Many couples spend thousands of dollars on their wedding. The average cost of a wedding in the U.S. was around $20,300 in 2021, with the least expensive state average being just over $12,000. If you don’t plan on spending this much on your nuptials, it’s essential to understand how to budget for your wedding to avoid overspending. 

Learn how to plan a wedding on a budget, including setting a realistic spending goal, creating a wedding checklist, and saving money on the wedding venue. 

How to Set a Wedding Budget

When setting a wedding budget, start by considering your financial means and the expectations of you and your fiancée. You also want to think about who is contributing to covering the cost of your wedding and your bottom line needs for the ceremony. 

Who is Contributing?

If you or your fiancée’s parents offer to help, consider their contribution when creating your budget.

You should also determine if anyone will contribute something other than money. For instance, your fiancée may have an heirloom dress she wants to wear. A family member may be willing to let you use their barn for the reception or have vases you can use as centerpieces, helping lower your overall costs.

How Much Can You Afford?

Knowing what you can comfortably afford without placing yourself in a challenging financial situation is essential. Remember, you will still have bills to meet after the wedding, so avoid going into debt for just one day. 

Your venue and catering costs will likely make up most of your wedding expenses, so consider your maximum budget and allocate a large portion of your budget to these elements. 

How Many Guests Will You Invite?

Consider creating tiers or a list of people you have to invite, such as family and close friends. Include any partners or children in this list, so you have an accurate headcount.  

The more guests you invite, the higher your wedding budget to cover them, so be ready to limit your guest list or save in other areas to stay on track and not overspend.  

Determine Your “Must-Haves”

Must-haves are the wedding elements that you absolutely cannot go without. For instance, your must-have may be a full, sit-down dinner at the reception, while your partner may not want to compromise on inviting her college friends and their families. 

Determine your must-haves and discuss the costs surrounding them to make sure they fit into your budget.

Estimate Costs

You will need to get approximate prices for the venue, guests, food, and other elements such as clothing and rings. Talk to different venues and caterers, and shop around for suit rentals, a photographer and flowers. 

Compare prices and get a ballpark estimate for the total cost of the ceremony, so you can make adjustments like not providing pre-dinner hor d’oeuvres, depending on your budget.   

Person using a wedding budget planner  

Wedding Budget Checklist

One of the best tools you can use to set a wedding budget is creating a checklist. When creating your budget, keep a checklist of everything you need to pay for. This includes attire, reception, rings, and travel. Come up with a comprehensive list to add to as you get prices or need to add additional expenses. 

Your checklist should cover elements like:

  • Ceremony
  • Reception
  • Entertainment
  • Stationary
  • Cake
  • Photographer
  • Attire and rings
  • Flowers
  • Transportation
  • Wedding party gifts

Here is another example of a wedding budget breakdown provided by Jonathan Svensson, Co-Founder of Almvest:

“Venue and catering – 53%, Photographer/videographer – 13%, Wedding attire and beauty services – 5%, Music/entertainment – 10%, Flowers – 7%, Favors/gifts for wedding party – 2%, Transportation – 2%, Stationery – 3%, Cake – 1%, and Lighting/décor – 4%.”

How to Save Money on the Wedding

The biggest costs for the wedding are the venue and reception. Carefully choosing the venue can save a large sum of money. You may not even need to compromise on the location. Many venues are significantly cheaper on weekdays as well as off times of the year. 

This can be a great choice if you are not worried about attendees making it to a weekday gathering. Another way the choice of venue will affect the cost is the type of attire expected and catering requirements.

To save money on your wedding, take the time to research venues, caterers, bakeries, and party suppliers and compare costs. Adopt an attitude of compromise with your partner and your expectations for the big day. Keep the focus on celebrating the two of you as a couple rather than impressing your guests. 

Wedding Venue

Budget-Friendly Wedding Venues

One of the highest costs you will encounter is the wedding venue. However, your wedding location does not have to cost a small fortune. Parks, beaches, and even backyards can make beautiful, inexpensive backdrops for a wedding. 

Keep in mind that these venues will likely require you to rent chairs, an arbor, and any other decorations that you may want. These costs should still be minimal compared to a lavish indoor venue.

Unlike at a hall or event venue, you may need to get your own caterers. This may be beneficial because you will be able to shop around for a caterer. You will also need to discuss whether or not alcoholic beverages are allowed if you plan to serve them.

How to Plan a Wedding on a Budget-Info-01


Park or Garden

Parks and gardens make a beautiful backdrop for an outdoor wedding. The foliage creates an image that you could never get at an indoor venue. You can rent space in most parks for a small fee or use them for free. 

Historical Site

A historical site makes for a truly unique wedding. This could be an outdoor location, such as a memorial, an indoor venue, or an old government building. Think of meaningful historical sites in your area and look into the possibility of renting them for your venue. 


A beach wedding is a dream venue for many people. This location provides a picturesque view and can be affordable if you don’t go all out on a destination wedding.  Opt to have your ceremony on a public beach and check to see if you have to pay a fee to rent it out or have multiple guests. Then decorate with chairs, an arbor, and flowers to create a romantic setting. 


An old, restored barn can create a perfect wedding backdrop. A barn also makes for a great country-themed wedding which works great with casual attire. You can likely rent a barn owned by your state or county for a small fee or hunt around for landowners who rent out their barns for events like weddings. 


A backyard is the most accessible wedding venue because most people have one. You can host your wedding in your own backyard or ask a friend or family member with beautiful landscaping or a wooded backdrop.

How to Stick to Your Wedding Budget

Making a wedding budget is easy; however, sticking to that budget can prove challenging. You may face unexpected expenses and fee increases if you don’t sign a contract for your venue or caterer.  

If you are worried about exceeding your budget, consider scaling down the event. Depending on your planning stage, you may have fixed expenses, so you’ll have to cut back in other areas. Opt for fewer guests, cut down on the number of people in the wedding party, scale back on the cake or food, and go simple on decorations or wedding favors. You may also consider having a paid bar rather than an open bar and changing the venue if you aren’t locked in with the location. 

More in the Wedding

Dress Smart

How Do You Pick the Perfect Wedding Outfit?

How Do You Pick the Perfect Wedding Outfit?

Wedding Dress Codes

Wedding Dress Codes

Dollar Wise

How Much Does a Wedding Cost?

How Much Does a Wedding Cost?

How to Plan a Wedding on a Budget

How to Plan a Wedding on a Budget

Plan Ahead

How Long Does It Take to Plan a Wedding?

How Long Does It Take to Plan a Wedding?

How to Plan a Destination Wedding

How to Plan a Destination Wedding

Rock the Rules