to weddings with big budgets and all the frills that were dull,  and some with small budgets that were the best fun ever. Do not start your married life off with a huge debt hanging over your heads.  Stick with what is important to you and you can’t go wrong! 


About Yvonne Cassidy

Yvonne Cassidy is a Wedding Celebrant and Registered Solemniser, based in Dublin, Ireland.  Yvonne has worked with couples from all over the world, helping them create wedding ceremonies full of joy and fun.  To chat with Yvonne about your wedding ceremony get in touch.  

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