Wedding Planners Guide to Creating a Budget

Header for Wedding Budgets a Guide for Planners

Working out the budget for a couple who’s about to get married is a daunting but vital task. As a wedding planner, creating a wedding budget breakdown is the first step in helping a couple through their matrimonial journey. 

Weddings can be low budget and DIY, or they can be extravagant events that run six figures and more. It all depends on who is getting married. Money is a touchy subject, but being frank about costs and measuring expectations will make planning much more manageable.

But where do you begin? There’s so much to consider, but here is a guide to help get you started. Think of it as a wedding planning budget checklist.

Prioritize the Wedding Budget Breakdown

One of the most challenging things you’ll have to deal with is balancing both parties’ priorities. Maybe the bride is more focused on the location while the groom is more concerned about the band and bar. 

The best way to navigate this is to ask each person separately their top three budget priorities. If any of them match, great! If some are similar enough to be combined, such as the desire for an open bar and a buffet-style dinner service so guests can relax, even better. 

However, if they are leagues apart, the art of negotiation will begin. It’s your job as the planner to make sure the wedding budget breakdown makes sense. It’s also your job to make sure your couple gets as many things on their wishlist as is possible within budget.

It’s a hard job, but you can do it.

Don’t be afraid to lean into outside resources, like experts in the industry like the folks behind the podcast Weddings on a Budget.

The Rings

Silver wedding bands laying on a large pink flower
The old rules around a budget for rings are out the window.

Silver? Gold? Diamonds? Ask your clients about what they want to do about the rings. If they’re going to transform the engagement ring into a wedding ring, that will most likely cost less than buying an entirely new band.

If they’re going to want custom-made wedding bands, make sure they’re aware of how much that kind of work will cost. Not to dissuade them, but to inform.

The Dress and Groom’s Attire

One of the higher ticket items if, of course, what the happy couple will be wearing. There are plenty of brides who may want to wear a hand-me-down dress, make their own, or wear one that has been in the family.

Then there are brides who can’t imagine spending less than $5,000 on their own new dress. It’s all about what they want and how they want to look on the day. However, keep in mind that many times brides may overspend when it comes to their dress, so try to factor that into the budget.

Tuxedos are much cheaper, but still, it will depend on how the groom wants to look. Don’t forget to include room in the budget for bridesmaids and groomsmen, or some variation thereof, if they aren’t buying their own outfits.

Beauty Services

If they won’t be doing their own hair, makeup, nails, and whatever other beauty regimens they want for themselves, give them a range of options for stylists. Many artists specialize in wedding makeup and hair.

Popular wedding trends at the moment are spa days or getting facials and massages before getting ready for the ceremony—maybe something to suggest if it’s in the budget.


Bookmarks displayed as a part of a wedding display
Wedding budget breakdown also inclides the stationary budget.

Breaking down all the paperwork needed is often surprising. Not only are there “save the date” cards, but then the invitations themselves, and then the program, nameplates, menu cards, and wedding favors. 

It all adds up pretty quickly, depending on how many items the couple may want.

Location of the Wedding and Reception

This is another big one for your wedding budget breakdown. Location is important. Are they getting married in a church or a field? Are they wanting to rent a country club or doing a destination wedding? Or are they having a small, intimate ceremony at the courthouse or even at home?

Where they decide to get married is one significant cost. Where they choose to have the party afterward is typically the bigger one. Renting a barn or a community hall will cost less than a hotel ballroom, but is that what they want? 

This is a big one for which to manage expectations and to make sure your clients understand the reality that their dream location may just not be doable. And if it’s not at the same site, that’s a whole other budget to work on.

Transportation for Wedding Party and Guests

If the reception is somewhere other than the location of the ceremony, the question of how guests are getting from one place to the other  becomes a big one. If there is a need to charter people between locations, looking at bus rentals or van rentals needs to be factored in.

Also, how is the wedding party getting to the ceremony? If they want to rent a limo, they need to expect to pay significantly more than if renting a van or driving themselves.

Photography and Videography

Capturing their special day is something every couple wants. Whether it’s candid photos or a movie-like representation of their wedding, knowing what type of coverage they want is critical to understanding how much it will cost.

Wedding photographers and videographers are specialists, and with that comes a higher price tag and higher quality too. Maybe they don’t want something fancy and instead want a photobooth or for their guests to each have a disposable camera or Polaroid to make memories with.


If a more extensive wedding is the plan, floral arrangements can cost a pretty penny. Smaller, more intimate weddings with just a bouquet and some bunting will be relatively cheap. 

There are many unique flower trends for weddings right now, so make sure you keep your clients up-to-date on those. They may be interested in dried flowers rather than fresh ones, which will cost a lot less.

The Cake

The cake is unlikely to be included in the catering bill. Cakes can get extravagant and incredibly pricey, especially if they involve specially carved cakes or those with dietary restrictions. Have some trusted cake artists to suggest to your clients if they don’t have someone in mind already.

Also, make sure they know about different options. Wedding cupcakes are still a popular choice, as are having groom cakes also. Maybe your couple aren’t cake people and want wedding brownies or wedding pies instead. There’s a new one for your wedding budget checklist.


This is always the biggest sticker shock. Catering is expensive—nearly half-the-wedding-budget expensive. This is where knowing your clients’ budget comes into major play. Just how much are they willing to spend on food?

The big things to ask are what type of food service they want and what kind of drink service. Buffet or sit-down dinner? There’s a big difference there. If it’s going to be a dry wedding, that will allow for more room in the budget elsewhere. 

If they want an open bar with not just wine but also spirits and other hard liquor, they need to know that it’s going to cost significantly more. Okay with just wine and beer? Want a cash bar? Despite the fact some guests may complain, it is a big money saver. 

These are all critical variables to take into account, and you’ll need to guide them through that with numbers that reflect the reality of the cost.

Budget Contingency

There will always be unexpected expenses. Not that you want to instill a sense of dread in the couple, but making sure they have a buffer is very important. Build in contingencies into your original wedding budget breakdown.

Did they budget for tips for the waiters and cleaning staff? What happens if they change their mind on wine selection last minute and the new choice costs $5 per bottle? 

How much of a contingency fund they will need will depend on their overall budget and personality as a couple. As a wedding planner, you have a chance to get to know your clients during a very vulnerable and exciting time of their life. You will probably know them quite well before the wedding. 

So are they the type who may change their minds at the drop of a hat? Or are they exceptionally financially conservative and are counting each penny? There are many factors to weigh, but having at least a small pocket of money for “just in case” scenarios is something you should really suggest.

Wedding Budget Breakdown Also Includes You – the Wedding Planner!

Don’t forget yourself! They sought you out for a reason, and your expertise is a valuable asset. Making sure you’re open and honest with your fees will not only give the couple the information they need but help balance the budget.

Hopefully, this wedding budget checklist has helped you gauge what you need to do. Creating a budget is vital for the success of a wedding and for your career as a wedding planner.

Picture of Annette Corrie

Annette Corrie

Our ‘Certificate of Professional Wedding Planning Course’ is here to help you through the process, by providing a step-by-step guide to getting started and becoming successful in your new career. This course will help you gain the skills, knowledge, and confidence you need to oversee all the details of a wedding. This course will help you prepare a successful and magnificent event!

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Annette Corrie

Course Director

Our ‘Certificate of Professional Wedding Planning Course’ is here to help you through the process, by providing a step-by-step guide to getting started and becoming successful in your new career. This course will help you gain the skills, knowledge, and confidence you need to oversee all the details of a wedding. This course will help you prepare a successful and magnificent event!

Annette Corrie

Get Started



Certificate of Professional Wedding Planning Course’

This course will help you gain the skills, knowledge, and confidence you need to oversee all the details of a wedding. This course will help you prepare for a successful and magnificent event!