How to Create a Wedding Budget

Creating a wedding budget is challenging and overwhelming.  Today we’re sharing how to create a wedding budget in a few simple steps. Also, as an added bonus, we’ve created a free downloadable template! Get it at the end!

1. Determine Your Total Budget

It’s no secret that weddings are expensive.  The average cost of a wedding in Chicago is $60,000.  However, you can throw a wedding for as little as $10,000 depending on the details.  Before starting to plan any specifics, it’s important to understand the total amount of funds you have for the wedding.  It’s also important to set aside 5-10% as a contingency fund because you will no doubt go over budget.  For example, if your total budget is $50,000, we recommend setting aside $2,500-$5,000, so your full budget is set to $45,000.  It’s also important to decide if your wedding budget is inclusive of wedding bands (roughly $2,000+) and the honeymoon ($500-$10,000).

2. Rank What’s Important to You & Your Fiancé

I’ve helped couple’s plan their weddings before, and whenever I do, I ask each couple to rank their top three items for the wedding:

  • Food
  • Bar
  • Flowers
  • Music
  • Photography
  • Attire & Jewelry
  • Reception Table Decor
  • Paper Goods & Invitations
  • Favors for guests

Before you start planning, pick your top three items as individuals.  Then, as a couple, select your top items categories.  When it comes to your wedding budget, tell yourself that those are the three items where you’ll splurge.  For anything outside of the top three, you’ll be reasonable on your choices.  Once you start planning the details, you’ll quickly find there’s always an opportunity to upgrade.  If you know your top three (as a couple), you’ll know when it’s OK to upgrade and when you may need to have some self-control.  If you’re needing help here, considering one of wedding consulting services.

3. Divvy Up the Funds

First and foremost, 50% of your budget will go to the venue, food, and drinks.  This rule holds true nearly every time.  Based on a $50,000 budget with photography, flowers and the rehearsal dinner being our most important items, you can see how the budget breaks out below.   Shutterfly has a great wedding budget calculator.  We’ll be releasing one soon – so stay tuned!


Budget % of Total Budgeted Estimate
Contingency $2,500 5%
Apparel $2,500 5%
Flowers $3,000 6%
Entertainment $1,200 2%
Photography $4,800 10%
Stationary $1,500 3%
Misc $1,000 2%
Ceremony $1,500 3%
Rehearsal dinner $5,000 10%
Reception $25,000 50%
Favors & Gifts $2,000 4%
Sum $50,000 100%

4. Track Everything Closely

Keep a budgeting tool and record within it religiously.  We highly recommend excel, which is why we’ll be releasing a budgeting tool later this month.  As you get estimates, be sure to record them and see how your budget is tracking.  Know that if you go over budget, you can self-solve for it elsewhere.  We can also help you to manage your budget through our wedding planning services.  Happy planning!

Meet Jen

I’ve always had a love affair with creation. Since I was a child, I handmade my gifts or combined toys to design something new. Fast forward twenty years, and I’m still making my gifts every holiday and designing new ways to do things.


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