The Wedding Expense List: How Much Should You Spend?

Getting married is a huge, life-changing event that can also cost you a ton of money if you don’t have a good plan in place.

Before you start sending out invitations, it’s always a smart idea to create a wedding expense checklist well in advance of your big day.

With the right budget and some planning ahead, you can have a gorgeous wedding without breaking the bank. Read on to learn more about the many expenses involved in weddings, and how much you should spend on each.

Set Your Goals and Expectations

Before you set a date or pick a venue, it’s imperative that you sit down with your better half and agree on what type of wedding you plan to have. For example, you might want to have the wedding at a lush, expensive venue, but your fiance doesn’t mind having it on the beach.

When you both agree to a common goal about the big day, things will go much smoother. Remember to ignore the expectations of your family and friends and keep in mind that this is your day, so it’s your decision.

Sit down and come up with an agreed-upon budget before you do anything else. Write down all of the things you plan to spend money on, so you have a clear vision of what each one will cost.

Of course, you can work out all of the fine details later, but a big-picture plan now will save you headaches later. Don’t forget to include your honeymoon expenses, too! You can always apply for a wedding loan if you don’t have all the cash upfront.

Wedding Expense Number One: The Dress

Your dress is probably the most important thing you’ll spend money on when it comes to your wedding day. Don’t get lured in by the allure of designer and expensive wedding dresses, and remember that you can find gorgeous styles for a lot less if you do some research.

Look online and compare prices between retailers and designers to give you a better idea of how much you plan to spend. Narrow down your choices based on the color and style, so it’s easier to know where to shop.

One great way to save on this important wedding expense is to shop for dresses off-season. Many retailers will mark their prices down to make room for the new, incoming stock.

Another good way to pay less for your dress is to purchase one used. It may sound odd, but there are tons of reliable websites where you can find stunning dresses in excellent condition for a fraction of the price.

Look for bridal shows and trunk shows in your local area. These special sales tend to offer brides great deals on gorgeous dresses and you can look at several all in one place to help you find the perfect one.

One other way to skip the costly dress is to go vintage. Scour antique stores and vintage dress stores to find beautiful, detailed wedding dresses from eras gone by.

Plan to spend $1,000 or less on your dress if possible. If you do some planning, you can likely score a great deal and get a gorgeous gown for less.

The Ring and Suits

Your rings will probably be one of the biggest wedding expenses, so be sure you buy these in advance and set a budget. Shop for rings together and consider a matching set, which can often be a less costly way to get beautiful rings.

If you prefer to buy each other’s rings separately, just do your best to score a great deal. Remember, expensive wedding rings don’t mean that you love each other more than if you were to find some at an affordable price.

Talk to friends and family and ask them if they have any good leads on reputable, affordable jewelers. Again, vintage can be a good way to save while still getting a stunning piece of jewelry you’ll treasure for life.

As for the cost of wedding suits, they’ll be less than your dress if the groom goes with a rental. Book your rental tuxedo or suit in advance and make sure the groom and groomsmen go for a fitting closer to the day to ensure a great fit.

The cost of wedding suits varies depending on where you rent them and whether or not they’re designer. Go with something sophisticated and simple yet elegant to trim out some of the cost.

The Venue

Another massive wedding expense will be the venue that you choose. Whenever possible, try to find a location where the ceremony and reception can take place in the same venue.

Keep in mind that while your venue is extremely important, it’s the memories and the people that matter most. Talk to several venues in your area, and make sure you get customer reviews to help you in your search.

On average, a wedding venue can run anywhere from $3,000 to as high as $10,000 or even more. Some venues offer package deals that include things like flowers and catering. Ask about these services to help you save on those other expenses.

If you know someone with a gorgeous property, consider asking them if they’d host your reception. Look for creative ways to save like having the wedding outside on the beach or booking a simple hotel banquet room for the reception.

Professional Services

After you pick out your wedding dress, choose your rings, and book a venue, there’s still more to add to your wedding expense checklist. If you plan to hire a professional photographer, now is the time to start looking, as slots fill up fast.

Keep in mind that many photographers will charge more to take photos of the reception in addition to the ceremony. Look at several portfolios and ask for references before you make the investment.

A wedding photographer may cost several hundred to several thousands of dollars, depending on the service and their reputation. Before you sign a contract, make sure you’re getting everything you want.

Catering is another hefty wedding expense that often gets overlooked. Are you planning to have a four-course meal, or would you rather do things buffet style?

Some caterers will include the cost of a cake in their price. In other cases, you’ll need to pay for the cake separately from a professional baker, which will add a few hundred dollars to your costs.

On average, wedding caterers will cost several thousand dollars. The more involved your food choices are, the more expensive it will be.

Don’t forget to include entertainment in your wedding costs, too. Are you planning to hire a DJ or would you rather have a live band perform? Your choice for reception entertainment will have an impact on your wedding budget bottom line, too.

The wedding officiant is the person who performs the ceremony as you saw your vows. These professionals tend to cost just a few hundred dollars. If you’re a member of a church, many religious officiants will offer their services for free or a nominal fee.

Flowers and Decor

Florists will cost you a pretty penny, especially if you’re planning to have fresh flowers on each table and in the hand of each bridesmaid. Consider decorating your wedding with faux flowers, and only use real ones for the bouquets to save money.

A florist can be costly, particularly if you want flowers that need to be imported if they’re out of season. Consider buying and preparing the flowers yourself to save some cash.

Doing wedding decor DIY is actually a lot of fun. Go online and browse websites like Pinterest to help you find some affordable, fun ideas that you can do yourself.

String lights and simple candles on the tables are both easy ways to add a romantic glow to your wedding without a ton of cash. You’ll also want to add some other decor like entryway signs and wedding favors for your guests.

Another thing to remember is the cost of your wedding invitations. Thankfully, there are lots of services online that allow you to design the invites yourself and have them shipped, which can save cash, too.

A Day to Remember

Use this wedding expense checklist as a guide and starting point as you sit down and plan your big day. The more research you do ahead of time, the better the odds are that you’ll have a beautiful wedding on a decent budget.

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