The Ultimate Wedding Budget Checklist

wedding planning workbook

Planning Your Wedding Budget

Planning your wedding budget is one of the first tasks you must complete as an engaged couple. Your wedding budget acts as a guiding point during planning. Neglecting a budget can lead to some costly regrets down the line. It’s such an overwhelming task to try and build a wedding budget when you’ve never planned a wedding before. Your wedding will likely be the biggest party you’ve ever hosted — and the priciest.

So, to avoid (what will feel like)  handing wads of cash over to wedding vendors for the next 12 months – we’re trying to make this as easy as possible and we feel if you follow these simple steps to building your wedding budget – you’ll be keeping money in your pocket!

The average cost of a wedding in the US is just over $25,000. Twenty-five-thousand dollars.

That’s a seriously expensive day—and we know you want every dime to count. But with a long list of must-haves-for-the-perfect-wedding, and so many companies offering those services, it can get frustrating figuring out how to spend your budget—and who to hire.

After helping thousands of couples navigate their spreadsheets, here’s our best advice: As you’re planning your wedding, keep your eye on the cha-ching, but don’t let price drive all your decisions.

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Ultimate Wedding Budget Workbook

  • Budget Manager
  • Planning Timeline 
  • Vendor Contacts
  • Guest List
  • Gifts Received
wedding planning workbook

Getting Your Wedding Budget Started

1. Determine who is paying.

While the bride’s parents traditionally pay for the wedding costs, this is less common now. Most couples contribute to their wedding and both families assist if able. Have an honest conversation with both families to see what they are willing to contribute so that you’ll have a starting point to build from. Discuss what level of decision making they think their “gift” buys them.

2. Prioritize your budget.

Once you know how much money you are working with, it’s time to start dividing the pot. Think about what services, vendors and items you must have, or would like to have, and how much you need to allocate for each. Determine what services and categories are most important to you, and allocate a larger percentage of the budget to those. Less important details can be given a lower portion of the budget. This is a great time to prioritize your wish list.

For example, if wedding photography is more important to you than flowers make sure a larger percentage of your budget goes to photography rather than florals on your special day.

3. Review your budget often.

Regularly review your wedding budget with your fiance so that you are both on the same page. Make adjustments as necessary as you go. If you noticed you spent over budget in one category, you can determine another category to spend less in. Routinely checking your wedding budget can help reduce stress caused by debt after the wedding. This is a great practice to get into as you start building budgets for your household too.

14 Ways to Save on Your Wedding

Throughout the planning process, always be looking for ways to save. Some are obvious, while others are ways to save that couples don’t always consider. Consider these when building a wedding budget.

  1. Get strict with the guest list. It’s not always easy but fewer dinner entrees mean keeping more money in your pocket. Whether it’s a smaller bridal party or not having that table full of 4th cousins — getting strict with the guest list will help keep costs down.
  2. Trim your bridal party. Each person standing up in your bridal party is a dear friend – and an expense. While you may not be paying for their attire, you will purchase their flowers, attendant gift, transportation and more. Consider limiting your bridal party to siblings and closest friends.
  3. One and done venue. There are multiple benefits of combining your ceremony and reception location.  In addition to the convenience, you can reduce the cost of multiple venues, transportation and decor. Again, simplifying equals savings.
  4. Personalize the venue.  Load the wedding reception up with photos from your engagement session, mementos from your relationship and wedding pictures of your parents and members of bridal party! It’s personalized reception decor that tells your story and saves money!
  5. Get double duty decorations. Here’s a simple ways to save money on wedding; re-purpose the flowers from your ceremony for your wedding reception. Altar arrangements are perfect to flank the head table. Bridesmaids bouquets double as centerpieces for the bridal table when placed in a simple glass vase.
  6. Bundle services.  It can be a huge saving to bundle multiple services with a single company.  Simplify where you can! Select centerpieces, flowers and ceremony decorations with one florist.  Invitations, wedding programs, and personalized stationery with one printer. Get your wedding DJ, photography and videography team at one place (hint, hint)! A win for everyone.
  7. ‘In season’ means ‘in budget.’ Choosing flowers that are in season can result in major savings. Instead of telling your florist what bouquet you want, ask for recommendations using less costly blooms for your time of year. If you want something out of season, ask to use them as accent flowers rather than the primary.
  8. Downsize centerpieces. Selecting smaller centerpieces allows your guests to converse easily and pass food items around the table – 14 to 20 inches high is ideal. A smaller arrangement will allow you to save on your floral budget, or add more of an expensive bloom due to the smaller scale.
  9. Limit cocktail time. If your timeline allows you to shorten the cocktail hour without negatively affecting your guests, you may be able to negotiate a lower price due to the decreased volume. You can also limit the cocktail offerings to a signature drink, requiring fewer liquors.
  10. Kids at receptions. If you choose to invite children to your wedding reception, consider asking for budget friendly children’s dinner options such as chicken fingers or sliders. For more tips on kids at your reception, click here.
  11. Skip guest favors. Small tokens of appreciation for attending your wedding can add up to big budget busters. Consider making a charitable donation in their honor or a simple favor, such as chocolates.
  12. Make it twinkle. Candles create a sense of romance. Whether you use exquisite candelabras for an elegant feeling or simple hurricanes for a rustic reception, candles can be a beautiful and inexpensive way to make a statement.
  13. Skip the Saturday wedding. Ever consider having a weekday wedding?
  14. Simplify Your Wedding Cake.  Order a small one or two-tiered cake. Supplement cake with a larger sheet cake (hidden back in the kitchen). Use fresh flowers, not sugar ones. Skip exotic fillings like guava and mango.

Your budget will love our Team Approach Package.

Photography + DJ + Videography + over $1,500 in extras = $6,197

Save Time

Imagine booking your photographer, videographer, and DJ with one phone call.

Save Headaches

When you bundle services with Mike Staff Productions, our team coordinates with one another, so you don’t have to.

Save Money

With The Perfect Package, you’ll enjoy substantial discounts and bonuses. Can you imagine coming in under budget?

9 Commonly Overlooked Wedding Expenses

Don’t forget these overlooked wedding expenses when planning your wedding budget

#1. Postage

For your wedding you will likely mail…

  • Save the Dates
  • Shower invitations
  • Wedding invitations
  • Response cards
  • Thank you cards
  • Wedding Shower

Many of those mailings may cost more than a normal letter due to weight and size.  To reduce the cost of postage, consider using e-vites (email invitations) for…

  • Rehearsal dinners
  • Bachelorette parties

To save on stamps for your wedding correspondence, print as much information as possible on your invitation; ceremony and reception on the same paper.  Consider using postcards for responses which will lower the weight of the initial mailing and save on the return, getting you the most out of your wedding budget.

#2. Cake-service fee

Some reception venues will allow you to bring a cake from your bakery, but then charge you a fee for cutting and serving the cake.  If they offer a cake as part of the package, they may be willing to waive the fee.  Ask and negotiate this before signing the contract. READ MORE: Top Cake Cutting Songs

#3. Gratuities

As with most service based industries, it is customary to tip professionals on your wedding day.  Before handing out gratuities, verify that they have not been added to your contract in advance- a quick glance at the contract or invoice can help ensure accuracy.

#4. Coat Check and Valet

Some sites offer coat check and valet service for a fee; often the bride and groom cover this expense for their guests.  If you are paying for this service, inquire if the attendants will be accepting gratuities from your guests.  If so, it is not necessary for you to tip an additional amount.

#5. Desserts

If you are serving your wedding cake after dinner, it is not necessary to add an additional dessert.  Save your budget by reducing this menu item or ask for a credit towards a late night snack.

#6. Alterations

Unless you find the perfect fit off the rack, you will likely need alterations to your wedding gown.  This is an easily overlooked wedding expense and can add up quick! To reduce the number needed, ask your gown consultant to measure you according to manufacturers specifications rather than ordering your usual size.  Find out before placing a deposit what the alteration schedule and fee is so you are prepared.  If the fees are higher than expected, you may be able to find another seamstress, but check contract language in advance.

bride-holding-her-dress wedding budget

#7. Prime Wedding Dates

Many wedding venues and vendors offer discounts for off-season, Friday and Sunday weddings.  If they don’t offer a straight discount, you may be able to negotiate extra perks; such as more time, dessert offerings or premium packages. It could be a great option for everyone involved.

#8. Personalized Extras

Personalized napkins, koozies, and other items used to be common wedding supplies. Budget savvy brides have realized they can ditch paying for these extra items and no one is the wiser.

#9. Guest Favors

Expensive chocolates are sweet, but not as sweet as the savings. It is becoming common to see fewer guest favors; many couples choosing to make a charitable donation and announce it in a picture frame instead.  The charity receives support and you save time and money on a quickly forgotten favor.  If you still want a guest favor, consider possibly going the DIY route to stretch your wedding budget further.

At Mike Staff Productions, we’ve built our whole business around reclaiming the fun in your wedding planning. Ready to start?


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