Budget Guidelines for the Savvy Bride

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Our goal at GetWeddingSavvy.com is to demystify the wedding industry for engaged couples and their families, and there’s no better place to start than on budget and pricing. Understanding where you should expect to spend the bulk of your wedding budget (for example: are my flowers typically more expensive or less expensive than my photographer?) can be just as important as creating an overall baseline budget.

To that end, we’ve put together some budget percentage guidelines to help you along in that process. Of course, each couple is different. Some may want to go all out when it comes to flowers; for others, maybe a live band is the most important.

So while the percentages below are nothing more than guidelines, in my experience these are broadly representative of how much of your overall budget you can expect to be directed at the various pieces of your wedding.

Reception and Caterer: 48 percent  

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Here we’re talking about the facility rental fees, food and beverage costs, and any additional rentals related to your venue (tenting, etc.). Even if you choose a tented wedding in your parents’ backyard, your reception and catering costs will take up the bulk of your budget.

Consultant: 5 to 15 percent And I promise I’m not only saying this because it’s what I do! You’re spending plenty of money and time on your wedding and it’s a process that requires juggling multiple vendors and a litany if logistical details. A consultant saves you time, energy, and money in the long run. For one thing, we’ve seen more vendor contracts than you have and it’s our job to anticipate potential problems before they arise. In the end, a consultant will help preserve your sanity. And there are few things more important than that in the run up to your big day!

One thing to note: for a day-of coordinator, you’re typically looking at 5 percent of overall budget. If you’re employing a full-service consultant, expect between 10 and 15 percent.

Photographer/Videographer: 10 percent

This includes a photographer and videographer for both the wedding ceremony and the reception. When budgeting for both becomes an issue, many couples choose to only have the videographer cover the ceremony itself and have a still photographer at the reception. In the age of smartphones, many couples looking to scale back a bit in this area will have friends document the reception on video for them.

Music: 9 percent

This includes both a soloist for the ceremony itself and/or the cocktail hour. And then a band or DJ for the reception.

Wedding Gown, Accessories and Day-Of Prep: 8 percent

Here we’re talking about your actual gown (plus the alterations), and all the accessories that go along with it: veil, shoes, and day-of hairstyling and make-up.

Flowers: 5 percent This is the general expectation for flowers at both the ceremony and the reception. Though as I noted earlier, some couples place a different expectation on flowers. Keep in mind that depending on what flowers you’re selecting (are they easy to obtain based on the season or not?) this line item can easily rise.

Stationary: 4 percent

This includes save-the-date cards, invitations and postage, seating assignment cards, personal stationary, and a calligrapher.

Transportation: 3 percent

This should cover transport for the bride and groom to the ceremony, guest transportation to the ceremony/reception and then transport home (if needed) for the bride and groom, as well as guests if they’re being shuttled back to a hotel or other central location after the ceremony, for example.

Ceremony: 2 percent

This includes any cost for designing and printing wedding programs, fee/donation for the ceremony site, and a donation/gift for the officiate.

Miscellaneous: 2 percent

In this category, think about other items that are exclusive to your event such as wedding favors or keepsakes like the guest book and cake cutter.

Cake: 1 percent And speaking of cake, this is the general expectation on what you should expect to spend. Though of course this can also vary depending on what suits both your taste and your budget.

Photo by Hamilton Photography.

Raquel Shutt

Raquel Shutt is the owner of Wedding Savvy Inc., a premier full-service wedding planning company located in Annapolis. For more than 10 years, Wedding Savvy has been featured in many regional publications such as The Knot Magazine, The Washingtonian, and The Capital, as well as featured on We TV’s “Platinum Weddings.” Her firm has been recognized as one of the best by Weddingwire.com and Capital Gazette. Recently, Raquel was named one of Annapolis’ Finest 40 under 40 by Cystic Fibrosis as well as “People to Watch” by The Capital in 2009.