How to Get the Most Out of Your Wedding Budget

Whether you have a big budget or not, you can have an amazing wedding! The key to having the perfect day within your budget is to prioritize every expense. Before you do that, start with thinking about some basic questions:

  1. What do you want your wedding guests to remember most about your day?
  2. What do YOU want to remember most about your day?
  3. Do you want to invite a lot of the people you know, or would you rather just celebrate with the people you know well?
  4. What parts of the planning are you okay with putting more work into, and which parts would you rather pay someone to do?

With those answers in mind, let’s take a look at the main categories of your budget. We’ve grouped the things you’ll spend your budget on into recommended priority levels with an estimated percentage that you’ll spend on them. Priority is based on how much you’re willing to spend on each category, not how important they are to have.

Highest Priority (50-75%)

  • Venue
  • Food & Drink
  • Photography
  • Videography
  • Honeymoon
    Section Total – $

Secondary (about 25%)

  • Attire
  • Wedding Bands
  • Entertainment
  • Floral
  • Ceremony & Reception
  • Decor
    Section Total – $

Low Priority (2-5%)

  • Transportation
  • Stationary
  • Hair, Makeup &
  • Accessories
  • Gifts
  • Hotel
    Section Total – $

Total Estimated Cost: $

Keep in mind that you are likely going to rearrange some of these based on what is most important specifically for your wedding. For example, maybe you’re having a small wedding, so a large venue is less important to you than the food and drink your guests will enjoy. Another example could be that you don’t particularly care if your wedding flowers are real, so you decide to spend less on them by creating arrangements with paper or wood flowers. It could be an even more extreme change, such as putting the honeymoon as the top priority so you can travel together as newlyweds rather than spend more money on the celebration with everyone else.

Once you’ve listed all of those expenses in order of importance, you can start researching each to get an idea of what they will cost in your area. Since you have them arranged in order of importance it should be easier for you to see which expenses you can splurge on and which to be conservative with.

Here is an example of an estimated wedding budget put together with this method:

Budget: $20,000
Guest Count: 150
Location: Cedar Rapids, IA

Highest Priority

  • Venue – $4,000
  • Food & Drink – $3,500
  • Photography – $3,000
  • Honeymoon – $3,000

Section Total – $13,500


  • Attire – $1,500
  • Floral – $1,400
  • Ceremony & Reception
  • Decor – $1,200
  • Wedding Bands – $600
  • Entertainment – $500

Section Total – $5,200

Low Priority

  • Stationary – $425
  • Gifts – $280
  • Hair, Makeup &
  • Accessories – $150
  • Hotel – $150
  • Videography – N/A
  • Transportation – N/A

Section Total – $1,005

Total Estimated Cost: $19,705

As you research pricing you’re probably going to end up rearranging a few of your selections. Some things will end up being more or less expensive than you thought, which will give you room to move other things up or down in priority to compensate. Essentially, this method lets you easily see what you’ve decided is most important to spend money on and what isn’t. Seeing that clearly will help you decide what part of your wedding you want to spend less on to make up for the higher cost of another and vice versa.

A great tool to use once you have your estimated budget laid out is The Knot’s online budgeting tool. It allows you to list out every individual thing that will be included in every category, the estimated price for it and the actual cost.

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