8 New Rules for Planning your Wedding Budget


Brooke Shultz Photography via Wedding Chicks

There are a few classic rules for wedding budgeting: set a total budget, cut the guest list to cut costs, and prioritize your vendors to avoid overspending on unnecessary items. As wedding planning becomes more complex, planning your wedding budget becomes equally complex.  Here are eight new items for your consideration as you check the bottom line on your own big day.

Research before you run the numbers

We all know the best way to stay on budget is to set a budget, but do you know how much the services you want will cost? I’d recommend chatting up a handful of brides or conducting a quick online search to check out what specific services cost in your area. Plenty of couples throw their budgets out of orbit on day one by budgeting what they think services would cost (or should cost) versus budgeting to account for the going rates of the wedding industry.


The Pig Pen

Set an itemized, two column budget – budget versus expenditures

It’s easy for a budget to balloon via a series of surcharges, added services, and last minute must-haves. Whether you jot it down on a piece of scratch paper or save it to a multi-page Excel spreadsheet, this side-by-side comparison kills two birds with one serious stone. First, this can serve as a major resource when you decide to book your A-team. Second, when you do go over-budget in one area, this handy dandy breakdown can help you look at areas where you may be able to neutralize the added expenses.

Ensure that each vendor contract includes a line-item explanation of charges

Adding cosmetology services, one more entrée option, hand-calligraphed wedding programs, and those adorable sparklers all have the potential to add beauty, convenience, or interest to your wedding day. They will also inevitably add to your bottom line. If you haven’t budgeted for it already, be careful what you add to your wish list. Ensure that your contract includes a line-item list of items/services provided along with cost and vendor policies. In some cases, such as floral design, your line-item contract should include a brief description. Your contract should breakdown cost per item and quantity, as well as clearly define surcharges (including delivery and strike fees, transportation/shipping/consultation fees, and taxes). If you’re adding services to a previously set contract, ask to see an updated contract before committing to an unknown expense.


Photo Credit: Rebecca Hansen (now First Mate Photography) via The Ethical Bride

Budget your time wisely – your wallet will thank you!

Whether you have a six month or a six year engagement, make sure you have an idea of when you’d like to book vendors. Waiting until a month out to book vendors means you’ll have significantly fewer options and may potentially need to accept a vendor with a higher cost of services due to availability constraints. Alternatively, booking now for a wedding occurring the following calendar year can be a huge budget-saver. Most vendors increase their rates at the beginning of each calendar year. Planning a January wedding, this worked out quite well for us. We received 2013 and 2014 rates for a 2015 wedding, which has already saved us a few hundred dollars.



Try a recently transplanted vendor

Most couples resign themselves to the idea that there is a positive correlation between the cost of services and quality of services. If you know that you want professional services on a budget, consider finding a professional who is new to your area. Many vendors will offer limited-time deals when they are looking to get established in a new city. We landed our amazing photographers about a year after they moved south. Not only did we end up with an affordable contract, but we landed an amazingly talented, sweet natured couple to shoot our big day. (Hello, High Five for Love Photography, we’re looking at you!)


Chrissy and Eddie of High Five for Love, as captured by Lindsey Johnson Photography

Make a personal connection

Admittedly, this is not explicitly a rule for budgeting… nevertheless, hear me out. It’s worth your while to spend your time developing rapport with one specific team member. When it comes time to stop discussing vendor perks and start discussing the bottom line, you may end up happily surprised by the outcome. When it came time to discuss the total cost, the manager of our event venue was extraordinarily supportive. She assisted me in finding ways to cut costs without cutting corners… and even offered a special discount for booking an off-season event.

DIY with caution

Do-it-yourself projects can be a beautiful labor of love which contribute to your wedding story in a way that nothing else can. Alternatively, DIY projects can become an ugly time and money pit. Should you feel the desire to DIY, do only what time, budget, and ability allow. Budget time and monetary input, add a bit extra of each to your estimate, and compare the pros and cons of DIY versus vendor-provided services. Alternatively, you could consider ways to DIY portions of a project without tackling the entire project on your own. (For a more extensive read on the issue, check out this thoughtful guide on recommendations for what (and what not) to DIY.)


Kari Herer Photography as featured on Style Me Pretty

Quotes, quotes, quotes.

Yes, that’s right. Three quotes minimum, no matter what. This will assist you in comparing notes on where potential favorites differ. (You did get a line item quote, right?) And if you do find that ALL your favorites go over budget, this will help you evaluate where it is time to compromise – your budget or your expenditures.

Every wedding budget contains a little bit of creativity and a little bit of compromise, some more than others. These are the ways that my fiance and I have kept our own budget afloat and under control. Readers, what’s your number one budgeting rule? Share your money savvy secrets in the comments below!

laurenmillerbioLauren Miller is a northern born, southern bred girl planning a January wedding. She lives in Memphis with her fiancé, Mitch, and their two dogs, Bosco and Cassidy. She loves dogs, traveling, and fresh food. Check back for regular updates on her adventures in wedding planning, detailed how-to guides, and design inspiration! You can also follow her on Pinterest.