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How to Budget for a Wedding

February 21, 2024
A woman trying on wedding dresses

Congratulations! You’ve found that special someone. While (officially) starting your life together is an extremely exciting time, figuring out how to budget for a wedding can feel overwhelming — especially if you’re not sure where to start.

Over the years, the average cost of a wedding has gone up significantly. Just how much does a wedding cost? According to The Knot, the average wedding cost — including a ceremony and reception — is now up to $30,000. If that made you raise an eyebrow (or drop your jaw), don’t worry — there are plenty of ways to have a wedding on a budget.


Getting a Feel for Your Wedding Budget

If you and your partner are interested in covering the $30,000 average wedding cost, it’s best to double-check that it makes financial sense for your situation. While you can’t put a price on happy memories together, you’ll want to make sure your wedding budget doesn’t compromise your ability to buy a house, save for retirement or emergencies, pay off debts or accomplish other financial goals.

If you’re not interested in figuring out how to pay for a wedding that’s twenty or thirty thousand dollars, it’s important to perform a wedding budget breakdown to evaluate individual expenses like venue rentals, catering costs and photography packages. This way, you can prioritize the most important things to you and your partner while cutting costs in other areas.

Of course, there are many considerations when putting together a wedding on a budget, so you’ll want to have an in-depth conversation with your partner — and possibly close friends and family members — about your priorities.

Comparing your priorities to your wedding budget breakdown should allow you to strike the right balance, planning for a fulfilling wedding free from financial regret. The breakdown of your wedding budget should include the following considerations:


How Much Does a Wedding Cost?

Venue and Catering

The average cost of a wedding is highly influenced by the venue. On average, wedding venues cost around $11,0001 to rent out, although this number can vary greatly based on season and desirability. Country clubs, fancy hotels and resorts can be quite costly to rent, often exceeding this figure. Even upscale banquet halls, certain historical buildings, and increasingly popular barn wedding venues can cost five figures.

If you’re looking to have a wedding on a budget, you can cut costs by choosing a non-traditional venue. There are plenty of non-traditional options that are surprisingly pleasant and affordable, such as city parks or public gardens, courthouses, conservatories, libraries, museums, school campuses and more. Or, if you wish to go the traditional route, you should be able to find less elaborate or off-peak season venues closer to the $5,000 mark. If you’re planning to have your ceremony at a church, you can always inquire about hosting the reception there, too — which is often quite affordable.

In terms of catering, the national average is about $752 per person. For a wedding with 100 guests, that’s $7,500 in food costs. That being said, prices can vary quite a bit based on the venue, caterers, and menu options. Of course, limiting your guest list can reduce the number of people you’re feeding, relieving some of the catering costs. But, it’s also possible to negotiate prices — usually most effective for weekday and off-peak season wedding dates. You can also get creative with your catering, offering hors d'oeuvres or buffets in lieu of plated meals.

Wedding Attire

If you’re familiar with Say Yes to the Dress, or have friends who’ve gotten married, you may be familiar with how much a wedding dress costs. The average cost of a wedding dress is currently just under $2,0003. However, that’s not to say all dresses are around this price. While designer dresses start at two to four thousand dollars, more affordable bridal shops will offer a selection of wedding dresses for under $500.

It can be tough to find that perfect dress at the perfect price, so dress shopping is often one of the more challenging aspects of having a wedding on a budget. Because of this, a lot of couples will figure out how to pay for a wedding dress that’s a bit beyond their initial budget. However, keep in mind that you’ll likely need a few dress alterations, too, which usually cost between $75 and $150 dollars.

For grooms, clothing costs are significantly cheaper. Tuxedos can be rented for as little as $100, and if you’re into a non-traditional look, men can forgo rentals altogether and wear a suit they already own.

Photography and Videography

If you’re having a nice wedding, hiring a good photographer is a must. But, it’ll cost you. Expect to pay around $2,5002 for a reputable wedding photographer. Most photographers offer several different wedding packages, from shooting only the ceremony to extensive, full-day coverage with video.

A helpful tip: If you’re looking to limit how much your wedding costs, be wary of turning to the cheapest photographer. Instead, find somebody you trust and choose a lower-priced photography package. Your wedding photos will be the ultimate keepsake from your wedding, and you’ll likely have them proudly displayed in your home for years to come. Don’t leave yourself wishing you had better quality mementos.

Entertainment and Music

Think about what type of entertainment you’d like at your wedding. For most people, having music is a must. Music is a great way to set the mood, making that first dance even more special or letting everyone know it’s time to let loose on the dance floor. There are two basic ways to go about wedding music: live bands or DJs.

Live bands are fun, exciting, and bring life to any reception. But, they’re also expensive. The average wedding band costs just under $4,0002. As you’d expect, the more in-demand the band, the higher the price. DJs, on the other hand, cost less than half of that — around $1,000 to $1,5002 on average. Much like live bands, the price of DJs can vary quite a bit based on track record — and even location.

If you’re worried about how to pay for a wedding, it’s probably best to opt for an affordable DJ. However, if you and your partner are huge music lovers, prioritizing a live band might make sense for you.

Decorations and Flowers

It’s standard for flowers to account for 10% of the wedding budget when everything is broken down. That means that in a $30,000 wedding, around $3,0004 are spent on flowers. However, there’s nothing making you adhere to this rule. While decorating your venue with hundreds of fresh flowers is stunning, it will cost several thousands of dollars.

There are several options for saving in the flower department. You can limit the amount of flowers you buy, focus on more affordable in-season flowers, or skip most of the flowers altogether, decorating instead with less costly branches and greens.

Wedding Planners or Coordinators

A great way to reduce the cost of your wedding? Plan it yourself! Hiring an average wedding planner costs almost $2,0002.

If trying to plan and coordinate a wedding yourself sounds unbearable, maybe these costs are worth it. But, if you’re concerned with how to budget for a wedding, this is a great opportunity to save money. Sharing responsibilities with a partner, close friends, or family members can alleviate some of the stress of wedding planning, so if you’re on a budget, this is definitely worth considering.

Wedding Stationery

Save-the-dates cards and wedding invitations may not seem like a major expense, but these costs can add up — especially if there’s a large guest list. The cost of save-the-date cards is around $1505 dollars on average, while the average cost of wedding cards is around $5005. Together, that’s a $650 dollar investment. However, wedding stationery has a huge price range, and depending on how extravagant you want your cards, you could pay just a fraction of these costs.

Save-the-date cards are not completely necessary, although they do serve to build excitement and give your guests ample time to plan ahead. Wedding cards are a little more essential, as having physical invitations helps people to remember (and respond to) your wedding.


Tracking and Managing Your Budget

If that all seems like a lot to keep track of, it is! That’s why it’s so important to keep everything well organized. If you’re familiar with using spreadsheets or budgeting software, consider using one of those programs to document and monitor your wedding budget.

The more you stay organized, the less stress you’ll have to endure during the planning process. This includes keeping track of money as it goes into and out of your account and staying on top of any outstanding balances you may have. This not only gives you peace of mind knowing your finances are in order — but also allows you to make adjustments to your budget and reallocate funds if necessary.

Sometimes, it helps to create a special account for wedding expenses. This helps you keep tabs on your wedding budget, separating it from all your other spending. If this sounds like a good idea to you, explore opening a DCU Savings Account with no monthly fees and little to no account minimums.


How to Budget for a Wedding: An Overview

While the average wedding cost may seem scary to some, breaking down your wedding budget is a great way of scaling back expenses. Once you’re able to weigh your priorities against various wedding costs such as the venue, catering, clothing, photography, music, flowers, invitations and more — you can figure out what you'd like to invest in, and to what degree.

While it’s a great start to learn about how much weddings cost, it’s equally important to start saving for your wedding. Maximize the contributions to your wedding fund by reading The Secret to Saving, or for more financial advice, head to DCU’s Financial Education Center.







Please note, membership is required to open a DCU savings account. Visit our membership eligibility page for more information.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to serve as legal, financial, investment or tax advice or indicate that a specific DCU product or service is right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a financial professional.