Let’s talk money. Let’s talk Wedding Budget.

 

Money, money, money. ABBA was wrong – it’s often not funny at all. Especially in the context of weddings when you may feel like you’re haemorrhaging it left right and centre. There’s a special, stupid aura of secrecy about money when you’re planning your wedding where you don’t feel comfortable discussing it with friends and family for fear of looking brash. But you also are pretty new to the whole wedding planning thang, so don’t know if what you’re paying for is right or good, or even how much things cost! 

And this is before even taking into consideration that ill-advised myth that suppliers whack on a couple of noughts as soon as they hear the word ‘wedding’ – which from my experience of the wedding industry isn’t true. In fact, it was a blog post on that exact subject that made me think of Valentina, the wedding planner extraordinaire behind The Stars Inside. She is the perfect person to talk you through a wedding budget breakdown. Take it away, Valentina!  

wood cut number eleven on wedding breakfast table taken by Parrot & Pineapple Wedding Photography

How can couples start with budgeting? 

Wedding budgets are an inherently difficult and emotional subject for most couples, and the first piece of advice I always give is to exercise complete honesty with one another whenever you’re approaching this topic. Money is the thing arguments are made of, and the healthiest way to prevent that is open communication!

The only things you truly need to get married are a registrar, a licensed premises, each other, and two witnesses. But try to remind yourselves that you are allowed to have fun choosing to spend money on celebrating each other, your love, and your friends and family. Ultimately YOU set the line of comfort.

You may be at a stage of life where you need to be strict about your wedding budget, that’s fine and completely natural – don’t let it be a source of stress, guilt, or shame. Be clear with one another about your maximum spend, and then keep an open mind about the details. Your wedding will be awesome whatever budget you set.

If you feel more flexible about your budget at the moment, that’s also fine – but do keep a finger on the pulse of your why, and of the things that really matter to you. Booking things for the sake of them, because you think you should, or because someone else said you should (or had it at their weddings) is not doing justice to what those elements are worth to YOU. 

Another tip I would give is to be really clear about any money your family may be thinking of giving you – are these coming with strings attached? Contributions are a kind and welcome gift, but they may come back to haunt you if those family members feel that they are “buying” decision power. Whatever you do, keep track of everything as you go, and stay organised – you’ll likely be thankful for those subfolders later.

How should couples divide up their wedding budget?

  1. Start with a spreadsheet, notebook, or app where you can list all the elements of your wedding individually.
  2. Next to those categories, you can prepare columns for the estimate, the actual cost, the difference, and the outstanding balance as you go.
  3. Grab a highlighter and mark the ones that you feel matter the most to you – so for example, you might love music, food, or flowers – and also mark those that don’t instinctively resonate with you as much.
  4. Write down some words about how you want the wedding to feel, and which parts of the day are most important to you. What do you want guests to remember about their experience? This can help you later when you find yourself agonising over a decision that actually isn’t as key as it might seem in that moment, or to realise that maybe you’re including something only because you feel you should.

 

To make a wedding budget template, start with apportioning percentages of your wedding budget to help guide you – you can find some of these online  I would say take everything with a grain of salt and keep numbers flexible while you’re in the stage of researching the suppliers you align with. There are no hard and fast rules, as everything will depend on what you are looking for, but it can be helpful to start creating allocations.

Some general guidelines I would start from, to then reshuffle around as you see fit, would be:

  • Around 5% on flowers
  • Around 10% on photography
  • Around 10% on outfits and grooming
  • Around 5-7% on decor and lighting
  • Around 3-7% on stationery
  • Around 40-50% on venue, food, and alcohol combined
  • Around 10% on entertainment
  • Around 5% on cake or dessert stations
  • Around 12% on miscellaneous elements like transport, officiants, gifts, and a small buffer to keep for those little unexpected things.

Catering and venues vary WILDLY for example, so this will be a major deciding factor for most couples. For example, a three-course meal averages around £45 per head (just food, so not including drinks, staffing, set up, crockery, and so on) – but of course a grazing feast of pizza and cold meats requires an altogether different budget allocation to a synchronised-waiter-delivered five-course meal (and by the way, both are awesome, it’s up to you!).

How much does a wedding cost?

Echoing the previous question, I would say that a wedding should cost what you are happy to spend on it. You can invest a few thousand pounds on a warehouse, beautiful barn or field. Or tens of thousands on exclusive hire of a listed manor. You could provide bedrooms and an open bar all weekend, or you could ask your guests to purchase their own drinks and pay for their own accommodation. You could choose Saturday 5th of August in Capri, or Tuesday 10th of February at your local town hall. My point is – you should do what is right for you, and what is a realistic use of your budget, whatever you choose it to be.

If you’re finding that your budget and your wedding plans are misaligned, don’t be disheartened – you’ve never done this before, and you didn’t know what things cost until now! You’ve likely never organised something this complex, for this many people, this far in advance, and with this many emotional pitfalls hidden within it. Don’t be afraid to discuss the reality of how far your money will go and either adjust the budget or the expectations accordingly. If you do have a strict maximum, stick to it, unless you truly believe in the value and the worth of what you are stretching your budget for. How is it enhancing your guest experience? Is it part of those things you highlighted back on day one? Your wedding day is a once-in-a-lifetime, wonderful experience, of course – but it’s the marriage that comes afterwards that needs your forward-thinking protection.

Why are weddings so expensive?

The difficult truth here is that you are enhancing your planning and wedding day experience by employing professional services, which means you need to be ready to pay a fair and reasonable price for them. The preconception that using the word “wedding” leads to unjustified, arbitrary, and malicious premiums is a very toxic one, and a very destructive one for all of us small businesses that go above and beyond for each and every one of our couples.

A part of your wedding budget will be actual physical “things” of course, but this is smaller than you think – the rest is time, labour, expenses, and specialist skills. You are paying for these businesses to keep running, not just to show up with the 150 roses you asked for – not just the cost of butter and cream, or the camera the photographer is holding. The consumer encounters of your wedding day are simply not applicable to the scale of working a wedding. You are paying for peace of mind, for trust, and for creativity – as well as for growth and stability of the business whose work and professionalism you will be relying on when you get married.

You are also paying for the knowledge and expertise that your supplier has acquired about weddings and their logistical challenges, which will be invaluable to you, though you may not realise it. In fact, it’s entirely credit to the incredible job that wedding suppliers do – they work tirelessly to make the execution look and feel effortless, to the point that you may wonder what you’re paying for.

relaxed fun wedding photographer

Of course, be sensible, follow your instincts, and shop around – like in any industry, it’s inevitable that there will be some suppliers out there that may be overcharging. But the key takeaway here is that weddings are not cheap, and there are good reasons for that.  

Woman in pink dress smiling off camera. Valentina Ring London Wedding Planner

The Stars Inside is a full service wedding design and creative consultancy studio owned and run by Valentina, specialising in bespoke events across the UK and Europe.
 
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If you’re researching prices,  then you should check out my packages page. I share all my pricing information so you know in advance how much things cost. I’ve also written a blog post all about how much wedding photography costs, click here to read it. 

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