Getting married? Congratulations! Once the initial excitement/shock of the proposal has worn off, you’ll likely be diving right into planning the big day with your soon-to-be spouse. Creating a wedding budget is the first, and arguably most important, part of the planning tasks on your list. Your budget will dictate so many things that follow, including your overall vision for the ceremony and reception. Setting a budget may seem like a simple feat, but there are lots of things to consider if you want to set a realistic budget that you can actually stick to.

Determine How Much You Can Spend

There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to determining your wedding budget, but if you’re unsure of where to start, learning more about the average budget may help give you a starting point. The Knot’s 2021 Real Wedding Study found that the average cost for a wedding is $36,695 Canadian. This cost encompasses everything from the venue down to the stationery, and while it is a calculated average, it’s by no means a perfect solution for everyone.

How much you can spend is an individual choice and should be based on your personal situation, your finances and your needs/wants for the big day. Being honest and up front about your wedding day expectations from the start will help you determine what you want versus what you can actually afford. Some couples may choose to cut back in certain areas that aren’t as important to them, whereas others will increase spend on those same items depending on their expectations and priorities.

  • Savings: Taking time to save up for your wedding is critical if you don’t want to go into debt buying items and making payments for vendors as you get closer to your big day. You’ll need deposits to book most (if not all) vendors, like a DJ, photographer, venue, cake decorator, florist, etc. Booking in advance is crucial if you want to secure your vendors of choice, so creating a savings plan with your future spouse will help ensure you have the cash available as you find and book vendors. Keep in mind you shouldn’t drain your savings accounts to pay for your wedding, so if you can, ensure you both leave 3 months’ worth of living expenses untouched in case of an emergency. If you want to maintain consistency with budgeting and set yourself weekly or monthly savings goals, consider setting up a separate account for your wedding and having direct deposits added automatically at your desired interval.
  • Money From Parents Or Loved Ones: It’s not wise to assume that your parents or loved ones will automatically contribute to your wedding fund. If you want to get a clear picture of how much money you’ll have to budget for your big day, make the time to speak with loved ones and either ask them about contributions directly or inquire about how they’d like to be involved in your day.

Determine Your Must-Haves and Nice-To-Haves

As you’re making your budget and listing off all the items you’ll need to account for, make note of which ones are must-haves and which ones are more nice-to-haves. Prioritizing your spending will help you create a more realistic budget that includes things that matter most to you. This way you can shift your spending into important categories and be aware of which items will have to get cut if they aren’t able to fit within your budget constraints further down the road.

For example, creating and mailing out invitations is a must-have line item. Paying extra to have someone provide custom calligraphy for those invites is a nice-to-have. Understanding the difference between what you need and what you’d like to have will help you better prioritize your spending and avoid getting sucked into allotting too much money toward line items you don’t absolutely need.

Track Spending

Setting a budget is great, but only if you’re able to easily and efficiently keep track of your spending. Everyone absorbs and views information differently, so choose an option that works best for your personal preferences; digital vs printed, cloud-based vs desktop-based, visual vs written. No matter which method you choose to document your spending, make sure you schedule regular touchpoints with your future spouse to ensure you’re both on the same page and aren’t double booking or overspending on certain line items.

Prepare For Unplanned Expenses

As with any life event, you can always expect the unexpected. It’s important to be as detailed as possible with your budget so you don’t accidentally leave out any expenses you hadn’t considered. (Does the venue cover table linens, or do you need to pay to rent those from another vendor? If your wedding is in a remote location, will you factor in shuttles for guests? Will you have the funds to go on a honeymoon right after the wedding?)

Make sure you read the fine print and ask all the necessary questions so you have a clear picture of what each vendor requires (and is providing) before you sign on the dotted line. Small spends like putting together custom boxes to ask your best friends to be in your wedding party may seem small at the time, but they can add up fast, especially if you plan to have a big bridal party! Do your research to make sure you’re covered for unplanned surprises or unexpected budget line items, and try to set aside some extra cash for anything you might have forgotten to plan for.

Be Realistic

Setting realistic expectations about your wedding day in advance will help you stick to your budget and more effectively trim the fat around things that just aren’t that important to you. If you’re being as realistic as possible and you’re still concerned about your budget, there are a few ways you can cut back if you’re needing to make adjustments but aren’t sure where to start:

  • Compare venue costs for different times of the year to see if choosing an off-peak date will save you extra cash.
  • The smaller your guest list is, the lower your meal cost will be, the less you’ll spend on an open bar and the more options you may have available from a venue perspective. Making minor adjustments to your guest list can result in a savings of thousands of dollars.
  • Consider waiting longer to get married so you can secure the vendors you want, avoid any rush booking fees and have more leverage when negotiating with vendors.
  • Opting for a DJ over a live band will typically save you a good amount of cash as live performers tend to cost much more. Some DJs may also be able to provide discounts if you work with one of their preferred venues.
  • Create, print and put together your paper items yourself to save money. Giving these tasks to outside vendors or enlisting the help of a wedding planner can cost you a lot more. Keeping these tasks internal can help you maintain control over the look of your items and help you add more of a personal flair to them.
  • Try to book the same vendors for overlapping services. For example, if the baker designing your cake also has the ability to create edible wedding favours, booking them for multiple jobs may help you secure lower costs or special deals.
  • Avoid unnecessary upgrades as many couples may think they need to pay more because the basic package their venue offers is missing certain items. It can wind up costing thousands of dollars to upgrade the venue’s chairs or linens, and it’s highly unlikely that line item will impact the guests’ (and the couples’) overall experience.

Planning a wedding doesn’t have to be stressful! Start off with a realistic budget and make sure you stay organized to track your spending as you go. This way, you can focus more on the fun stuff and really enjoy the process instead of worrying about your finances at every turn. Be smart with your budget and you’ll reap the rewards of a wonderful wedding day that’s exactly how you dreamed, with no need to stress about debt or finances once you’ve said your “I do’s” and the party is over.