The Ultimate Wedding Budget Checklist
Published date: 10th June 2021 | Author: Hollie Bond
Once you’ve worked out how much money you’ve got to play with when it comes to your wedding day, it can be a bit scary to start spending it. What if you overspend on one key element and then don’t have money left over to feed your guests?
The key to ensuring this doesn’t happen is to separate your wedding budget into smaller manageable amounts and to allocate specific percentages to each element of your wedding day. Whatever your budget, from £3,000 up to £300,000, approaching your spending in this organised way will really help you keep on track and ensure you have enough money to cover everything you want on your wedding day.
In the below wedding budget checklist, we’ve put together the average percentages that most couples spend on each aspect of their wedding day to help you work out how much of your money you should be parting with. Of course, if some areas of your wedding are more important to you, for example you want to go big on live music, or food is your passion, then you can dial up or dial down the wedding costs to suit your day.
Spreadsheet at the ready? Let’s get budgeting…
Wedding Ceremony - 2%
This is the only area of your wedding that you actually have to pay for in order to become a married couple, so in theory you could spend 100% of your budget on it! However, typically couples spend around 2% of their budget on this element, saving the rest for the partying that follows. If you want to keep costs down, consider having your wedding ceremony and reception in one place so that you don’t get hit with two separate venue hire bills.
What this includes:
- Ceremony venue cost (if in a different place to reception venue)
- Giving notice admin fee
- Registrar’s fee or donation to church
- Marriage certificate
- Accessories and decor (and hire of organist if in church)
Wedding Rings - 2%
You don’t have to wear a ring to be married, but if you both want to embrace this lovely tradition as a sign of your commitment to each other then you should look to spend up to 2% of your overall budget on rings. Shop around as a wedding ring can be any ring – from a high street jewellers, luxury designer or an independent maker.
What this includes:
- Wedding bands for one or both of you
- Engraving or personalisation
- Resizing (although many jewellers do this as part of the purchase price)
- Wedding ring insurance
Venue Hire - 15%
This is one of the areas that a large chunk of your budget should be allocated to, as where you hold your big day sets the tone and style for the whole event. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have space at home for your wedding party (with a marquee in the garden perhaps) then you’ll be looking at wedding venues to hire, and this of course comes at a cost. There are hundreds of gorgeous venues to choose from varying in price by size, location, whether they’re exclusive use, and the level of luxury they offer.
What this could include:
- Rental fee
- Ceremony fee (if being held in same place as reception)
- Rent of furniture or dance floor (some venues are dry hire while others come as a complete package)
- Wedding Insurance
- On-site accommodation for you and guests
Catering (Food and Drink) - 25%
Hungry guests are not happy guests so it’s really important to make sure your friends and family are well fed and have plenty of drink (both alcoholic and non). So as percentages of your budget go, this is one to make sure you keep nice and high. Of course there are ways to have a cheap wedding and still have plenty of tasty food – think afternoon tea, sharing platters and barbecues rather than three-course plated meals.
The amount of guests you’re having will impact how much you spend on catering as caterers usually charge per head. So the smaller the guest list the less you’ll pay. You also need to decide whether you can afford to have a free bar at the evening reception or not. If not, you’ll need to let guests know in advance to bring cash or their cards.
What wedding catering costs could include:
- Tasting event
- Pre-reception canapés
- Wedding breakfast (plated three courses, buffet etc.)
- Evening party food
- Suppliers meals (for example a meal for your photographer or videographer)
- Serving staff
- Hire of catering equipment (plates and glasses if not provided by venue)
- Service charge
- Set up and take down fees
- Drinks (after ceremony, during wedding breakfast, champagne for toasts, open bar)
- Tea and coffee after wedding breakfast
- Corkage fees if you choose to serve your own alcohol
- Bar staff
- Tips for bar staff
Photography/ Videography - 12%
Your wedding will be over in a flash (no pun intended!) and along with your memories the only thing you’ll have left to look back on the best day of your lives is photos and a video. So it’s really important to set aside a good proportion of the wedding budget for your photographer and/or videographer. After all, once the photos are taken, you can’t go back in time to your wedding day if you don’t like them. The cost of good photos is usually in the thousands rather than hundreds so be prepared for this and set aside a realistic amount of money.
What photography and videographer costs could include:
- Engagement shoot
- Wedding day coverage (from start to finish or part of the day)
- Albums and prints
- Video trailer or highlight reel
- Feature film
- Mileage for photographer or videographer
- Accommodation for suppliers if overseas or far for them to travel
Outfits and Beauty - 12%
This is the area of wedding spending that often gets dialled up a lot or dialled down depending on the individual bride or groom. Some fashion or designer loving couples will want to spend a lot on their outfits while others won’t see the value in spending so much on attire they’re only going to wear for a day.
That’s of course up for you to decide, but on average about 10% of the budget is a good benchmark for your bridal outfit, plus grooms wear, bridesmaids dresses, usher’s suits and other attire associated with events around your big day.
Be realistic though. If you spend £7,000 on your dress but can’t afford to feed your guests properly then you’ve got your wedding budget priorities wrong! Don’t forget to include any beauty treatments and on the day professional hair and makeup you want into this section too.
What this might include:
- Engagement party outfits
- Engagement shoot outfits
- Hen party wardrobe
- Stag do outfit
- Wedding dress
- Wedding dress alterations
- Bridal underwear
- Wedding shoes
- Accessories – for hair, bags etc.
- Evening outfit (if changing out of wedding dress or suit)
- Post wedding event outfits
- Wedding dress cleaning and boxing up
- Bridesmaids dresses and accessories (if you’re paying for them)
- Ushers suit hire
- Pre-wedding hair colour or cut
- Pre-wedding beauty treatments (wax, fake tan, nails, lash extensions etc)
- Hair trial
- Hair on the day (plus milage for hairdresser)
- Make up trial
- Make up on the day (plus milage for make up artist)
- Tips for beauty professionals
Wedding Cake - 2%
The cake is an area of the wedding budget that varies quite a lot depending on the sort of wedding cake you opt for. From huge tiered towers with intricate designs to simple plain cakes decorated in fresh flowers, the cost varies as much as the design. So have a think about how much the cake means to you as a couple. On average though, couples usually allocate around 2% of their budget to the wedding cake.
This should also include:
- Cake stand hire or purchase
- Cake topper and any other decorations
- Delivery fee
Wedding Planner - 3% - 15% Depending On The Level Of Service You Choose
Planning your wedding is great fun and a lot of brides and grooms love to have complete control over every element. However, if you’re trying to fit in wedding planning alongside a full time job and other commitments then it can end up being stressful. That’s when it can really pay off to look into getting a wedding planner.
While it might seem counterintuitive to your wedding budget to have a wedding planner, the right person can actually be invaluable and save money for you in the long run by finding you the best deals or using their experience and insight to help you spend your money in the right places.
The percentage of your wedding budget that you should put towards a planner depends on the level of help you need – on the day only, a few weeks in the run up to the big day or a full service from the very start of your wedding planning.
Wedding Flowers and Decor - 8%
Flowers can be an expensive part of your wedding, but they really do make a wedding look spectacular, and are worth spending your hard earned cash on. Think about the wedding flowers and decor budget early on in wedding planning when you’re searching for your venue. Some blank canvas venues will need more than 8% of the budget to make them look good enough for your special day, while other intricately designed venues might need very little adding to them.
What this may include:
- Bouquets for bride and bridesmaids
- Buttonholes for groomsmen and male members of wedding party
- Corsages for female members of wedding party
- Flower girl flowers
- Ceremony flowers (altar/ table and perhaps an arch)
- Reception table centrepieces and chair backs
- Flowers for wedding cake
- Flowers for any other tables
- Hire/ purchase of decor like pom poms, chalkboard signs, light-up letters, lanterns, candelabra etc.
- Delivery fees
Stationery - 2%
Paper-based perfection can cost more than you might expect, especially if you go down the bespoke option with hand calligraphed invitations or choose a really luxurious paper stock. To keep costs down there’s always evites, but for classic wedding stationery it’s best to set aside around 2% of your budget when wedding planning.
This may include:
- Invitations for events around the wedding like engagement party or post wedding brunch
- Save the dates
- Wedding invitations with any inserts like RSVPS, maps and envelopes
- Postage (for all wedding stationery you send throughout the course of wedding planning)
- Thank you cards
- Orders of service
- Confetti cones
- Table plan
- Place names
- Labels for favours
Music and Entertainment - 12%
Good music and entertainment can really make a wedding magical so you’ll certainly want to save a nice chunk of your wedding budget for this. How much really depends on how important live music is for you – a live band is more expensive than a DJ for the night. When wedding planning, sit down with your partner and discuss the sort of ambience you want at your wedding and then decide how much of your budget you need to spend to achieve this. A good percentage to work to though is around 12%.
This could include:
- Musicians for the ceremony
- Pre-reception drinks music or live entertainment (like a magician or caricaturist)
- Evening party DJ or live band
- Hire of sound system if venue doesn’t have one
- Photo booth (or camera if setting up your own DIY photo booth)
- Master of ceremonies
Transport - 2%
Some couples might not need any transport at all if their wedding is all on one site, so this figure can be allocated to another element. However, if your ceremony is in a different place to your reception or you’re getting ready a long way from the ceremony venue then you’ll need about 2% of your budget for some smart transport.
This could include:
- Bridal party transportation to ceremony and then to reception
- Tip for the driver(s)
- Bus or large transport for guests from ceremony to reception venues
Miscellaneous - 3%
Your remaining budget should be used for things like suppliers tips, wedding insurance cover, overtime fees (for example if you want the photo booth to stay later because your guests are enjoying it so much), gifts for anyone you want to thank and favours if you want to have these on your reception tables. Plus it’s always sensible to have a bit of emergency cash in case anything costs more than you anticipated.
Honeymoon - Whatever You Can Afford After The Wedding!
It’s usually best to have a separate pot of money for your honeymoon and not to include this in your overall wedding budget as it can get a bit confusing, especially if you’ve chosen to have a honeymoon fund gift list and expect to receive contributions to your honeymoon from guests as presents. Check out our list of the best places to honeymoon for more inspiration on how to spend your honeymoon budget.