How to create a Wedding Budget from scratch (in only 8 GIFs)


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Wedding Planning pro Ally Lightfoot of Perfectly Designed Events, dedicated to making her couples’ events exactly what they want, shares 8 amazing wedding budget hacks so that you can stick to your wedding budget and still create your dream day!

The best wedding budget hacks

The number one question I get asked is how much does a wedding really cost? Weddings are investments, but it doesn’t take long for costs to snowball! When you first get engaged it can be tricky to really understand the full expense of hosting your dream wedding. I am going to guide you through how to create a personalized wedding budget with the best wedding budget hacks, step-by-step.

 How to create a wedding budget using step-by-step wedding hacks

First things first: What’s your magic number?

The first thing I want you to know is that wedding budgets are ever changing. The first budget you make will not be the final budget and that’s totally okay! You may decide that there is something you absolutely love and that means going over budget. It’s then your choice to move that money from another aspect or remain over budget. Let’s get started and dive into the best wedding budget hacks!

1. The awkward ask

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This is the very first step of the wedding planning process! Go through your personal finances and decide on a realistic number that you are comfortable spending out of your own pocket. The next step is to have the awkward money conversation with your families or anyone else who you know might wish to contribute. This is the one step that my clients often skip, simply because they don’t want to have the conversation and I don’t blame them! It can sometimes be awkward. Instead of flat out asking them how much money (if any) they can give you, try explaining that you just want to make sure you create a solid budget before you start looking for a venue. That’s pretty responsible and parents tend to like that! This conversation might be the difference between your dream venue and the runner up.   

2. Get realistic & don’t compare

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Every wedding is different and every wedding budget is different. As a Wedding Planner in London, Ontario I work with budgets ranging from $15,000 – $50,000. According to The Knot, the average wedding in 2018 was $33,931 ( I will never tell anybody what number is the “right” number because there is no such thing. You are unique and you’re planning your wedding. That means that the wedding budget you choose should be unique to you. It should be based on what you and your fiancé really want. Don’t worry about what your sister or your best friend spent, just think about what’s best for you! 

3. Pick your most favourite people

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The number one largest expense when it comes to your wedding day is going to be your reception. A general rule of thumb is that 50% of your wedding budget should be allocated to just the reception. This should include your venue, food, alcohol, staffing, insurance, permits, administration fees, taxes and gratuity among many other things. Your guest count is going to largely affect this number. I always recommend creating three different guest lists. 

  • Make a “Guest List A” – The people you couldn’t get married without, it would be truly devastating if they weren’t there
  • Next, create a “Guest List B” – Guest List A, plus the people you would like to have at your wedding but it wouldn’t ruin your day if they couldn’t be there
  • Now, write out your “Guest List C” – Guest List B, plus the people who you feel obligated to invite even though you don’t necessarily want to 

I know, I said it and it sounds terrible. But unfortunately when you’re working within a budget you don’t always have the luxury of inviting all of your coworkers and your great-aunt’s new partner.   

4. Start the research

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Now that you have a good idea of your finances and you know your guest lists, it’s time to do some research. This is the stage where the majority of my Wedding Planning clients come to me. There is a hard way to do this and an easy way. 

The hard way is to sit down for a few days and research everything: venues, photographers, florists, caterers, officiants, DJs, and more. You want to research until you get a good idea of what each vendor will actually cost. 

The easy way to do this, is to find an expert in your local Wedding Industry to help you create your wedding budget. Every market is different which means using those generic online budgeting tools does not always work as well as it should. Find yourself a Wedding Planner, Wedding Photographer or anyone else who knows your local market’s pricing. Then start to breakdown that budget. Finding that professional will save you a ton of time and stress! 

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5. Decide on your wedding must-haves

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When I start to breakdown my client’s wedding budgets I always get the question “how much does this vendor cost?” and my answer is always the same… it depends entirely on what you are looking for. Go through and rank every aspect of the wedding from most important to least important. Decide where you want to splurge and where you want to hold back. This is your wedding so you need to do what’s best for you! With the help a wedding planner you should be able to get a realistic idea of the price range for each wedding vendor based on skill and experience. And don’t forget about the little details! After you’ve allocated money to each wedding vendor, add on some money for the small purchases like DIY décor, signs, guest book, seating chart and all those other little details. 

6. Have A Contingency Budget  

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Here’s an important wedding budget hack: create a contingency budget. There will be things that you may not think of. Things like travel fees, accommodations, HST or even the little things like 100 AA batteries for all the twinkle lights. The Wedding Budget Spreadsheet that I use with my clients covers over 200 different aspects. The goal is to get really specific and create their exact wedding budget. We try to think of everything. But there are still occasionally surprises that come along. That’s where having a contingency budget comes into play. Having some extra money (in addition to the original budget) set aside for these moments helps to control the stress of wedding planning! 

7. Hire Your wedding Pros & Keep Adjusting that Budget

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You are now ready to take the leap. Find and book the perfect venue, then book your photographer, and then everyone else. Hire the wedding vendors that are a perfect match for your day! Refer back to your budget every step of the way. You will need to change and adjust the numbers as you go in order to actually stay on budget. It can be a lot of work hiring everyone. But at the end of the day you will be married to the love of your life. And that’s what matters most! 

8. Don’t forget: You’ve Got This!

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My goal is to keep my clients within a budget that they feel comfortable with. Sometimes we find a venue that is so perfect but slightly over budget and we revisit the guest list step. It’s important to always be open-minded and keep adjusting your Wedding Budget throughout the wedding planning process! Using these wedding budget hacks and sticking to this process will allow you to stay relatively stress-free and avoid unnecessary wedding debt! There’s nothing worse than starting off the next chapter of your life with a huge amount of credit card bills. Create a solid Wedding Budget and do everything you can to really stick to it! 

Ally Lightfoot is the Owner and Lead Wedding Planner at Perfectly Designed Events. Her passion is helping couples create unique-to-them, unforgettable weddings that are gorgeous and true to who they are. Love our photography work and looking for a London or Toronto, Ontario wedding photographer? Contact us here to get a free wedding photography consultation!

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We're Dylan & Sandra. Married photographers, donut lovers, and obsessed with family and our squishy toddler. We're so glad you're here! Grab a drink and stay awhile for classic + joy-filled love stories in and around the GTA, London, Niagara and the best-of wedding advice!