Wedding Budget

Wedding Budget 101: Little Essentials that Count for a Lot

You expect to hear “Congratulations!” when you announce your engagement. You do not expect to hear, “So, exactly how much are you guys planning to spend on your wedding?” However, if you have a really good friend who’s not afraid of the tough questions, those may be the best words you hear! Most couples could use a little bit of a wake-up call when it comes to budgeting for a wedding because the big things—a dress, reception, and a honeymoon—are easy to remember. But there are lots of little things to take into consideration, too. So we’ve drawn up a primer to help you start drawing up a budget to cover those little essentials you might not think of that will take little budget nips here and there. Then they won’t come as a surprise.

Who Exactly is Footing the Bill?

Depending on your ages and income, you and your fiancé may decide to pay for your entire wedding yourselves, or you might want to ask for some help. Very often parents or family members will volunteer to pick up a portion of the cost, and one of the best things to let them help pay for is the reception. After all, they’ll probably want to have a hand in drawing up the guest list, and most parents understand it’s not really fair for you to have to pay for those extra dinners for their personal friends or business acquaintances.

Another way parents may decide to help is by opting to pick up specific things—flowers, the wedding favors, maybe even contributing to your honeymoon fund. But whether you’ll have financial help with your wedding or not, make a list of all the things you think you’ll need and then rank them in order of importance.

The hands down most important thing when it comes to budgeting for your wedding is for you and your fiancé to do it together. Talking about money isn’t necessarily fun, but you’ll be talking about it for the rest of your lives, so why not start now, right?

Here’s a get-started list of wedding related things that absolutely must be accounted for to help you start on that budget outline. Then you can brainstorm clever ways to make all these things happen without going broke.


We know how easy it is to get in touch with people with just a phone call or a Facebook message, but when it comes to inviting your girlfriends to be bridesmaids at your wedding, you absolutely must be more personal. At the very least, ask each lady in person, maybe over coffee or lunch or something else you both enjoy. Inviting them in person is the key.

But if you want to go a bit further, make each friend a cute little DIY gift. It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy, but it should be personal and reasonably creative.

Bachelorette Party Attire for the Bride

Once you’ve chosen your bridesmaids, usually your maid of honor will arrange the bachelorette party. Some brides purchase a pretty new dress, but sometimes the attendants will chip in for something new, though that’s not the usual. So unless you’re definitely the t-shirt and jeans type,  make sure you  budget in a little money for a new outfit.

Bachelor/Bachelorette Party

It’s not that common anymore for the bachelorette and bachelor parties to be hosted by a close friend and held at home. Most couples now want those parties big and memorable. Some take it to the limit and go to Vegas—and yes, flights and hotel rooms are usually relatively cost-effective in that hot spot, however you still need to plan ahead for just how wild you want those bashes to be.

Beauty Treatments for the Bride

In addition to day-of-wedding makeup services, brides almost always have some type of additional beauty regimen in order to get ready for the big day. You might need to touch up your perm or the color of your hair or pay a little extra for a fancy manicure or pedicure. You might opt for facials, both just prior to the wedding and a few months or weeks before. Especially if you have problem skin, you’ll probably want to do something to improve it, even if it’s just purchasing better skin care products.

We’ll bet you never thought to put astringent and clay mask on your wedding budget list, did you? But you might want or need them, so plan to set aside some pennies from the wedding piggy bank.

Marriage License

Depending both on your state of residence and the type of ceremony you want, wedding licenses can range from $10 for a civil ceremony to as much as $100. Additionally, sometimes fees vary from county to county even in the same state. And unless you elope to Vegas, you’ll have to budget in time as well as money because most states have a mandatory waiting period—commonly 3 days—from the time you buy the license until the time you get married.

If you’re planning a destination wedding, you’ll probably have to go there to get your license and sometimes there are residency requirements as well. Some places take several days before releasing the license so you may be facing double the travel expenses—one trip to get your license and the second trip to get married.

And considering just how much that license cost you, you might want to frame or display it. Here’s a tutorial for a beautiful shadow box you can make yourself:

Paper Goods in Addition to Invitations

Some couples send out save-the-date cards, and if you’re planning a formal dinner, you’ll need some kind of place card for each guest and also table numbers. You can also have a wedding program and menu card. The good news is that all of these things can be lovely as DIY. The bad news is that the materials will still cost you some money so budget ahead.


Weight matters. The heavier your invitation, the more each one will cost to mail. However, this is one factor you can control to an extent.

When you’re choosing invitations, get samples of the complete set—invitation, inner envelope, outer envelope, RSVP card and envelope, vellum or tissue paper, and if there’s a decorative ribbon or charm, include that, too. Do this with a sample group of each design you like. Then take the fully stuffed envelopes to the post office and weigh them. You might decide to purchase a similar style invitation in a lighter weight card stock, perhaps skip the vellum or tissue paper, and send RSVP postcards instead of those requiring envelopes.

And don’t forget: Whether you choose an RSVP card with an envelope or one that’s just a postcard, you’ll need a stamp for each and every one.

Book a Room the Night Before

If you’re dressing and having your makeup done in your hotel room, even if your wedding is local, it is crucial to book it the night before. Why? The vast majority of hotels and motels in the country have a 4 p.m. check-in time, which means you won’t be able to have access to the room until then. And if the hotel runs late cleaning the room, you’re in big trouble!

It’s also good common sense to have a good night’s sleep, and by booking the night before, you’ll also have time to triple check that you have everything you need for the ceremony and reception. Then you’ll have the chance to call someone to stop by your house or apartment and pick up whatever you forgot.

If you have guests coming in from out of town, even if you don’t pay for their accommodations, you still need to reserve the rooms ahead of time, and sometimes the hotel will ask for a deposit which may need to come out of your pocket, at least temporarily.

Meals on the Big Day: Breakfast, Lunch & Snacks

Don’t be tempted to think that catering for the wedding reception is all you need to think of when it comes to food on your wedding day. Especially if you and your bridesmaids or families check into the reception venue the night before, someone has to take care of their meals. Even if you get ready at home, you’ll need to budget a little something for food.

You absolutely must have some kind of snacks and drinks for all the attendants—both the bride’s and the groom’s—because the last thing you want is for anyone to be lightheaded either due to hydration or from not eating anything all day.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. Even at a hotel, you can bring simple homemade treats or order pizza. The most important thing is to have plenty of water so make sure you budget for miniature bottles to have in a tote for all the members of the bridal party to have access to throughout your wedding day.

Tip: Here are directions on how to make a bridal snack pack:

Clothing Alterations

It’s not uncommon to find yourself facing last minute alterations on your gown, so absolutely, be sure to budget for that expense. Putting aside $150-$250 will probably be enough. But also ask your bridal shop if any last minute adjustments are covered. Sometimes if something needs to be altered because the dress came in from the designer with a little something wrong, the shop will cover the cost.

Tip: One of the easiest ways to eliminate last minute alterations to the bodice is to choose a corset gown. Here’s a great tutorial with tips and tricks to tie a corset dress:


Make sure to add an entry in your budget for your bridal lingerie. Of course, you’ll probably remember to buy that lovely nightie, but what about what you’ll wear under your dress?

If you budget in about $200 for a bra, panties, stockings and shapewear, you should be fine unless you want to splurge on some designer pieces.

Transportation for Guests

Especially if you’ll have guests from out of town, it will be thoughtful to arrange for vans or SUVs for your entourage and families.

Note: This is one expense you might ask your parents to help out with, particularly if the majority of guests are relatives or friends they asked you to invite.

No-RSVP Guests & Plus-Ones

The standard in catering is that the venue will allow for 20% more than the headcount you give on your deadline. If you don’t use those meals, you don’t have to pay. But especially if you’re having a plated dinner, you absolutely must allow for extra guests in the form of plus-one’s, kids, or some other extra person.

Make sure to have extra ceremony programs and wedding favors, too.

Welcome Baskets

Some hotels may offer welcome gifts for your out-of-town guests, but even if a basket is provided by the venue, it’s thoughtful for you to provide a surprise gift of your own. Again, it need not be lavish, but something as simple as a split of champagne with a handwritten thank you note will make your guests feel truly welcome.

Gifts: Wedding Party & Parents

Your bridesmaids and groomsmen will have worked hard to make your dream wedding come true so of course, they get a little gift from you. But what about your parents? It’s only right to give each of your parents a small personalized present specifically from you and your new husband.

Vendor Meals

Don’t forget your wedding planner, photographer and videographer—who will be with you and working hard all day day long—when you give your caterer your reception meal headcount. Even if you don’t provide the same meal for them as for your guests, you’ll still need to budget in whatever the venue will provide.

Plan on having bottled water and small snacks to keep on hand for those people, too, and don’t forget your DJ or band needs to eat and drink as well.

Special Decorations

Flowers aren’t the only things that can beautify your wedding. While you might not want a balloon arch or balloon table decorations, a pair of oversized balloons with “Mr. & Mrs.” make for a great photo op. Another popular trend is the L-O-V-E balloons that can be used for photos then set behind a food station or the cake table at your reception.

Gratuities, Tax & Service Charges

Often overlooked, you’ll find extra expenses such as sales tax and service charges in the fine print of every contract. Some couples even have a lawyer review the contracts before signing. It’s also common for the gratuities for your caterer and wait staff to be included, but usually, you’ll want to tip your photo, video and music people separately. It’s easy to budget in a little cash to be given to them some time later in the reception. Don’t forget to include a sincere handwritten thank you note as well.

Overtime Costs

For any major event, a few hundred dollars must be budgeted for and kept on hand—either as cash, check or on a dedicated credit card—to allow for overtime charges. Make sure you ask ahead of time the overtime booking policy and whether you’ll have to pay the extra right then at the reception or if the vendor is willing to bill you.

Post-Wedding To-Do Lits

Unfortunately, your wedding budget doesn’t end with you running through a shower of confetti on your way to your honeymoon. You’ll need to clean and preserve your fabulous gown, mail thank you cards to your vendors and guests, and if your family members want extra copies of the wedding photos, you may opt to purchase those as a gift.

Emergency Expenses

To find out how to create this fund, check out this link:

In any budget plan, couples should make room for emergency expenditures. If you’re having an outdoor wedding, don’t pin your dreams on the weather cooperating. Budget in the cost of tents and anything else you’ll need to protect your guests. You’ll also need to be prepared for last minute purchases during your honeymoon.

Now, with all that in mind, you can have the wedding of your dreams and still have a nickel or two to rub together when you’re done! Just check out our creative and comprehensive idea-packed blog:

Happy wedding planning—and happy budgeting!


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