This is the second part of my series on wedding planning. As you may have guessed I am going to be talking a bit about your wedding budget. It is my opinion that you can have a beautiful wedding without having to spend an arm and a leg on it! In this post I am going to be diving into my philosophy of budgeting for your wedding and how you can apply it to your own wedding.

If you want, here is a link to my first post in this series about picking your wedding date and your wedding planning attitude!

Thinking about wedding budgets differently.

Does tackling the budget for your wedding give you about as much excitement as a root canal would? It was definitely something that I avoided like the plague. I knew that we needed to try and save as much money as possible because we didn’t want to end up in the $20,000 and higher range that most weddings cost these days. It wasn’t until we decided what we really wanted for our wedding that we were able to tack on a price tag.

Maybe you have already been saving for your wedding, you know how much money you have to spend but you’re having trouble allocating it to the specific venues that need to be paid. Is it smarter to pay for the expensive food, or would it be better to have the photographer of your dreams? Are you are finding yourself having to pick and choose where you are going to spend your money. I hope that by the end of this post you will be able to confidently spend your money knowing that you are making the best decision for you and your big day!

The List Method

If you take a look at my wedding planning notebook there are a ton of lists. They aren’t very organized, and definitely lack the cute pink look of your typical wedding binder, but they helped me collect my thoughts as I was doing research and planning. I am not saying that you need to make lists in order to accomplish the same goal that I did, but it really helped me to make sure that I wasn’t leaving out something important.

List 1: What do I want at my wedding?

Do you really want doves? Write it down. Do you want an eight layer wedding cake? Write that down too.

When you begin wedding planning it’s important to list the various aspects that you want your wedding to include. Even if you know that they might be way out of your price range. Nothing is impossible!

This list could include cultural ceremonies, a DJ, a Caterer, a Photographer, as well as anything else that you can think of. In order to begin making a budget for your wedding it’s important to know what you want the day to entail.



List 2: Do your research!

Next you are going to want to look at each aspect of your wedding and see how much they will cost.

It’s okay to do a little bit of comparison here as well. If you know exactly where you want your food catered from, but you aren’t sure whether you want a buffet or a seated meal, take a look at the price for both. This is important because it will help you see how much your wedding will realistically cost.  It will also help you make difficult choices about what you need to do differently or cut out entirely.

During this step you will also want to note if you get any special deals for choosing a certain vendor. For example sometimes a hotel will include a free room for the bride and groom if you have your reception there. Keep your eyes out for deals like these!

One last tip for this part of the list making process: Keep in mind that certain aspects of your wedding may have many pieces. For example if you are having your wedding outside you may need to rent tables and chairs. However, if you are having your wedding at a reception hall they will likely have tables and chairs that are included when you rent the hall. You’ll want to keep this in mind so you don’t get surprised by them later on down the line.

List 3: The Grand Total

The next thing that you need to do is total up the cost of everything from List 1. This is your ball park number for the cost of your wedding. DON’T HAVE A HEART ATTACK! It’s probably way more than you were expecting, I understand. Especially if you are paying for your wedding yourself, you are probably wanting to party for a little (or a lot) less.  If money isn’t an object for you, then maybe you don’t need a budget….

List 4: Prioritising

Now enough lamenting! We need to get back down to business! This the part where I tell you how I saved money on my wedding!

First, I decided what things I really cared about. And Second, I looked for people that I knew who could help me out in those areas.  Originally there were a ton of things that I really wanted at my wedding.I wanted it in the fall, I wanted it to be outside, then I wanted it on a boat, I wanted to have really nice decorations, and an amazing dinner. I was getting so stressed out. My big question: How was I going to have an awesome wedding that my family would talk about for years after and get it at a reasonable price?

This is my list looked like when I settled on my priorities:

  • Beautiful Wedding Ceremony
  • Awesome Dance Party
  • Great Photos
  • Yummo Food

I knew that first and foremost we wanted to have our wedding ceremony in a church, we wanted a ceremony that would be representative of how important this sacrament was to us. Secondly, I knew that I wanted people to have a good time, to me a good DJ would be key for that. Thirdly, I wanted to have really pretty photos. Lastly, I wanted yummy food.

Basically I really wanted all of the really expensive stuff. 🙂

Settling on these four items as your top priority doesn’t mean that you don’t care about decorations, or flowers, or seating charts. It just means that you are giving yourself permission to not worry as much about those items.

List 5: Identify ways to save.

The next thing that I did was look for ways to save on my big ticket items. We saved money on the church because we got married in small town Vermont. However, we wanted to have a priest from California say our wedding mass, as you can guess, flights are not cheap.  We saved money on all of our airfare by booking early, taking advantage of nearby airports as well as by using frequent flyer miles.

For our dance party I asked our good family friend who is a DJ to bring the music, we still payed him, but it was a far cry from the typical $2000 that a DJ would normally cost.

When I was asking our good friend, who is a wedding photographer, tips on finding a photographer that would fit our budget he graciously offered to take our wedding photos! To compensate him we flew him to Vermont, provided him with a rental car, and a place to stay, plus a bit for his services. You can check him out if you live in the Chicago area, his business is called Ink Rings Photography.

I will tackle in detail how we saved money on our catering in another post. But for now I’ll just say this: We had the protein dishes catered and made our own simple sides, to go along with the meal.


We  also researched D.I.Y tips for weddings, and looked in craft stores for ways that we could do things ourselves for less money. I made some notes on what I liked and what I disliked and eventually identified some projects that I was willing to tackle.



Just some thoughts on the perfect wedding:

I don’t know that the perfect wedding exists. There will always be something that you don’t quite like, or that you want to change. By focusing on the items that are most important you are able to let go of the smaller things and make compromises when it comes to staying on budget.

I really wanted my wedding to be perfect. Not because I wanted things to be a certain way, but because I wanted to impress people. This was something that I really struggled with throughout the planning process. I thought having a perfect wedding would make me more loveable/impressive to my family, old and new.

When I started budgeting and looking at how much money I could realistically spend on certain things I got really stressed out. I thought that having unlimited spending money would make things better. But there will always be something more that you want, a certain shoe, a certain table cloth. It is really hard part of your brain to turn off! We all want to be accepted, cheered on, recognised, and have the most impressive/fun wedding of anyone that we know. However, until you realize that it is enough to just have you, your fiance and a priest, there will always be something more that you wish you could have.

At the end of the day it’s not about how great the party was, or how much alcohol was flowing. Your wedding doesn’t last a lifetime, your marriage does. When you plan your wedding it is so important that you focus your energy not only on planning your wedding day, but on preparing for the rest of your life with your spouse.

How did you plan your budget for your wedding? Did you have to get creative to save money too?