Our Ultimate Guide to Budgeting For Your Wedding

Without a doubt, a wedding is probably the single most expensive event that a family or individual is likely to arrange, with the average cost being somewhere in the region of $15-20,000. When planning a wedding, it is all too easy to let your heart rule your head, so you must decide on the type of wedding you want, and then prioritise the items that are important to you.

Setting up a Provisional Budget

To help keep control of these costs, set up a provisional budget using the ‘estimate’ column in our budget form. Our typical costs will give you an idea about the areas that you will be spending money on, and roughly how much they will set you back.

Spend some time researching the services you plan to have and obtain quotes from a number of companies. Our suppliers and costs record form will help you organise your quotes, and make sure that you are comparing like-for-like.

The resulting provisional budget will allow you to see if you really can afford everything you have your heart set on, and may show that you need to prioritise further and amend some of your choices. We’ve taken a look at ways to cut the costs and save money, which may give you some ideas on freeing up your budget for the things you really can’t do without.

Always allow for a 10% contingency sum, as there will often be things that you may have forgotten to add in your provisional budget. This means that if you have a budget of $10,000 to spend, you should reserve approximately $1,000 of this for emergencies.

Final Budget

Once you have completed your provisional budget, you will be able to allocate a fixed sum for each of your items. Now that you have a firm idea of the options you are interested in, obtain definite quotes from suppliers, (using the suppliers and costs record form) and enter the final quotes in the ‘agreed’ column of your budget form, making sure that you stay within your fixed price. Use the costs form to keep track of any suppliers booked and deposits paid.

You will alter and refine your plans continually over the next few months, so be prepared to be flexible while still keeping your objectives clear in your mind. Remember, you’re the one who writes the cheques; if a supplier is not satisfactory in some way, look for another.

Who Pays For What?

The following list is an example of all the things that you are going to have to consider budgeting for, and who, traditionally is responsible for paying for them.

Bride and her family

  • Invitations
  • Press Announcements
  • Wedding dress and veil, shoes
  • Wedding Insurance
  • Hair and make up
  • Cars for bride, bride’s mother, bridesmaids
  • Photographs & Video
  • Reception Venue
  • Catering & Wine
  • Cake
  • Decorations
  • Music and entertainment
  • Gifts for bridesmaids
  • Gift to groom

Groom and his family

  • Groom’s and best man’s clothing
  • Ceremony and legal expenses
  • Ring(s)
  • Bride’s bouquet
  • Bouquets for mothers
  • Bouquets for bridesmaids
  • Buttonholes
  • Car to church for groom and best man
  • Car to reception for bride and groom
  • Car to honeymoon
  • Gift to best man and ushers
  • Gift to bride
  • Honeymoon expenses


  • Bridesmaids’ clothing
  • Ushers’ clothing
  • Best man’s clothing

However, research shows that nowadays, only 30% of couples follow these traditional guidelines; 50% pay for the wedding themselves, whilst the remaining 20% share the cost equally between themselves and both sets of parents.

Deposits and Payments

Once you have made a firm decision to book a certain service, the trader will almost certainly ask you for a deposit. This may be a token flat rate, or a percentage – up to 30% of the final price. Deposits are usually non-refundable, although some traders will return a deposit if the cancellation allows sufficient time for another booking to be taken.

You will also be required to sign a contract, which will act as a receipt for your deposit. Make sure you read the contract carefully, as once you have signed it and the deposit is paid there will be a penalty if you change your mind – usually the loss of your deposit.

Once you have signed, the price you have agreed should be the price you actually pay. Most weddings are planned around nine to twelve months in advance and any price rises should be included in the price you are quoted. Check that this is the case before you make your booking.

You will probably be asked to pay the balance before the wedding day, usually a month before.

Staged Payments

Some traders may ask for staged payments, for example, the caterer may ask for a booking deposit, another payment a month before the wedding and a final payment when final numbers are known. As the payments are spread out over several months, this may make meeting the cost of expensive items a little easier.

Cutting Costs

Set the Date for a Less Traditional Time

Many venues and suppliers will offer you a substantially discounted price for a weekday wedding, and you’ll find that you’ll be able to get much better deals on just about every wedding service if you schedule your wedding in one of the “off season” months. Avoid the very busy summer months, Christmas, New Year and Valentine’s Day.

Control your Guest List

Difficult though it may be, there is no easier way to cut your budget than by reducing the size of the event. Be as brutal as you need to be – you don’t have to invite children, you don’t need to include a “plus guest” invite to those single people not in a relationship, and you certainly don’t need to invite casual acquaintances just because they invited you to their wedding five years ago.

Choose Flowers that are in Season and Available Locally

Do this, and you’ll probably find you save significantly on cost – especially if you make it clear to your florist that you’re working to a tight budget. See if any of your family or friends are willing (and capable!) to do the flower arranging themselves.

Cut Down on the Drinks Bill

Consider making a trip to France a few weeks before your wedding to stock up on wine and beer. The supermarkets there carry the same items as they do in this country at a fraction of the cost; find a few that you like by buying them in advance and trying them before you go so that you are sure of what you are getting.

Don’t feel that you have to serve champagne; a good sparkling wine is better than a cheap champagne. If you would like to offer a cheaper alternative to champagne as your guests arrive, you could offer Pimms or sangria during the summer, or mulled wine at a winter wedding.

Be Creative with your Choice of Wedding Dress

Bridal shops often have sales of gowns, and you may be able to make good savings on end of season lines. Consider visiting one of the major wedding shows that take place in London, Glasgow and Birmingham; many of the bridal wear suppliers here sell off their previous season’s gowns at less than half price.

You may also find the perfect wedding dress for you amongst the bridesmaid dresses, or even the women’s eveningwear section of a department store.

Another good option is to look in the local newspaper and national wedding magazines for second hand dresses. Very often wedding and bridesmaid’s dresses are advertised for sale at remarkable reductions from their original sale price.

Cutting the Cake Costs

The cake might seem like an important consideration; however, most people only see the small piece on their plate at the reception, and the photographs afterwards.

Think about having a single-tier cake iced in the traditional manner, and used for the ‘cutting of the cake’ part of the reception. Behind the scenes, you could also have a traditional home-made cake which is top-iced only, with no fancy decoration. Both cakes can be cut and offered to guests at the end of the reception. This could halve the cost of your cake.

Be Flexible with your Location Choice

If you are prepared to be open to the choice of reception venue, you may be able to save a great deal of money. Local halls or community centres will be a fraction of the price of more lavish venues. You could also consider using a hotel that will not charge, as their fee is within the cost of the food.

Another option is to have the wedding at home, but be careful: this option won’t cut costs if you have to bring in additional toilet facilities, seating, lighting, etc.

Save on Catering

The cheapest way of feeding your guests is to provide a sandwich buffet or canapés for a cocktail party. The most expensive is a three-course, sit-down banquet.

The choice of catering depends upon the time of day that the wedding is to take place. A simple morning brunch will cost you far less than a full 3 course evening dinner. And there will usually be far less alcohol consumed before lunchtime … depending on your guests of course!

Another option would be to serve old favourites such as bangers and mash or fish and chips. You might even consider hiring a fish and chip van to cater for you!

Crop your Photography Bill

One important thing to remember about your wedding photographs is that you will have them for the rest of your life. If you would like a professional photographer, but feel that the cost is too great, employ the best that you can, but use their minimum service – which should cover leaving the bride’s home, the formal photographs before and after the ceremony and up to the cutting of the cake.

Delay the Honeymoon

Another way to spread the cost of your wedding is to honeymoon sometime after the wedding date itself. This will give you time to settle down after all the excitement, get used to married life, and still give you something to look forward to.

Ask for Help from your Friends

Do not be afraid to ask for help with the cost of your wedding by asking for something that you need as a wedding gift. If your cousin has a suitable car, ask if he could drive it for you on the day as his wedding present; if your Aunt is excellent at making cakes, ask her to present you with a wedding cake as a gift.

People will be only too pleased to help, and they will be happy to think that they can give you something that nobody else can, rather than just another toaster or set of glasses!