Wedding Budget Planning: Allocate Your Budget Your Way

Planning a wedding should be about you—especially when it comes to the budget. Learn how to set and allocate a wedding budget

Ever thought about exchanging vows in Times Square as the ball prepares to drop? What about skipping town to find a small chapel in the countryside? One thing’s for sure—if you dream it, just about anything’s possible for a wedding these days. And whether your mind drifts to a few friends gathered casually on a rooftop or a grand affair downtown, knowing how to go about setting and allocating a budget is the best way to make your wedding dreams a reality. 

What’s the Average Budget for a Wedding?

The average budget for a wedding in the United States in 2020 was $19,000, down from the pre-pandemic price tag of $28,000 in 2019, according to wedding-planning website The Knot. But that doesn’t mean you need to spend that. Instead, you’ll want to think about the things that are most important to you and go from there.

Older couple laughs during their wedding reception.

How to Set Your Wedding Budget

Thinking about your priorities and discussing wedding budget planning as a couple is a great first step when thinking about how to set a wedding budget. 

Think About What’s Most Important

Not surprisingly, more than half of couples feel that a wedding should represent who they are as a couple. If that rings true for you, here are just a few things to consider as you start to think about budgeting for a wedding: 

  • Do you share a passion with your soon-to-be spouse—like hiking, biking, old movies or your pet dogs? If so, consider how it could be part of your celebration. 
  • Is there a location that’s meaningful to you? This special place could be anything from a family church to a favorite mountain peak.
  • Who do you want there with you? Whether you have a big family or a small group of friends, deciding who you want by your side on your wedding day is important. For some couples who are remarrying, the inclusion of children might be top of mind.
  • How will your family traditions and customs affect your plans? Think about any choices you’ll make to uniquely celebrate together that will honor each of you along with both sides of your family.

Now is the time to think about all the things that define you as a couple and decide how you’d like them reflected in your big day.

Review Your Finances

Your plans for the future may also influence decisions around budgeting for a wedding. You may want to think about how your wedding choices could affect your financial priorities beyond your wedding day. For example, when engaged couple Mike and Eric started talking about wedding plans, they knew that forgoing a more traditional wedding would allow them to focus on planning for their future together. That decision led them to marry at the courthouse in front of a handful of close friends and family members.

We realized we don’t need to go to some far-[flung] place to get married. As long as we were there, our people were there, that’s all that mattered. Love was there. The money we saved from not doing a traditional wedding we can put toward adventures, a home someday—something that is [going to] ensure that we are responsible for our own financial security.-Mike and Eric, about their wedding planning journey

Consider the Details

Hashtags, wedding websites and first dances are details you can dive into later if you choose. But while you’re wedding budget planning, there are a few more practical decisions to tackle first.

  • Who’s paying? Whether you’re footing the bill or someone else—like a parent—is contributing, knowing where the cash flow is coming from is important.
  • How do you want to pay? Consider whether there are ways to make paying for your special day even more rewarding. Many credit cards offer perks that could add up if you pay your credit card bill instead of paying a vendor directly. 
  • How many guests will you invite? Whether you and your betrothed are flying solo or you’re inviting most of your hometown, nailing down the size of your guest list will set the tone when budgeting for a wedding.
Indian couple in traditional dress on their wedding day.

Wedding Budget Allocation

Guest count, time of year, number of vendors and venue type are factors that can greatly impact wedding budget allocation—with the venue often being about 30% of a wedding budget. 

But here’s a little secret: There’s no typical wedding budget breakdown. Must-haves are different for every couple, so think about the things you can’t do without and go from there. And while a quick internet search will uncover suggested allocations for every possible detail, those percentages don’t take into account your unique preferences—especially if you’re taking a more nontraditional walk down the proverbial aisle. 

Wedding planner Tracy Brisson agrees, saying that these commonly cited percentages can vary greatly based on location and the couple’s wishes. Some people might prioritize lasting memories and earmark more money for photography, while others may want to throw the best party their guests have ever been to and might spend more on the reception.

Understanding which details are non-negotiables for you will help you plan ahead to make sure they’re part of your wedding budget allocation. And if it turns out the only detail you both care about is a vintage convertible and an open road, then own it! Knowing what matters to you is the only way to do your wedding your way.

Newly married couple with paint on their clothes at Holi Festival.

You’ve Saved for Your Wedding—Now What?

Once you’ve saved for a wedding and done all your wedding budget planning, it’s time to enjoy your special day. But there will be many special days on the horizon, so it’s important to keep your financial future in mind too.

Saving for Other Moments in Your Marriage

You’ll likely want to think about other financial milestones. Start to figure out what matters to you when it comes to planning for other life moments like buying a house, expanding your family or retiring—no matter how far down the road that may feel. But before you do, take time to think through your overall approach to finances as a married couple. A few things to discuss include:

  • Your short- and long-term financial goals.
  • How to structure your finances.
  • How your taxes might change once you’re married.
  • A plan to discuss your finances on an ongoing basis.

The transition to sharing your life with someone can be tricky at times, but communication and honesty go a long way, and so does a financial plan that’s unique to you and your goals together. Married life isn’t always a honeymoon, but with a little planning and a lot of love, living happily ever after is within reach.

We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

Related Content