Congratulations on your engagement! Now comes the first big test as a couple: Saving for your wedding day. If you’re planning a reception with a fair amount of guests, you should know that the average cost of a wedding for couples in 2023 is around $29,000, according to a report by Zola, a wedding planning platform.
Of course, there are lots of variables, from your wedding date to where your wedding will take place to the number of guests you’ll invite. But just like the dress you pick and the favors you choose, you (and your partner) get to decide what a realistic wedding budget looks like for your finances.
With the right marriage mindset and a smart savings strategy, you can have the wedding of your dreams, even if that means scaling back on certain aspects of your big day (trust us, no one will ever know). We’ll help you figure out how much to save for a wedding and how to work your wedding into your budget, along with some sneaky ways to save (yes, you can have an inexpensive wedding without it looking cheap!).
Here’s everything you need to know about creating your wedding budget.
How Much Should You Save for a Wedding?
To decide how much to save for your wedding, start with the type of reception you want and approximate number of guests. Next, list your must-haves (dress, DJ, photographer, etc.) plus the extra features you’d like to add. Last, call around for estimates for each item on your list, and add it up.
Sample Wedding Budget Breakdown
Here’s a sample budget for a wedding, based on a survey of over 150 destination weddings. You can copy-paste this spreadsheet to a Google sheet, input your total wedding budget at the bottom, and let the formulas do the rest. You can change the percentages and budget items to reflect your actual wedding.
Band or DJ
Hair & Makeup
Set Your Wedding Budget by Your Finances
Everyone has an idea of what their dream wedding looks like, but if it too closely resembles a royal or celebrity wedding lineup, you may have to scale back a bit. While you want to create a wonderful day that you’ll always cherish, you probably don’t want to still be paying it off on your 20th anniversary.
1. Set Your Priorities
The first order of business is to work together to figure out your wedding priorities. For example, would you rather have more guests for a lower per-person price, or a more intimate affair that’s more upscale? Are you willing to give up an amazing honeymoon in favor of high-end designer attire?
Pro Tip: If your partner isn’t sure why you should budget, steer them to our article: Why Is Budgeting Important to Your Family? 7 Reasons
2. Get Price Quotes
Once you have a general sense of what you want your wedding to look like, get some price quotes and estimates. Ask wedding planners, friends and family who were recently married to help, or create a Facebook poll. And whatever the initial amount, round up.
3. Divide by Months
Now that you have a total wedding budget in mind, divide by the number of months until your wedding. If you’re 24 months out with a $40,000 wedding budget, you’d have to save over $1,600 per month.
How does that number make you feel? Be honest — do you think you’ll be able to consistently save that amount (or close to it)? Are you starting from $0, or will you have some help?
4. Adjust Your Total Cost
If the figure you come up with seems way out of reach, you’ll have to discuss ways to reduce the cost of the wedding. Once you have a reachable number, then you’re ready to move on to the next phase: reworking your budget.
Make Room in Your Budget for Wedding Savings
If you don’t already have a working budget, you’ll need to make one ASAP so you can pinpoint ways to meet your contribution goals. At the bare minimum, you should know your monthly expenses (fixed, flexible, and non-monthly), and your total monthly income. (See our article on How to Budget With a Partner for details.)
After you cover your expenses, make debt payments, and handle other obligations, put the rest into a wedding savings account. Open a joint high-yield savings account to earn some interest. Since there are two of you, you’ll want to make an agreement about how much each partner will put in. Will it be an even split? If one of you has a higher income, they might contribute more.
Automate your regular wedding budget contributions so they happen even if you forget. Then put any extra money that comes your way into the account. Some ideas:
Agree to use windfalls like the proceeds from selling old stuff, tax refunds, work bonuses, and monetary gifts.
One or both of you might decide to do some overtime or start a side gig and put that extra income toward the wedding.
Share resources to reduce individual bills (like sharing one car or moving in together if you’re currently paying two rents).
Make sacrifices, like finding cheap/free ways to spend time together rather than going on pricey date nights.
If you’ll use a bridal registry, consider asking for monetary gifts to fund your honeymoon.
Not sure what budget categories you’ll need? See our guide: The 23 Budget Categories You Need in Your Budget
Keep Wedding Costs Under Control
You won’t likely come in under budget, but how great would it be if you did? That would free up extra money just as you start your life together. The fact is, you can have an amazing wedding without spending a fortune on a massive wedding budget if you combine some savings tactics. Here are some ideas to consider:
DIY Favors and Table Decorations
Look for lightly used wedding favor supplies online, or shop flea markets and craft store sales. If you collect items a little at a time and get together with a few of your crafty friends, you can put together beautiful and unique favors and centerpieces for less.
Don’t Spend Tons on Invitations
Ultimately, invites end up in your guests’ recycle bins, so choose something pretty and elegant without stressing over paper weight or hiring a calligrapher to handwrite your envelopes.
Give yourself a dress/tux wedding budget and stick to it. Once you’re all blinged out, done up, and glowing with happiness, no one will know (or care) what you spent. You don’t have to pick the most expensive gown, tux, dress shoes, or tiara to look your best.
Use In-Season Flowers
Yes, flowers can be egregiously expensive if the florist has to special order them. Go for something simple and sophisticated, or bold and colorful if that’s more your speed.
Keep the Guest List Manageable
The reception is easily the priciest part of your wedding budget. Do you really need to invite your mom’s co-workers or third cousins if you haven’t seen them in 10 years?
Explore a Non-Traditional Reception.
Choosing a Sunday brunch wedding instead of a Saturday night, or getting married on a holiday weekend could bring your cost down. You can even consider skipping the most expensive catering halls and hosting your wedding at a state park or community center.
If Using Credit, Use it Wisely
Ideally, you should try to avoid wedding debt if you can. Starting your marriage with a huge debt burden can be challenging. However, if you decide to use credit cards to bridge the gap as needed, do it strategically to make it work in your favor.
Use a Rewards Card
Paying bills with credit and then paying that bill in full each month can help you accrue points and miles that may eventually offset the cost of honeymoon travel. For example, if you open an airline or hotel credit card with a big sign-up bonus, you might earn enough for a free flight or to cover a couple nights at a resort.
Buy Yourself Some Time
If you aren’t sure you’ll be able to pay in full each month, then instead of rewards, look into a card that has a 0% APR offer of 18 months or longer. This will let you carry a balance without interest for a good length of time, giving you some breathing room to pay it off.
Have a Plan to Pay Off Wedding Debt
If you do build up debt, make sure paying it off is one of the top priorities of your couples’ budget. One way to tackle a big chunk is to agree to use monetary wedding gifts to pay down your debt.
Wondering whether you should save for the future before you pay down debt? See our article: Should I Pay Off Debt Or Put Money In Savings?
Strive for Wedding Budget Success
Saving for your wedding as a team is great practice for joining your finances and sharing financial goals once you’re married. Tools like the Monarch Money app can help you get used to managing your budget as a couple, and track your wedding-saving progress.