How to Create a Wedding Budget (That Works for You)!


Happy Friday, friends! If you are up in Michigan like our team, you are probably starting to feel the itch to ditch the sweaters for sun dresses and drive around with your windows down. This is the time of year where I become hyper productive as the days get longer and the weather gets (slightly) warmer. It’s a good time to tackle tasks that I usually dread. Though wedding planning is full of beautifully curated details, it is also full of less glamorous tasks like contracts, endless logistics, and the b-word. No, not that b-word. I’m talking about BUDGETS! The thing we all dread talking about, especially when we know we are going to be spending a lot of moola and feel like we have a lot of people to please. Well, I hope that today I can make this topic a little less stressful for you but giving you a breakdown of some of the major expenses, and about how much of your budget you should expect to spend. This is just a basic guideline of what we like to start with, but remember this is your wedding budget, you can allocate money wherever and however you like! If you and your spouse-to-be are huge foodies, you may add extra to your food and beverage budget, or if you care most about look and feel you may invest more in your florals. Ok, jot down that magic number you hope to spend on your wedding on a pad of paper or in Excel, and you can work as you read! 


  • This breakdown will look a little different if you are planning a destination wedding. For example, you may need to add in significant dollars for travel and accommodations that you wouldn’t have in a local wedding!
  • Depending on your total budget, guest count and number of venues (ceremony, reception) these percentages can shift around a bit.

Ok, here we go!

  1. You will spend the largest chunk of your budget on your caterer. Feeding lots of people is just plain expensive. You should plan to spend approximately 25-30% of your entire wedding budget on your catering service. Within this 25% will include chefs, waitstaff, a banquet captain, and bartenders. This will also include the cost of your tasting. This does NOT include your actual bar! That will be an additional 5% of your budget. Pay close attention to your contract, as gratuity will likely already be included. You should also plan to tip approximately 18% on your final bill. Depending on what your overall budget is, you can choose from a variety of service styles that will vary in their expense generally based on the amount of servers it takes to pull off what you want.
  2. Allocate ~8% of your budget towards your wedding venue(s). This should include any extra insurance you may have to pay as well as gratuity for any extra service staff such as coat room attendants, power room attendants and parking attendants. This portion of your budget is extremely variable as different venues offer a different variety of items included in your rental package. This line item can often steal or give towards your rental budget (which is item #3!) Tips for your venue search can be found here:
  3. Allocate 8% of your budget towards rentals and decor. Rentals include: tents, chairs, tables, custom furniture, linens etc. It’s really anything extra you bring into the venue. Some venues come with chairs and tables, but some are blank slates and you have to bring everything in. Depending on what venue you choose, this percentage could go up or down, even way upwards of 8%. As always, make sure you allocate for tips for your rental delivery staff. $5-$10 a delivery person is sufficient. 
  4. Is all of this overwhelming you and you know you’ll be hiring a wedding planner? Allocate approximately 10% for their service. I know I’m slightly biased, but this will be some of the best money you ever spent when you (and your mom) are cool as a cucumber on your wedding day. At TAS, the price of planning depends on your guest count and number of locations, so it really is tailored to how much time and staff it will take to make your wedding go off without a hitch. (Well, with a hitch and without any issues!)
  5. We believe strongly in the power of florals, so suggest you allocate at the very least 8% of your budget towards floral design. If flowers are really important to your vision, you should consider spending closer to 15% of your budget in this area.
  6. Finding a photographer that you love is a huge part of your wedding day. In addition to them providing the photos you will look back at for the rest of your life, they also spend your entire wedding day with you from beginning to end. That’s a lot of hours! I suggest spending at least 8% of your budget on photography, depending on your total budget. If your budget is on the lower end, this percentage will go up. Usually this also includes your engagement photos, which is a great time to get to know your photographer!
  7. Videography. This one isn’t for everyone, but if you plan on doing a full day of video you should also allocate another 8% towards this service.
  8. Music is another huge part of your wedding day. If you’d like live musicians at your ceremony, a DJ or a live band at your reception that will cost approximately 4% of your total budget depending on your choice. Of course, an 8 piece band is going to be much more costly than a DJ. Allocate more here if a live band is a must-do at your wedding!
  9. Invitations, calligraphy, etc. are also an important part of setting the tone for your special day. Depending on the size of your invitation suite and if you want custom items like calligraphy, this can have a wide range of costs. But, typically it should cost around 2-3% of your total budget.
  10. Everything else. Most of your budget is eaten up at this point, but you don’t want to forget about all of the below items. When creating your budget it’s easy to forget the little things and let them slip through the cracks, and you find your budget exploding a month before your wedding. Don’t worry, that doesn’t have to happen to you! Each of the below items should cost around 1-2% of your wedding budget.
    1. Groom’s Attire (Suit or Tux, shoes, belt, cufflinks, handkerchief…)
    2. Bride’s Attire - The Dress! The Veil! The Shoes! Swoon. This one may cost you more than 1-2% of your budget as it’s easy to get carried away here….
    3. Transportation - Car service to and from your wedding, getaway car, guest shuttles should all be considered here.
    4. Beauty
    5. Gifts - A lot of couples forget to allocate money in their budget for gifts for their immediate families, bridesmaids and groomsmen. It’s much easier to pick out gifts when you have a target $$ in mind!
    6. Officiant - This is a line item that may or may not cost you any money depending on your service, but if you're unsure, it's best to allocate some money here just in case!
    7. Cake
    8. Contingency - Always have a contingency budget! This little pot of money will ease your mind when you absolutely have to go over in one area, and will be a pleasant surprise if you don't have to use it at all! You can also use this area for your tips on your wedding day!

I hope this has been helpful for you in creating your budget! If you have a full service planner, you can kick your feet up and not worry about this as they will help you manage and negotiate budget items to keep your vision alive and your wallet happy. If not, I hope this gives you a good start so that you know what amounts to shoot for and how to prioritize items that will make your special day your own.

Please let us know if you have any questions in the comments! We would love to help!

xo Meg