Wedding Budget Checklist

You are engaged! Now that the excitement of being engaged has settled in, it’s time to begin thinking about when you will tie the knot, what kind of ceremony you will have, and the celebration after. Some couples will opt for an extravaganza with a large budget to support the nuptials, while others who are more budget-conscious will strive for a more limited affair.

Wedding costs can add up quickly. We have put together a checklist of items to consider and help you determine which will be part of the big day to help you decide on a budget. There are many ways to manage the expenses, and the couple must also take into account who is contributing and how much they will provide. Starting early to plan your wedding will help to manage the stress and make your special day the best it can be.

What Is a Wedding Budget Checklist?

Having a wedding budget checklist helps everyone involved to decide how much money they will spend in total and on individual items. It does not matter whether you are spending $1000, $10,000, or even $100,000 on your wedding. It is very easy to go over budget. Miscellaneous items can add up quickly, so it is important to start with a list and make decisions on how much to spend in each area and even items that will need to be dropped to match a limited budget.

The major areas for your budget should include the following areas:

  • Ceremony
  • Stationery
  • Bride’s and Grooms Wedding Attire and Going Away Attire
  • Rings
  • Decor and Flowers
  • Photography / Videography
  • Reception
  • Music
  • Wedding Planner
  • Honeymoon
  • Miscellaneous
  • Budget Override

We also provide cost-cutting tips throughout the checklist, and readers can choose to forgo various items that are on the wedding budget checklist to help them control their budget. Many guests provide cash gifts, which can be used to offset the total cost of the wedding. However, wedding organizers should decide upfront who is funding the wedding and who will participate in the cash gifts.

The Ultimate Wedding Budget Checklist

Ceremony – there is a fee for the location where you plan to hold your wedding ceremony and also for the officiant who will conduct the ceremony. If you are holding the wedding at a church, there is a church donation fee. Average spending in this area is 4%, based on industry averages.

Cost-cutting in this area can be arranged by holding the ceremony at your home or a friend’s home for a small wedding and arranging for a friend of the family who is ordained to conduct the ceremony.

Stationery – costs can vary a great deal depending on the level of quality and where you make your purchase. Items to consider include: wedding and rehearsal invitations and reply cards, including return address cards, thank you notes, programs, guest books, escort cards, table placement cards, custom napkins, table numbers, menus, and postage. Average spending in this area is 4%, based on industry averages.

Cost-cutting in this area can be arranged by shopping around to obtain the best quality and pricing. Many online vendors offer better prices than brick-and-mortar stores.

Bride’s and Grooms Wedding Attire and Going Away Attire – brides gown and alterations if needed, undergarments, shoes, veil, accessories, groom’s shoes, and suit. Don’t forget outfits for the engagement party, the bridal shower, the bachelor party, the rehearsal party, and the post-wedding brunch outfit. Cleaning fees for these outfits should also be considered. Average spending in this area is 5 to 10%, based on industry averages.

Cost-cutting in this area can be arranged by signing up for email notifications for deeply discounted dresses and bridal wear.

Rings – can be very expensive for both the bride and the groom. Everyone wants a beautiful ring with large stones; however, stick to your budget to manage how much you spend. There are added fees, such as resizing fees, ring insurance, engraving fees, and wedding ring box, dish, or holder. Average spending in this area is 3%, based on industry averages.

Cost-cutting in this area can be arranged by considering the type of metal and gems in the rings. Platinum and rubies, emeralds, and other precious gems are generally less expensive than diamonds and gold.

Décor and Flowers – are a must-have, especially the bride’s bouquet, flowers for the bridesmaids, flower girl’s basket, corsages and boutonnieres, flowers for the ceremony and the reception, and special lighting to highlight the flower arrangements. Corsages for the mothers, flowers for the ring bearer and flower girl. Average spending in this area is 10%, based on industry averages.

Cost-cutting in this area can be arranged by selecting flowers that are in season and available locally to reduce shipping charges and higher costs for out-of-season flowers.

Photography / Videography – the photographers, wedding book, extra prints, a DVD, extra prints for thankyou messages, and albums for the parents. You may only want photos of the wedding; however, some folks will also have photos and videos of the engagement party, the rehearsal dinner as well as the wedding, and the wedding party/dinner.

Did you want a highlight reel, a feature film, or just the raw footage? Average spending in this area is 10%, based on industry averages.

Cost-cutting in this area can be arranged by using a professional photographer for the wedding and the cake cutting. Ask a friend or friends to take lots of pictures and videos to share after the reception.

Reception – this is an expensive portion of your day covering food, drinks, service for the servers, rental of tables and chairs, specialty décor, rental of the reception site, the cake and cake cutting fee, the cake display table, sheet cake for extra servings, cake cutting utensils, delivery fee for the cake and meals for the vendors. Will there be parking fees, coat check fees, insurance, or security fees?

Don’t forget any special designs. Karaoke equipment if you enjoy this sort of thing, photo booth, dance floor lighting, extra speakers, etc.

Bartenders are extra, as are mixers, glassware, and corkage fees if you bring your alcoholic beverages. You will also need a liquor license, and don’t forget to give the bartender a tip. Everything extra will also carry an additional fee. There are also delivery fees for most items; confirm with your provider. Average spending in this area is 40 to 50%, based on industry averages.

Tasting appointments may be complimentary, rehearsal dinner, service staff, catering, set up and take down services or clean up; taxes and gratuities should also be considered.

Cost-cutting in this area can be arranged by trimming the guest list, offering a cash bar, and controlling the end of the party time.

Music – during the ceremony for musicians or soloists, music during the cocktail hour, the reception, and rentals for mics, speakers, and the dance floor. Average spending in this area is 5 to 10%, based on industry averages.

Cost-cutting in this area can be arranged by asking a friend to act as the DJ or a local band that offers quality entertainment. Be careful; you want everyone to enjoy the party. Poor music can ruin the night’s festivities

Wedding Planner – if you use a wedding planner for your entire wedding planning and arrangements or a wedding coordinator for the day only. Many people benefit from using a wedding planner, especially for large, complex weddings. They can help with the budget planning, timeline creation, and coordination/management of all events. Average spending in this area is 10 to 15%, based on industry averages.

Cost-cutting in this area can be arranged by doing the wedding planning yourself or hiring a wedding coordinator for the day to help you make sure everything occurs as planned.

Honeymoon – plan your honeymoon the same way you would any other trip. Look for package deals with a honeymoon twist. You might travel by car to a destination not far from home or head to a foreign destination for a once-in-a-lifetime trip you will remember for the rest of your life. Average spending in this area is (the sky is the limit) based on industry averages.

Cost-cutting in this area can be arranged by delaying your honeymoon, choosing a location that is more budget-friendly, and considering an all-inclusive location.

Miscellaneous – many people are amazed how the little things can add up so quickly. Everything from bridal party gifts to the flower girl and ring bearer gifts. Snacks, favors, welcome bags, limos to the ceremony, limos to the reception, valet parking, the marriage license (yes, you must pay for that too), having your hair done and makeup, along with manicures and pedicures, waxes, facials, trials for the wedding hair, makeup, spray tans and tips for all of these items, are included along with a hundred other things specific to your wedding plans. Average spending in this area is 10%, based on industry averages.

Cost-cutting in this area can be arranged by asking friends to provide transportation instead of using limos and skipping the manicure and pedicure, which also reduces tips.

Budget Override – there will be items you did not consider, or some things will be more expensive than planned. Always allow for overspending so that you have a cushion to fall back on. Items such as sales tax, service charges, tips for vendors, insurance, overtime fees, and unexpected rentals such as heaters and even additional portable restrooms. Average spending in this area is 5 – 15%, based on industry averages.

Cost-cutting in this area can be arranged by ending the party on time, providing a cash bar, and paying attention to details in every category to manage your overruns.


The following are some of the frequently asked questions many families, brides, and grooms have about budgeting for their upcoming wedding.

What is a reasonable budget for a wedding?

A reasonable budget is what you, your spouse to be and your parents can afford. For some, it might be $1000, while for others, it could be up to $200,000 and more.

What does the bride’s family pay for?

 Who pays for what depends on many different factors. In some cultures, the bride’s family pays for everything, while other more modern arrangements call for the cost to be shared by the parents of both the groom and the bride. Older brides and grooms often pay for the wedding themselves preferring to take on the burden of paying vs. asking their retired parents to shoulder the burden. It is suggested that flexibility and compromise should always be considered.

Who pays for the bride’s dress?

Usually, the bride or the bride’s parents pay for the dress, although many different situations call for flexibility in this regard,

Who pays for the honeymoon at a wedding?

The bride and groom usually pay for the honeymoon; however, many well-off parents sometimes make the honeymoon a wedding gift to the newlyweds.

What is the maid of honor responsible for paying for?

The maid of honor and the bridesmaids are expected to pay for their dresses and accessories, i.e., shoes, earrings, etc.; in some cases, the bride will cover accessories, hair, and makeup, especially if she specifies how she wants the group to look and blend with her.

Key Points

Weddings are joyous affairs with everyone celebrating a lifetime commitment and the beginning of a new family. The cost can be overwhelming for many, along with organizing all of the moving pieces that make up a successful wedding.

Grooms and brides should draw up a budget in conjunction with their parents. Something that all parties can agree to and afford. Once you have a total budget, the amount will drive the arrangements and festivities. Don’t forget to include a cushion for unexpected expenses. Focus on the large items initially; however, the small items can add up quickly.

Discussing budget and spending with the parents can be stressful for many and complex. Take your time and lay out the kind of wedding you would prefer and identify areas where reductions might be considered.

If overruns are needed, discuss the additional costs with the appropriate parties to avoid future conflict and stress.

Above all, plan a wedding you, your family, and your friends will enjoy, have fun and generate great memories!