Wedding budget

How to work out (& stick to) your wedding budget: 30 top tips

Ready to talk money? We explain how to come up with a wedding budget breakdown that's right for you, with tips to keep your spending on track.

Planning your wedding budget should be your very first step after getting engaged. Well, after telling your friends and loved ones, making your social media announcements and enjoying some Champagne, of course!

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Not everyone likes talking money, but the only way to avoid overspending is to come up with a budget plan for your wedding as early as possible. You’ll also avoid wasting time looking at wedding elements that turn out to be out of your price range – designer wedding dresses, for example, or having an unlimited free bar.

While putting together your dream celebration is often a lot of fun, there are several stressful things about wedding planning – don’t let money be one of them.

Our wedding budget tips will help you get your financial plans right. We’ll explain how to come up with the right wedding budget breakdown for you, and how to stay on track with your spending right up to the big day.

How to set a wedding budget

Once you and your partner have followed our tips for building your wedding budget, you’ll be able to start the fun part: planning the wedding!

1. Work out how much you have to spend

You should know the total amount you have to work with from the very beginning. Of course, this means you need to know where it will come from:

  • Do you have savings you’re willing to use?
  • Can you each put aside a portion of your salary each month?
  • Can you make savings on your everyday spend – for example, cancelling unused gym memberships, switching energy suppliers, cutting down on social spending?
  • Will either set of parents make a contribution?

The average UK wedding costs £31,974 (that’s including the honeymoon), but you don’t have to spend that to have a magical day. Conversely, you can always spend more if you want to, finances allowing.

Couple looking at a latop together in a garden
Image | Getty

2. Decide whether you’re going to have a wedding planner

If you are, now’s the time to do some research and book initial appointments. Depending on your budget, having a planner can sometimes save you money, as they’ll know the best value suppliers and will be able to negotiate on your behalf – this is particularly important if you’re looking into weddings abroad. Tell your potential wedding planner what your budget is and find out what’s possible for your total amount.

READ MORE: Questions to ask your wedding planner

3. Set out your wedding categories

Write down every element that’s going to be relevant to you and cost you money. These are the main wedding expenses:

  • Venue
  • Food & drink
  • Transport
  • Outfits
  • Bridesmaid/usher outfits
  • Photography
  • Entertainment
  • Ceremony
  • Stationery
  • Flowers & décor
  • Cake
  • Accommodation

4. Put together your wedding budget breakdown

Once you have your categories, the simplest method is to allocate a percentage of this total to each one. To give you an idea, here’s the average wedding budget breakdown in the UK for the usual big-ticket items:

  • Venue: 17%
  • Food & drink: 17%
  • Bride’s outfit: 6%
  • Photography: 4%
  • Entertainment/music: 3%

This is just a guideline. Work out what’s important to you as a couple and then dial different wedding areas up or down accordingly. For example, if music is a big part of your lives, you may prefer to bump entertainment up to 10% of your budget and reduce the dress and photography percentages accordingly.

READ MORE: Wedding photography prices decoded

5. Set out all the details

Make sure you’re clear on exactly what each wedding category covers. “Bride’s outfit”, for example, isn’t just about the dress – you’ll need to factor in any other elements you might want, such as shoes, lingerie, jewellery, hair accessories, hair and make-up, veil and so on. When you’re thinking about stationery, remember that this must also include postage. It really does help to be as detailed as possible from the beginning.

Wedding bouquet, shoes and perfume on a chair
Image | Anton Mislawsky at Unsplash

6. Don’t overlook hidden wedding costs

Speaking of details, it helps if you familiarise yourself with the hidden wedding costs that often throw couples off track when it comes to the wedding budget. We’re talking tips for vendors, supplier meals on the day, overtime fees – it’s worth being prepared.

7. Choose your area

You don’t have to narrow it down too much, but it’s worth choosing a couple of counties, and deciding whether you want country, city or seaside.

READ MORE: 100 best UK wedding venues

8. Choose your season

Prices for weddings generally go up in peak season – that’s spring to summer. If you’re keen to have sunny weather at your weather, you may end up paying more.

Couple in wedding outfits in a field
Image | Ria Mishaal

9. Discuss your guest list

Again, you don’t need a definitive list, but it’s worth deciding roughly on the size of your wedding to help build your budget. While some costs, such as venue hire, are fixed, others, like food and drink, will be on a per-head basis. This means you may need to consider scaling back your guest list in order to include the elements that are important to you. Similarly, decide how many people you want in your respective wedding parties – and whether you can afford to pay for their outfits.

READ MORE: Who pays for the bridesmaid dresses?

10. Decide what you don’t need

All you actually need to get legally married is a celebrant and two witnesses; you don’t even have to have rings! This means that everything else counts as a lovely extra. Building your budget is a great opportunity to think about what you actually want on your big day.

Don’t feel pressured to have certain elements just because people tell you they’re ‘traditional’.  You don’t have to have a cake, or flowers, or music – or anything else. As a rule of thumb, just consider which elements are going to delight your guests – after all, you’re hosting them, so now’s not really the time to skimp on food – and which are important to you as a couple.

11. Do some price research

Start calling in quotes from venues and suppliers in your chosen area, to make sure the amount you have allocated to each category is realistic. Wedding prices vary hugely based on a whole range of factors, such as season, region, availability and suppliers’ experience. Always ask exactly what’s included in the price, and check VAT isn’t extra.

READ MORE: What to ask your wedding venue

12. Build in a contingency to your wedding budget

Let’s face it, things don’t always go to plan. Make sure you have a pot of money to cover the unexpected – say 10-15% of your budget, to be on the safe side.

Green plant in clear glass cup of coins
Image | Micheile Henderson at Unsplash

13. Factor in post-wedding spending

Your budget should also cover the post-wedding costs, such as having your dress cleaned and thank-you cards.

14. Ask friends and family

While you may not want to share the exact amount you’re planning on spending, it’s always worth asking your recently married friends and family for wedding budget tips. After all, if they got married in the same area as you, they may be able to give you supplier recommendations – and in some cases, you’ll get a discount if you’re referred, like with stationers Papier.

15. Agree your must-haves

Decide as a couple which wedding elements you won’t compromise on. If you can identify your ring-fenced areas that are key to your vision, such as having a celebrant for an outdoor ceremony or a live band at the evening party, that’ll make it easier to work out where to cut budget if you have to further down the line.

Newlyweds Kissing
Image | Izabelle Acheson at Unsplash

How to stick to your wedding budget

The last thing you want after setting your budget is to find that your wedding costs are spiralling out of control. Here’s how to keep your spending in check in the run-up to the big day.

1.  Plan with your partner

Make sure you are both involved in the planning process right from the start and run decisions past each other. If you’re each spending money on the wedding independently, it’s a sure-fire way to lose track of your budget.

READ MORE: 11 arguments you will have during wedding planning

2. Set up a wedding budget spreadsheet

Tracking your spending is key to sticking to your wedding budget – trust, us, the little things quickly add up, and it’s all-too-easy to find yourselves off track. Set up a spreadsheet you can both easily access at home, at work and on the go, like Google Sheets or the Hitched Wedding Budget Planner tool.

We have heard of couples who take a pay-as-you-go approach to wedding spending, but we really wouldn’t recommend this unless you have a truly excellent head for figures.

3. Include ‘estimated’ and ‘actual’ column

Make sure that you include your estimate versus the actual cost, so you can tell at a glance if you’re starting to go over your initial financial plan.

4. Know your payment schedules

The most expensive wedding costs – venue, caterer, photographer etc – won’t expect the entire fee up front. Make sure you have noted on your spreadsheet or wedding budget planner exactly when payments are due, so you have enough to cover each one.

Image | Estee Janssens at Unsplash
Image | Estee Janssens at Unsplash

5. Set up a wedding bank account

If your wedding budget is in one account, it’s easier to keep track of exactly what funds you have. Maximise your money with a savings account with the highest rate of interest you can get that doesn’t come with penalties for withdrawing funds.

6. Don’t give in to pressure

Be realistic and don’t be tempted to overspend just because “you only do it once” or through pressure from parents or friends. People tend to have strong opinions about weddings, but how much you’ve chosen to spend is nobody’s business but yours.

READ MORE: Here’s what we say to wedding haters

7. Keep an eye on your wedding budget

Check your wedding budget spreadsheet or planner regularly. If you spot that you’re spending too much or not saving enough, sit down with your partner and come up with a new strategy. The earlier you catch a problem, the more chance you have to rectify it.

8. Control your guest list

If you’re paying £75 a head, then an extra four people means an extra £300 out of your pocket. Avoid the temptation to say yes to requests for extra guests from friends and relatives.

Young couple and guests toasting with champagne during wedding reception in domestic garden
Image | Getty

9. Limit your social media time

According to the UK Wedding Survey, 42% of couples fell under pressure to have an Insta- or Pinterest-worthy wedding, and in order to get the look, 30% will spend more than their original budget. While we love a good scroll through our feeds, try to step back regularly. And once you’ve made a decision on something, whether dress or venue, stop looking at related items on your socials.

READ MORE: How to beat the dreaded dress wobbles

10. Find your most important suppliers first

Give yourself plenty of time to make a decision on the most expensive suppliers, such as venue, caterer and photographer. If you end up changing your mind after signing the contract, chances are you’ll lose your deposit – and you may still be liable for future payments, too.

11. Prepare to be flexible

It’s inevitable that at least a couple of wedding elements will end up being more expensive than you’d hope. If that happens, you need to decide whether to use your contingency money to cover the shortfall or whether to cut back in other areas. If you do end up having to cut something from your plans, just remember that you’re marrying the person you love and who loves you – that’s the most important thing you’ll take from the day.

Shot of a happy newlywed young couple getting showered with confetti outdoors on their wedding day
Image | Getty

12. Make, hire or borrow

If you’ve started going over budget, another option is to enlist the help of creative friends to see if there are any wedding areas where you can save money with some DIY. Design your own wedding stationery, cake, or even bridesmaids’ dresses if you or some willing pals have the skills. Yes, it’s extra work, but plan ahead, leave enough time and you’ll save £££s. You might even find you enjoy it!

READ MORE: How to make a greenery table garland

13. Be clear about what’s important

Don’t let “nice-to-have” thinking lure you into adding extras. Are table favours crucial to your wedding day style? Do you need to arrive at the ceremony in a classic car? Wherever possible, don’t fall into the “nice-to-have” trap.

14. Pay off your credit card balance

Some couples use credit cards for large wedding purchases, whether for greater financial protection or for rewards such as air miles. Just make sure you pay off the balance, so you don’t get hit with interest charges.

15. Don’t be drawn by bargains

You may think bagging a wedding bargain is good for your budget. However, we all have that never-worn sales item at the back of our wardrobes. Yes, as we clicked “buy now”, a little voice was saying we were unlikely to wear a hot pink PVC jumpsuit, but at 70% off, it was such a bargain. Only it wasn’t, because three years on, the price tag is still firmly attached.

There’s a similar syndrome with weddings. Certainly, there are deals to be had, particularly in post-Christmas sales and on BlackFriday. But don’t be seduced purely by a discount – it’s not a bargain if you won’t use it.

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