Wedding Budget Advice

Today, we're tackling budgets. Do you know "Mo Money Mo Problems" is one of my favorite songs? I digress...

While this isn't the most glamorous part of wedding planning, it's certainly one of the most important. I received this email from a friend recently:

"I'm trying to come up with a budget... I looked quickly at some venues but those prices vary A LOT from place to place. I know there's food / drink costs involved. The dress. The photographer. Arghh! That's when i started to panic because I really have no idea where to start..."

Here are some of my top tips.



1) Prioritize and be flexible: When you begin the budgeting process, all couples (no matter how big or small your budget) should sit down together and place the following list into three categories: "Very Important," "Negotiable," and "Not Important At All." By laying this out on the table, you can agree ahead of time that you won't mind spending more on important items if it means cutting back on others.


  • Venue
  • Food
  • Drinks
  • Photographer
  • Videographer
  • Live music
  • DJ
  • Other guest entertainment
  • Wedding gown
  • Bride’s accessories
  • Hair and makeup
  • Groom’s attire
  • Groom’s accessories
  • Bridal party flowers (bouquet, boutonnieres)
  • Flowers / centerpieces
  • Ceremony decorations
  • Reception decorations
  • Lighting (lanterns, candles, monograms)
  • Cake / Dessert
  • Stationery (invitations, table signs, programs)
  • Transportation
  • Favors


2) Venue Shopping: Your venue is going to be one of the biggest contributing factors to the look and feel of your wedding. Coincidentally, it is going to be one of your biggest costs. Start shopping and doing price comparisons early. Consider location, amenities and complimentary benefits. If you are set on getting married at a winery but have a limited budget, consider Livermore instead of Napa. If you want a ballroom wedding, look for hotels that include a honeymoon suite in the wedding package.

The Palace Hotel, San Francisco


3) Keep an Eye on the Guest List: Keep in mind that some costs are fixed (your photographer and dress will cost the same no matter how many people you invite) and others are charged "per guest" like food and beverage (F&B). When it comes to "per guest" costs, a growing guest list can really put you over budget.

For example, say I have $10,000 to spend on F&B. I invite 100 guests and sign a contract for a catering package at $100 per person. If my guest list grows by only 10 people, I'm already $1,000 over budget!

While it can be difficult, it's important to be strict with your guest list!

Courtesy of Martha Stewart
4) Budget for "hidden" costs: Many couples forget to include sales tax, delivery charges, and service charges in their budget estimates, which can be automatically added to your bill. With 8.5% sales tax in San Francisco and 20% service charge, that's almost 30% more than the original price tag!

We hope you find this helpful, honeys! Feel free to ask questions in the comments section.

Happy planning!
- H x