Skip to content

Your Financial Life

The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Budgeting

By Brooke Harycki | Johnson Financial Group

6 minute read time


Learn how to make a wedding budget that saves you money without compromising on your big day. Here’s everything you need to know about wedding expenses and crafting your perfect budget.

A wedding is the start of a new chapter and a special event many people look forward to their entire lives. As a major milestone, it’s no surprise a typical wedding also comes with a significant price tag. In 2024, the average cost of a wedding is $33,000 — about 14% higher than last year.

While planning a wedding is a large financial endeavor, you don’t have to sacrifice your long-term financial goals to have the best day ever. Brooke Harycki, VP, Consumer Banking Regional Manager, shares wedding budget and planning tips for newly engaged couples.

Understanding Your Expenses

What costs do you need to keep in mind for a wedding?

Planning a wedding involves various costs and how much of your budget each item consumes can vary widely depending on your priorities and total budget. Here’s a general breakdown of the typical expenses and the estimated percentage of the budget they usually account for, according to Zola:

  • Wedding venue — This is often the largest expense of the day. Expect to allocate around 24% of your budget to both your ceremony and reception locations. 
  • Catering — Food and drink costs also make up a significant portion of your budget, typically around 18%. This number varies depending on the type of catering, number of guests and whether it includes alcohol. 
  • Entertainment — Hiring a DJ, band and other forms of entertainment generally consumes about 9% of your budget. 
  • Flowers — Flowers are beautiful and an essential part of many weddings, and their cost can widely depend on several factors. However, they typically account for about 8% of the total wedding budget. 
  • Wedding attire — The cost of a wedding dress, suit and other accessories can account for about 7% of the budget. 
  • Photography — Capturing the day with timeless photography is essential for many couples. 7% of your budget should go towards a professional photographer.
  • Wedding planner — If you choose to hire a wedding planner, you should set aside about 6% of your budget for their services. 
  • Rentals — Items like chairs, tables, tents and linens can contribute to about 5% of your total budget. 
  • Videography — Hiring a professional videographer can capture your day in motion. The cost will depend on the experience of the videographer and the package you choose but expect videography to take up 5% of your budget. 
  • Stationary — Printing and sending invitations, save the dates and other day-of paper items contributes to about 3% of your budget. 
  • Hair and makeup — Professional hair and makeup for the bride and bridal party can account for about 2% of the budget. 
  • Cake and/or dessert — The wedding cake is often a focal point of the reception. Depending on the number of guests and the design, cakes can represent about 2% of the overall budget. 
  • Transportation — Arranging transportation for yourselves and potentially guests might take up about 2% of your budget. 
  • Officiant — This is your smallest cost, generally only 1% of the total budget. 

Remember, these percentages are approximate and can vary widely depending on individual preferences and local costs. It’s important to prioritize what’s most important to you and your future spouse and adjust the budget accordingly.

Tip: Always leave a little wiggle room in your budget for miscellaneous costs that can creep up.

Are there any surprise wedding expenses?

There are a couple of surprise expenses that couples often overlook when planning their wedding. Being aware of these can help you budget more effectively and avoid unexpected financial stress. Here are the most often overlooked costs:

  • Marriage licenses and officiant fees — The cost of obtaining a legal marriage license and securing an officiant are often forgotten when planning out your wedding budget. 
  • Postage — Sending out save-the-dates, invitations and thank-you cards can add up, especially if your stationery is bulky or unusually shaped, which requires extra postage. 
  • Vendor meals — You will need to provide meals for your vendors who'll be there with you throughout the day, such as photographers, videographers and the band or DJ. 
  • Wedding favors and gifts — Wedding favors for guests can add up quickly, depending on the number of guests and the type of gift. Additionally, some couples may choose to give the wedding party and key family members a gift as a token of appreciation. 
  • Gratuities — Gratuities for various vendors, including your officiant, musicians, caterers and servers, should also be factored into your budget. 
  • Setup and breakdown charges — Some venues and vendors may charge extra for cleanup and breakdown, which isn't always included in the rental fee. 
  • Pre-wedding festivities — Don’t forget about any pre-wedding festivities and how these may impact your overall budget. 
  • Honeymoon — If you and your future spouse plan to travel on a honeymoon, review how this fits into your finances, too. 

By keeping these potential hidden costs in mind, you can create a more accurate and comprehensive wedding budget.

Crafting Your Perfect Wedding Budget

Before you start planning, it’s crucial to first set your budget. Allocate specific amounts for different aspects of the day, such as the venue, outfits, catering and entertainment. Having a budget in place from the beginning will help you maintain focus and keep your spending in check as you organize the details. However, it’s also important to remain adaptable, as unexpected costs can arise as you get further into the planning process.

1. Prioritize transparency and communication 

Effective communication is the cornerstone of successful wedding planning and marriage prep. It’s essential for both of you to be actively involved in the financial decisions to ensure the budget reflects both of your shared priorities and expectations. To stay on the same page, have regular budget discussions where you can openly discuss financial limits, personal preferences and track your spending.

2. Understand contributions

Be sure to consider any possible financial support from family and loved ones who may wish to contribute to your special day. It’s wise to have these conversations early to understand expectations and to let them know their contribution is valued. By considering these potential contributions and discussing them openly, you can better align your wedding plans with your financial resources, ensuring a celebration that honors your vision and the support of your loved ones.

3. Choose your non-negotiables

Some wedding traditions may be important to you and your future spouse, while some you may choose to forgo. Talk to your future spouse about what’s top-of-list for each of you. With items that are less important, consider shopping for discounts or better deals. For example, if both of you want a live band and find traditional paper invitations less important, consider opting for digital invitations to save on postage and allocate those savings towards your entertainment budget.

4. Determine your guest list

Early in the process, determine an estimated number of guests you plan to invite. This number will greatly impact the rest of your wedding budget and decisions. Key expenses like catering, venue and invitations are directly affected by the size of your guest list.

5. Research, research, research

A wedding requires careful financial planning and impulsive purchases can lead to unnecessary expenses. Make sure to research different vendors so you can make well-informed decisions. Understanding the typical price ranges for essential vendors and must-have items can help minimize the shock factor by painting a realistic picture of what you can expect.

Tip: Attend wedding expos or bridal shows for a one-stop comparison of various vendors. Attending one of these events not only saves time but also gives you a clearer understanding of the market rates and services available.

6. Map out your options

When planning your wedding budget, it’s beneficial to develop both a high- and low-budget scenario for each category of spending. This method allows you to explore various possibilities and understand how different choices can impact your overall expense. For instance, consider the difference in cost if you were to invite 100 attendees versus 200. Or how your budget would change if you opted for a plated meal compared to a buffet. Play around with your options to see what’s best for you and your future spouse.

 7. Select your venue and vendors wisely

Now that you and your future spouse have established a budget, it's time to select vendors that align with your financial plan. Setting a clear budget is essential as it helps you understand how much you can afford to spend on different aspects of your wedding, such as the venue and other essential services. To ensure you choose the best vendors within your budget, consider the following questions, which can help you make cost-effective decisions and potentially save you money:

  • Venue: 
    • Is the location sentimental to you as a couple?
    • What is the travel time for guests to attend? 
    • Do the aesthetics fit the wedding theme and style? 
    •  What’s included in your package? 
    • Is staff responsible for set-up and clean-up? 
    • Will you need to rent tables, chairs and silverware? 
    • Is food included, or will you need to hire an outside caterer? 
  • Other vendors:
    • Do they have samples or portfolios of previous work that you could review?
    • Is the price tag worth it?
    • Do you have friends or family who could provide services at a lesser cost?

This is the first day of building a life together. The decisions you make and how you work through the budgeting process will be an important stepping-stone in your financial planning journey. Starting off on the right foot with open and honest communication can ensure both of you are comfortable with the process and fully understand each other's expectations.


VP, Consumer Banking Regional Manager, Johnson Financial Group

How can I stick to my budget?

Sticking to a wedding budget requires careful planning, discipline and a bit of creativity. To help you manage your finances effectively and prevent overspending, consider implementing these strategies:

  • Invest in a planner — Templates and planning tools can provide recommended guidelines to keep you organized. Many include checklists to help you determine what priorities to focus on during each stage of your timeline.
  • Utilize free online tools and resources If you’re not spreadsheet savvy, download or print a templated budget from one of the many free online wedding planning websites. There’s no need to recreate the wheel.
  • Avoid last-minute changes — Changes made late in the planning process can be costly. Try to finalize decisions early to avoid expensive alterations. ·
  • Make it fun — Write down your goals and check in with your future spouse frequently to see how your day is coming to life. Take breaks and remember — this is a time to enjoy!

By staying organized, making informed decisions and focusing on what truly matters to you and your future spouse, you can enjoy a memorable and beautiful wedding that stays within your budget. 

Beyond the Big Day

Your wedding is just one piece of your financial future together. In fact, it’s just the beginning. As you prepare for the wedding, you should also discuss other short and long-term goals such as buying a home, starting a family and saving for retirement.

Don’t know where to start? Connect with a Johnson Financial Group advisor for more savings and wedding budgeting tips and to discuss options that may fit your personal financial situation, like a personal loan, Certificate of Deposit (CD) or a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC).


Brooke Harycki

Brooke Harycki

VP Consumer Banking Regional Manager | Johnson Financial Group

As Vice President, Consumer Banking Regional Manager, Brooke is responsible for providing exceptional service to clients in Northwest Wisconsin. She encourages her team to develop long-term relationships and develop a true understanding of your needs.