Managing money is quite often an extremely difficult task. A wedding is no different. There are so many things to plan for monetarily, that it is easy to lose track of how much you are spending. The best way to prevent overspending is to write down all the things you need to budget for and how much you want to spend for them and then check them off as you go along. Here are the main things that I planned for. Although this list is not all inclusive, it may provide a starting point for your own budget.

Ceremony and Reception

Attire and Accessories

Pictures and Video


Wedding Cake

Flowers and Decorations




Ceremony and Reception:

    Misc. fees- There are many fees that are associated with the ceremony and reception. First, there is the cost of renting the ceremony site. This may include other various fees such as the fees for the pianist/organist, light and sound technician, and ceremony coordinator. This was the case in my wedding. There is also the officiant's fee. This could also be included in the cost of renting the ceremony site, but often, it is not. It is also nice to give the officiant a little extra out of gratitude, since their fees are not usually that much. Along with the fee for the reception site, you should also budget for entertainment such as a band or disc jockey and for the food whether it is catered there or by another company. The food can vary in price depending on what kind you are having and whether or not it is a sit-down dinner or buffet. You should keep your preference and other considerations such as time of day in mind when deciding what to have. You should also plan for the items that will have to be rented in both the ceremony and reception such as candle holders, tables, chairs, etc.

Attire and Accessories:

    Bridal gown- Bridal gowns come in a range of prices from relatively inexpensive to exorbitant. How much a gown costs largely depends on where you buy it. Small boutiques are often much more expensive than large chain stores such as David's Bridal and Jon's Bridal. I looked at many bridal shops and found this to be true. I bought my gown at David's Bridal and found it to be as nice a quality as the gowns in boutiques, but much cheaper. As a college student, it is also good to shop around to save as much money as you can. When buying the gown, also plan for the cost of the alterations if you should require them.

    Accessories- Many accessories go along with the dress that also need to be budgeted for and not forgotten, as they easily are. They include the headpiece and/or veil, jewelry, undergarments, shoes, gloves (if you want them) and, of course, the garter. There are many ways that you can save when purchasing these items. First, headpieces and veils can be quite expensive. If you do not wish to spend that much, you can have one made or try to make one yourself. There are many craft stores that can assist you in this process, and I have known many people who went this route and experienced great results. Also, you could buy undergarments and shoes at stores other than the bridal shops, which tend to charge more for the same products. Look around and compare prices.

    Beautification services- You must also remember to plan for the cost of a hairdresser, make-up artist, and manicurist if you wish to have them. These all vary in price and, again, I stress the importance of comparing prices and services.

    Groom's attire- Whether you are buying a nice suit or renting a tux, men's clothing can be quite expensive, especially since they usually do not keep their clothing. Malls are the most common placed to find stores that carry  men's formal wear, but can be found in other locations. My husband rented his tux from a store in the mall and was very satisfied.

Pictures and Video:

    Pictures- Pictures can be one of the most expensive aspects of the wedding, but if done right, can be the most important way to preserve the excitement and nostalgia of the big day. Before deciding, you should think about what style of pictures and album you want and how much you are willing to spend. You then can look around and talk to different photographers to find what is right for you.

    Video- This is also an important keepsake if you so choose. A video can compliment the pictures and allow you to be able to relive every aspect of your wedding because it does go by so fast. As with the pictures, you should look around before choosing a videographer. You should also think about whether you want a DVD or a video. Some companies offer both. DVD's are usually more expensive, but will last longer if taken care of properly.


    Invitations - These can also become a big part of the budget. There are a couple of different options you can go with, though. It depends on how much you want to spend. First, you can buy them at a retail store such as Hallmark. These invitations can be quite expensive because they are personalized. The amount of money they cost depends on how much lettering needs to be done and how elaborate it is. It is also more expensive for colored ink. Hallmark is where I got my invitations because they had ones that fit my personality perfectly, but this is not the only place to get them. Another option you have is to try to find a discount party store. Often, these stores carry the same name brand invitations, but at a reduced price. Unfortunately, I found out about one of these after I already ordered mine. A third option you have is to make invitations yourself. This is obviously the cheapest route, but they most likely will not look as professional unless you have an extremely good computer program and printer.

    Thank you cards - These can also vary in cost like the invitations. You can buy the expensive ones that go with your invitations, but I recommend that you buy simple thank you cards from the store. This is because it saves a lot of money, and there really is no reason to go with the expensive cards because they accomplish the same purpose. You will have to write a personal message in both kinds anyway. You can get these cards anywhere.

    Programs, etc. -  There are other things you can buy in this category, but are not necessarily needed. Some people choose to have ceremony programs that are given to the guests so they will know the order of events in the ceremony and the names of the people in the wedding party. These can be ordered with the invitations so they will look the same, but you can also make them yourself. Also, you can buy matching napkins for the reception and certain keepsakes such as bookmarks. These are also optional and look nice, but if you are trying to save money, it is probably not a good idea to buy these.

    Maps- If the reception is not at the same place as the ceremony, you should provide a map and directions to guests, especially if they are from out of town. This will reduce confusion and enable everyone to get to the reception in a timely manner. You can make these yourself quite easily on the computer.

Wedding Cake/Groom's Cake:

    Wedding cake- For this tasty tradition you can either buy it from a bakery, hire a person to make it, or buy it from a store such as Publix or Albertson's. The price of a cake varies from place to place and on its size. In choosing a size, keep in mind the fact that not all people will have a piece and that usually there is a lot left over. I bought my cake from a lady who bakes wedding cakes from her home, but there are many places and people who provide this service. You should sample many from different places before choosing.

    Groom's cake- You do not have to have this, but some people include it in their wedding traditions. It is a cake that is a bit smaller and is usually the groom's favorite kind of cake. If it is not big enough to serve, it usually functions as an accessory to the wedding cake. You can then eat it at a later time.

Flowers and Decorations:

    Flowers you wear or carry- There are a few different kinds of flowers that are traditionally bought for men and women to either wear or carry in a wedding. First, you will need to buy the different bouquets for yourself and for your attendants. Your bouquet will usually be larger and a different style than the others. The maid or matron of honor may or may not have a different bouquet as well. You will also have a bouquet that you will toss at the reception that will also be smaller. Along with the bouquets, you will also need to buy corsages for the mothers and grandmothers and possibly for other important women in the ceremony. For all the men, you only need to buy boutonnieres, which can vary or look the same for different roles. That is up to you to decide.

    Flower decorations- If you would like to decorate the ceremony or reception, there are many options. The amount of money that you will spend on these decorations depends on how many flowers you use and how elaborate you want them to be. At the ceremony, you might want flowers on the aisle pews, alter, candle holders, or anything you wish. At the reception, you might want them on each table, and as centerpieces. I did not use real flowers in my decorations, but they can be very versatile and beautiful.


    Rental car or limo- If you wish to ride in something other than your car or someone else's car to and from the ceremony, you must plan for the cost of renting alternative transportation. Limousines are very stylish and traditional, but can also be very expensive. You probably will not want to rent them for very long, so if you have to travel a long way after the reception, you will not want to go this route. If you are worried that some of your friends are going to get to rowdy with your car, then you might want to get a rental car. This is cheaper than a limo and more functional. The cheapest transportation obviously is to take your own car, which is not exactly an undesirable thing.

Wedding Party Gifts:

    Bride/groom- Since it is traditional to give each other a wedding present, you should plan for this in your budget along with everything else. Gifts can be anything that is special to the other person and do not have to be very expensive. They should just reflect your love and commitment to each other.

    Bridesmaids/groomsmen - Along with gifts for each other, you should also plan on buying gifts for the rest of the wedding party as a thank you for their support. These are usually small, relatively inexpensive trinkets such as necklaces or nice pens, but can be anything that would convey a message of gratitude and would show them how special they are to you.


    Guest souvenirs - You should have small items that you can give out to the guests at the reception. These are usually placed on the table. They can be anything that represents you and your wedding such as little bells, pictures of you, candy holders, etc. Be creative. You can even make these items, which not only saves money, but also makes them more special. If you want to make sure that you have a picture of all of your guests, you might also include a disposable camera on the table next to the favors. The guests can take their picture and you can develop them later. I know of people who have done this, and they were really happy with the pictures.

    Bubbles, rose petals, or bird seed - When leaving your reception, it is traditional to have the guests send you off with their love. They used to throw rice to commemorate your leaving for your honeymoon, but that has been discontinued because birds choke on it. Now, guests can blow bubbles and throw bird seed or rose petals. If you would like the guests to do this, you should decide on which one you would like and plan for it. If you choose bubbles, you might want to decorate them with tulle or ribbons. I had bubbles, and they turned out to provide a very magical atmosphere for leaving for our honeymoon at Disney World.

    Guest book and pen - It is customary to have the guests sign a book to let you know they attended your wedding. This can be a very nice keepsake that you can look back through to remember your day. You can buy this at most card stores or retail stores. This can also be personalized to reflect you unique personality. I chose a pen that looked like Minnie Mouse wearing a veil. Everyone thought  it was cute because it was something that represented me.

    Ring bearer's pillow/flower girl's basket - If you are including a ring bearer and/or flower girl in the ceremony, make sure you buy a pillow and basket. The pillow usually has fake rings tied to it because the best man and maid of honor are usually responsible for taking care of the rings. The basket can be any basket that matches the flower girl's dress. You can probably buy a basket at a craft store and decorate it for less than buying one from a bridal shop. That it what I did, and it turned out to be really nice.

    Unity candle - Many couples decide to have a unity candle ceremony to represent their leaving their parents to form a new family. If you decide to do this, you will need to buy a unity candle. This is usually a large candle accompanied by two smaller candles. You can buy these at bridal shops and even some party stores. You can also buy one and decorate it to your preference. I got mine at a party store, which was cheaper than the bridal store.

    Other things- There are a few other things you will have to plan for such as your wedding announcement in the newspaper, marriage license, gown preservation, and many other little things that you might need to make your day the most special day of your life. Make sure you sit down and try to think of all of these little things, because they can add up before you know it.


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Jennifer Hitchcock, Webmaster
Last revised November 18, 2002
Copyright Jennifer Hitchcock 2002 all rights reserved.
Void where prohibited.