How to Budget for a Wedding

Wedding Planning Tips

Although the average wedding in the United States costs about $28,000, according to couples who were surveyed by, what if you have a lot of friends and relatives you wish to invite and you are able to spend more than the average amount, or approximately $50,000, to accommodate them?  How should you distribute the money so that you cover all the necessities without running over budget?  Remember, that your budget will need to include everything from the wedding dress to the cost of the reception and the ceremony.  If $50,000 is the approximate amount of your wedding budget, how can you decide what to spend on the various items so that you stay within your limit? 

Bride at an Outdoor WeddingCredit:

You should start by using a wedding budget.  One way to set up your budget is to use the online calculator at a wedding website, such at  Using The Knot as an example, you enter the amount of money you plan to spend, the number of guests you expect to have, the number of female attendants, and the number of male attendants.  If you already know how much an item will cost, you can enter that amount in the “Actual” column on the wedding calculator.  The calculator will come up with a budget, and make adjustments based on any actual expenses that you have already decided upon.

If you are not sure how much you might want to spend on some of these items, you can check the prices out a wide variety of wedding supplies on Amazon:

Quick link to wedding supplies on

There are limitations to these calculators, however.  For example, they do not include the cost of the rehearsal dinner, wedding gift bags for out of town guests, the bridesmaid luncheon, clothes for the parents of the bride and groom, the honeymoon, travel expenses, lodging for relatives, and many other expenses that you may incur.  If your budget needs to include some of these items, too, you may need to cut back the amount that you enter into the wedding budget calculator, so you don’t risk going over your limit.  In fact, I recommend that you start out by putting about 20% of the total you plan to spend aside, and not include that amount in your initial calculations.  In the case of a $50,000 wedding, this means you will spend $40,000 on the ceremony and reception essentials, and have $10,000 left over to spend on your honeymoon and any other extras that you desire.

Here is an example of how much you should plan to spend on different items if your budget for the wedding and ceremony is around $40,000, with 4 attendants each for the bride and groom, and 250 guests.  It is based on setting aside $10,000 from the maximum that you intend to spend as a fund to cover any expenses that are not included in the wedding budget calculator.  The following estimates are provided by the budget calculator on; feel free to try it out for yourself and make any necessary changes.  

Reception Venue, including rentals:  $3200

This includes both the rental for a reception hall or hotel ballroom, as well as anything else you will need to rent.  As an alternative, the money could also be spent to rent a tent for the backyard, along with tables, chairs, china, silverware, and portable toilets.

Food and People to Serve the Food:  $12,000

This amount is based on 250 people multiplied by $48 per person.  If you are using a caterer, confirm that the amount you are spending includes any taxes and gratuities.  This is an area that can easily run over the estimate if you are not careful.

Beverages and Bartenders:  $3200

This includes the cost of alcohol, mixers, non-alcoholic beverages and professional bartenders to mix the drinks.  Again, be certain that your contract includes any taxes and gratuities.   Having an open bar can be very expensive, so make sure you stay within the budget for this item.  If you are only serving wine and beer, you may not need bartenders.  This could cut the cost for this item substantially.

Wedding Cake, including any cutting fee:  $1000

The wedding gown, including alterations:  $2400

Headpiece and Veil:  $400

Jewelry and other bridal accessories:  $400

Bride’s hair styling and makeup:  $200

Bride’s pampering, manicure, pedicure:  $200

Groom’s Tux:  $240

Groom’s shoes and other accessories: $120

Wedding Rings:  $800

This is the total amount to be spent for both the bride and groom, combined.  If you check out the Amazon link below, you will discover that you can find many beautiful choices in this price range.

Quick link to affordable  wedding ring sets from

Ceremony Location and Special Accessories:  $640

Donation to Minister:  $400

Bridesmaid and Bridal Bouquets, Boutonnieres, other ceremony floral decorations: $1600

Reception Decorations and Centerpieces:  $1600

Ceremony Musicians:  $400

Reception Music:  $2800

This includes the cost of your reception band or DJ.  If you wish to have a separate group of musicians perform during the cocktail hour, you will need to pay for them out of this budget item, too.

Photographer and photographs, including extra prints:  $2800

Videographer:  $2000

Invitations and Reply Cards, including calligraphy and postage:  $1000

This is based on an estimate of 250 invitations at $4 each.  Personally, I think this may be a little low, especially if you are hiring a professional calligrapher to address the envelopes.

Other Stationery:  $200

This category includes any announcements you send after the wedding, as well as save-the-date cards, menu cards, place cards, thank-you cards and anything else that you may have printed, such as the wedding program.  If you save money in any of the other categories, stationery is an area where you may want to add a little more money.

Hotel Room for the wedding night:  $200

Guest shuttle or parking:  $400

Limo or Car Rentals for the bride and other members of the wedding party:  $600

Gifts for the attendants:  $400

Wedding Favors for the Guests:  $600

This is based on an estimate of spending $2.40 for 250 wedding favors.  You will have to shop frugally, but you can find many items to commemorate your wedding at online wedding shops, such as or  Although you may find some items at local stores, I have found the lowest prices at the online vendors.

Parent Gifts:  $200

One of the best places to find gift items that are thoughtful and will commemorate your big day is at Things Remembered.  They offer a wide selection of champagne flutes, silver plated photo albums, jewelry, picture frames and similar items that can be engraved with a special message or your wedding date.  Things Remembered operates kiosks in shopping malls around the United States, and they also have an online store at

The total cost of this wedding, including the wedding dress, wedding venue, reception venue, food, and alcohol comes to $40,000.  Of course, your personal wedding budget will differ from this.  Perhaps you are going to be wearing your mother’s wedding dress, or a friend has offered to take the official wedding photographs.  In either case, this will give you extra money to spend on other items you may want or need.  In my opinion, as a mother with four married daughters, I felt that some of the amounts listed seem barely adequate to cover the cost.  For example, with the high price of embossed invitations and other stationery, along with postage and paying a calligrapher to address the envelopes, the cost could easily exceed the budgeted amount.  However, remember that I recommended that you hold back $10,000 to help with these kinds of potential cost overruns. This money can also be used to pay for the honeymoon, clothing for the mother of the bride, tuxedo rental or bridesmaid dresses for other family members, and similar expenses that can quickly run up the cost of the wedding.  Even though you have this generous amount of extra money, it is still important to look for places where you can save money when you can.  You may cut back slightly on your guest list, for example.  Or, you may decide not to have a videographer, but limit yourself to an album full of still photos.   

Whatever amount you decide to spend, start with a realistic budget, and stick with it.  You want your wedding day to be memorable, without hurting you or your family financially.

For more wedding ideas, you may also be interested in reading some of the articles listed below:

Budget for a $3,000 Wedding with 50 Guests

Budget for a $25,000 Wedding with 150 Guests

Budget for a $100,000 Wedding with 350 Guests

How to Create Thoughtful Wedding Gift Bags

Las Vegas Wedding Laws and Requirements

Las Vegas Honeymoons

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