Splurge vs. Save: How to Prioritize Your Wedding Budget

Written by Kim Forrest
Photo: Jack Hoyle Photography

Creating a wedding budget is all about prioritizing what’s most important to you and your future spouse—and it’s different for everyone. But if there’s thing to remember in all of this, here it is: If you splurge in one area of your wedding, youu’ll need to save in other places to make up for it—or else you’ll go over budget (and 74 percent of couples do go over budget). Here’s how to do it.

Start with the Basics
Figure out the total sum of money you can spend, and do some research to figure out how much the average couple spends on each aspect of their wedding. You don’t have to follow these guidelines, but at least you’ll have a starting point. You can also enter your total wedding budget into the WeddingWire Budget Tool and it will automatically break it down to show you what you “should” be spending in each category.

What’s Important to You?
When you think about your wedding, what are the details that stand out in your mind? Do you want to have amazing flowers, over-the-top attire, or an incredible band? Is there a particular photographer or videographer you have always dreamed of booking? Sit down with your future spouse, and prioritize the two or three areas where you want to give yourself more wiggle room in terms of budget. And definitely figure out what the absolute most you can spend in these areas will be—if you go too over budget in one area, you may not be able to make up the difference.

Where Can You Save?
Now that you’ve decided where you want to splurge, you’ll have to look at the other end of the spectrum: Which parts of your wedding aren’t as important to you, and you’re willing to cut costs? These can be specific areas of your wedding—like perhaps scaling down your centerpieces or having a smaller wedding cake. In addition, you can think about more general changes to your wedding vision that will help save money. For example, if you’re flexible about when you’re getting married, you can pick a date in the off-season or on a weekday, which may have money-saving benefits. And if you’re willing to cut your guest list, you can cut your wedding budget overall, too.

Think About Your Guests
There’s a reason why your venue and catering will take up about half of your budget. Providing your guests with a comfortable venue and plentiful, tasty food is non-negotiable. Think about the parts of your wedding that affect your guests’ experience. These are not areas where you should be cutting costs.

Communicate with Your Partner (and Contributors!)
These should not be decisions that you make solo. You’ll need to discuss your wedding budget and any splurges with both your future spouse and anyone who is helping to pay for your wedding (turns out that half of couples pay for their wedding themselves, while the other half receive contributions from parents or others). Whoever is contributing money gets a say. So, for example, if your parents really want you to have an incredible string quartet performing at your ceremony and are willing to shell out the cash, let them, even if it isn’t your highest priority. But, on the other hand, if having a Kimye-worthy flower wall is an essential for you but you parents aren’t into it, you may need to pay for it yourself.

Put it in Writing
While having an honest discussion with your VIPs about your wedding budget is great, there’s more to it than just a chat. You’ll want to make sure all of your budget decisions are written down so that you'll be held accountable for every decision you make. A priority list—listing your most important wedding details to your least important, in order—is a great idea. And an online budget tool is a great way to stay organized, and it gives you something to check if you’re not sure how much cash you have left to spend.

Stay Organized
Creating a wedding budget is a nice idea, but it’s meaningless if you aren’t referring back to it frequently. Anytime you spend money on your wedding, it should be recorded. And if you end splurging on something unexpectedly, you’ll be able to figure out how to accommodate for it in other areas. Planning a wedding and staying on budget is a give-and-take, but by prioritizing and staying organized, you can have an amazing wedding and keep your finances intact.