Wedding Budget Guide

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Published April 28, 2010 | Updated April 24, 2015

An engagement is a celebration of love, family, and the future. In order to keep it blissful, it's important to keep wedding planning as streamlined as you can. One of the biggest obstacles for many engaged couples is agreeing on and sticking to a budget. It's especially difficult when several people are helping with the costs, as is common with many modern weddings. Before making any plans, consult this list of common wedding expenses and a guide to the typical costs.

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Wedding Budget Breakdown:

  • The Average U.S. Wedding: $20,000

    The average wedding in the United States costs $20,000. However, wedding budgets vary widely, and you may choose to spend a lot more or a lot less. Your locale can greatly affect the costs, too. But this is a basic number that's good to start with when you begin your plan.

  • The Average Number of Guests: 200

    This wedding budget outline is based on an average $20,000 wedding with 200 guests. Make adjustments in each category to suit your budget and your guest count. You'll most likely find areas to eliminate or add to.

  • Ceremony:

  • Ceremony Location: $200

    This includes the cost of renting a church, garden, hall, or museum for the ceremony. Many couples choose to hold their ceremony and reception at the same venue, which can be more economical than renting separate spaces. Check to see if your ceremony location fee includes permits, chairs, or other essentials.

  • Officiant Fee/Donation: $200

    Make sure to find out upfront what is included in your officiant fee. The contract should state whether the travel, church donation, wedding rehearsal, and consultation visits are included. You'll also want to find out if your officiant plans to attend your wedding reception as a guest.

  • Ceremony Accessories: $120

    Every couple requires a different assortment of ceremony accessories. Set a budget for event essentials like a ring pillow, aisle runner, flower girl baskets, and the marriage license. The typical marriage license costs about $30.

  • Total Wedding Ceremony Costs: $520
  • Reception:

  • Reception Venue, Rentals, and Wedding Decor: $1,600

    When shopping for a reception location, find out if any decorations or rentals are included in the price. You may have to rent your own tables, chairs, china, linens, tent, or portable heaters.

  • Food and Service: $6,000

    Food and service is the largest part of a typical wedding budget. Service costs should be included; don't forget about tips and gratuities. This part of the budget varies widely depending on your number of guests. The average cost per guest is around $30.

  • Beverages and Bartenders: $1,600

    This amount includes the cocktail hour, an open bar, your signature drinks, the bartender labor fees, and bar set-up. The cost does not always include gratuity. Cash bars are acceptable options for couples with budget limitations. You can also cut back on the cost by skipping the full bar and only serving beer and wine.

  • Cake and Cutting Fee: $500

    This includes the wedding cake, groom's cake, and cake-cutting fees.

  • Total Wedding Reception Costs: $9,700
  • Photography and Music:

  • Photographer: $1,200

    The photography fee should include photo costs, assistant fees, traveling costs, and negative purchasing fees. Each photography package varies, and you may have to pay for extra prints and albums if they are not included in your package.

  • Videographer: $1,000

    Videographers also offer a variety of packages. Be sure to ask about assistant fees and traveling costs.

  • Music: $1,600

    Musicians are typically more expensive than DJs, but costs vary depending on the size of the band. On the other hand, celebrity DJs are often more expensive than live bands. Be sure to account for any music you want to play during the ceremony, the cocktail hour, and the reception.

  • Total Photography and Music Costs: $3,800
  • Stationery:

  • Invitations: $500

    Along with your wedding invitations, this amount should include reply cards, maps, calligraphy costs, and postage.

  • Other Stationery Costs: $100

    This amount includes thank-you cards, save-the-dates, programs, and place cards.

  • Total Wedding Stationery Costs: $600
  • Flowers and Decorations:

  • Bride's Bouquet: $200

    The cost of the bride's bouquet can vary widely. In-season and local flowers, for example, are much more affordable than exotic blooms or flowers specific to a different season. A separate tossing bouquet may be included. For more information on flowers for the bride, consult our bridal flowers fact sheet.

  • Bridesmaid Bouquets: $400

    This is based on an average wedding, which has four bridesmaids. Add $100 to your total for each additional bridesmaid.

  • Boutonnieres and Corsages: $120

    Traditionally, the groom, the best man, the groomsmen, the ushers, and the parents wear boutonnieres and corsages. Many couples choose to purchase boutonnieres and corsages for grandparents, ring bearers, readers, and ushers.

  • Flower Girl Flowers: $30

    In addition to petals, you may want to purchase a small bouquet or corsage for your flower girl.

  • Reception Decorations: $600

    Decking out your reception venue can cost a lot more or a lot less than this average amount. Traditionally, flower arrangements are ordered for the centerpieces, buffet tables, and gift tables. Flowers can also be used to decorate doorways, banisters, and mantels.

  • Ceremony Decorations: $250

    You may choose to use floral decorations on doors, aisles, pews, canopies, and alters at your ceremony location.

  • Total Wedding Flower and Decoration Costs: $1,600
  • Wedding Attire:

  • Wedding Gown: $1,400

    Wedding dresses come with a wide variety of price tags, so this will affect your budget quite a bit. Be sure to account for alterations and the veil.

  • Groom's Tuxedo or Suit: $180

    This amount includes the cost of renting a tuxedo. The groom may choose to purchase or rent his shoes, cuff links, tie, and vest.

  • Bride's Accessories and Makeup: $200

    Accessories include wedding jewelry, shoes, gloves, hosiery, and undergarments. Remember to budget for the costs of a makeup artist and hairstylist.

  • Pampering: $200

    This category includes spa visits, facials, laser hair removal, waxing, teeth whitening, manicures, and pedicures. Many of these treatments can cost much more, so you'll need to decide what's most important to you.

  • Total Wedding Attire Costs: $1,980
  • Transportation and Lodging:

  • Guest Transportation and Lodging: $900

    You'll need to provide hotel rooms for out-of-town guests as well as transportation to and from the airport, the ceremony, the reception, and any other events. Many couples choose to provide transportation to all guests who have been drinking at the reception.

  • Wedding Party Transportation: $300

    In addition to your limo or "just married" car, this category includes the cost of transporting the wedding party to and from the ceremony and reception.

  • Total Wedding Transportation and Lodging Costs: $1,200
  • Wedding Favors and Gifts:

  • Favors: $300

    These small tokens given to each guest can be a few dollars or more each. Don't forget about packaging and printing costs.

  • Gifts: $300

    Gifts are traditionally given to parents, attendants, ushers, flower girls, readers, and ring bearers. Struggling to come up with gift ideas for your bridesmaids? Check out these deas for bridesmaid gifts.

  • Total Wedding Favor and Gift Costs: $600

  • Who Pays for What?

  • The Bride's Family

    Traditionally, the bride's parents pay for the wedding, including the wedding gown, invitations, venue rentals, music, photography, and food.

  • The Groom's Family

    The groom's family pays for the rehearsal dinner, father-of-the-groom formalwear, and the groom's cake. The groom's family may also pay for some of the flowers.

  • The Bride

    The bride pays for the groom's wedding ring, groom's gift, bridesmaid gifts, bridesmaid luncheon, and lodging for out-of-town guests.

  • The Groom

    The groom pays for the bride's wedding and engagement rings, bride's gift, gifts for the groomsmen and ushers, and the honeymoon.

  • The Bridesmaids

    The bridesmaids and the maid of honor pay for their dresses as well as the bridal shower and bachelorette party.

  • The Groomsmen

    The groomsmen, best man, and ushers pay for their formalwear and the bachelor party.