A Wedding Planner Turned Bride’s Journey Part 4: The Wedding Budget

One of the most fun aspects of planning your wedding is coming up with your wedding budget… Said no one EVER.

Your wedding budget is not a fun topic to think about or deal with.

In fact it’s probably most engaged couple’s least favorite topics.

But it’s also super important to creating your wedding and not going into massive debt.

So, we can’t hide from it.

Which means today we’re talking wedding budgets!

Pink piggy bank with bridal veil tips for help your wedding budget by Passport to Joy online wedding planners

And we’re doing it with Stephanie!

In this Part 4 installment of a wedding planner turned bride’s journey, we’re talking about creating your wedding budget.

By the way, make sure you check out all of the tips and info from Stephanie and Kirk’s wedding planning journey from the beginning:

What it’s like getting engaged during a worldwide pandemic (part 1)

Engagement ring shopping online (part 2)

How to start planning your wedding (part 3)

So, let’s pick up the story where we left off …


Groom making an unsure funny face at a wedding in San Francisco by Destination wedding planner, Mango Muse Events creator of Passport to Joy
(Photo credit: Jerry Yoon Photographers)

When approaching a wedding budget, there are so many ways to do it.

My initial approach was to procrastinate…but that’s not something that I recommend.

Try not to let your dread of the budget overwhelm you. 

Because once I finally got started, it only took me an hour to complete!

It was so easy to procrastinate, but in the end, it was even easier just to get it done.

Coming up with numbers can be daunting, but remember that your initial estimates are just a starting point.

And if it helps to think about it this way, working on your starting budget is really a good exercise. It’s how you can figure out which elements of your wedding are important to you and which are less so.

Because in the beginning, everything feels like a must-have.

At least it did for me!

But when you start attaching numbers to things, it’s easier to tell what’s truly a must… and what you can live without.

For example, videography was something that I initially thought was a must have for me. But working on our budget made me realize that it wasn’t.

A good videographer is understandably expensive. And I didn’t want to take away from everything else in our wedding in order to make hiring one possible.

So, instead we’re trying to be creative and considering some DIY alternatives that won’t be nearly as nice but will give us some home video style footage of our day!

But I digress…


When we got engaged, my father and stepmother kindly gifted us with money for our wedding, to spend however we liked. And the rest we are paying for ourselves.

*PRO TIP: It’s important to know who is paying for the wedding and/or where your wedding funds are coming from before you come up with a budget. It can be an uncomfortable conversation to have with your parents. But it’s an important conversation to have so that you know what you’re working with.

So, when it finally came time to roll up our sleeves, Kirk and I started by coming up with a figure that we were comfortable spending on our wedding day.

And while we want a nice wedding, we’re also saving to buy a home for our future family one day. We didn’t want to eat into that future by spending too much on our celebration.

So, we picked a figure that we felt okay with spending.

Now this sounds easy, but initially, the number Kirk picked was lower than mine.

So, we had a chat about all the things that go into a wedding. And while he questioned if we really need to have flowers or invitations, he agreed to keep an open mind.

He jokes about serving Little Caesars at our wedding reception, but if I’m honest, I’m not sure he’s really joking.

*PRO TIP: It’s very common for couples to have different initial budgets in mind. Sometimes vastly different. So, make sure you discuss it, where you’re coming from and come to an agreement before picking or paying for anything.


Bride with money pinned to her veil during the money dance at a Filipino wedding in San Francisco by destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events creator of Passport to Joy online wedding planning program
(Photo credit: VAS Photo)

Once we had an overall number in mind, I then created line items in our wedding budget for things we would definitely need.

Things We’ll Need:

  • Ceremony Venue
  • Restaurant
  • Photographer
  • Hair, Makeup, Nails
  • Flowers & Decor
  • Invites & Stationery
  • Marriage License

I also included a section for things we might want but weren’t sure about yet. 

Things We Might Want:

  • Day of Coordinator
  • Rentals
  • Music
  • Gifts / Favors
  • Hotel / Airbnb

And I added in a section for our rings, clothing, and attire, so we could stay on top of those items as well.

Clothing & Attire:

  • Wedding Rings
  • Kirk’s Attire
  • Stephanie’s Attire

The next step was to allocate amounts to each of the items above.

To do this, I used experience from past weddings I’ve planned, combined with some guesses that were informed by a few Google searches.

And for a couple items that were really important to us, like food and photography, we padded my initial estimates because we were willing to splurge on them.

So, a few tips as you’re working on this portion:

Tip #1 – It helps to rank items in order of priority or importance. That way you know what to spend more or less on.

Tip #2 – If you’re not sure how much things actually cost, you can divvy up your overall budget across categories or items by percentage. Allocate larger percentages towards the things that are the most important to you. (Note: Venue and food & beverage costs will almost always take up the majority of your overall budget, depending on what your guest count is. A good starting point is 50% of your budget, if you’re not sure.)

Tip #3 – Don’t forget to include tips and sales tax, as those can end up being quite significant!


Bride and groom arms around each other walking together in a field at their Sonoma wedding by destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events creator of Passport to Joy, the online wedding planning course for couples
(Photo credit: Arrowood Photography)

So, as I added everything up, I quickly realized that the initial number Kirk and I came up with was probably something we would exceed.

Uh oh…

The number we started with covered mostly everything in the “Things We’ll Need” section of our budget. But it didn’t cover the things we might want or our clothing and attire.

So, while our original budget number was still a goal to aim for, we had to have another chat.

We looked over the budget together and then expanded how much we were willing to spend to a larger range.

We also agreed that there were ways we could cut back to stay closer to our original number. Which is where we’d ideally like to be rather than at the upper end of our range.

*Pro Tip: When you come up with just an overall budget number, it doesn’t allow for much wiggle room. Especially once you dive into actual prices and find that your original number is suddenly looking very small. Creating a budget range gives you the space and flexibility to splurge where needed and save where needed, while not being tied to a specific number.

Because I work in weddings, I’m well aware of how much things can cost. And how quickly they can add up.

Especially nice things!

But I also know that it’s possible to have a wedding with almost no budget.

As planning our wedding progresses, I think we’ll need to be flexible.

Flexible with paying more for a few of the things we really want and flexible with compromising on other things to make sure we don’t blow our budget.

At the end of the day, the wedding is a really just way to celebrate our love and commitment to each other, and that we can do practically for free…or the cost of a wedding license and Little Caesars (wink).

So, now that we’ve put together our initial budget, it feels like we’ve overcome a speed bump in our wedding planning!

It’s not all hypothetical anymore.

We have numbers that I feel good about, and a budget that we can work with.

We have a map in hand and can see the rest of the journey that lies before us. It’s honestly exciting, and I can’t wait to tackle the rest!

Stay tuned for the next installment in Stephanie and Kirk’s wedding planning journey! Till then, if you have any questions, please let us know in a comment below.

And if you’re looking for help creating a budget and sticking to it, we share tons of pro tips in Passport to Joy. To learn more about becoming a Passport to Joy member, click here.

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