Wedding Cost Checklist: Here's How to Allocate Your Entire Wedding Budget

It's possible to plan your dream day without breaking the bank—all it takes is a little advanced planning.

Couple looking over papers while sitting in front of laptop in the living room

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Breaking down your wedding budget is one of the trickiest (yet most important) wedding planning tasks. Since this figure influences all other decisions—venue, guest list, meal options, and if you can spring for that pricey DJ—it's essential to create an accurate budget for the big day. No matter your starting number, think about dividing your wedding budget in terms of “for you” and “for them,” says Alicia Fritz of A Day in May Event Planning & Design. “A budget begins with a guest list that informs most of your costs. Be prepared to spend the most (around 40 percent) on taking care of guests’ basic needs—that's venue, food, and beverage."

Meet the Expert

Alicia Fritz is a Michigan-based wedding planner and the founder of A Day in May Event Planning & Design.

The remaining amount includes fixed costs including your photographer, videographer, and entertainment. Then, there's the more logistical and arbitrary stuff—transportation, labor, lighting, stationery, and anything else deemed essential.

Ready to get started? Use this our wedding budget checklist as a rough outline for spending breakdowns, then adjust according to your priorities.

Typical Wedding Budget Breakdown
Elnora Turner/Brides 

Wedding Cost Checklist

Before making any decisions, it's important to figure out exactly how much you can afford to spend on your wedding. To do this, you and your partner should look at your savings account and determine how much you will be able to save throughout the engagement period. You may also want to talk to both person's parents to see if they're willing and able to contribute. Once you've got your total, it's best to break down your budget based on our wedding cost checklist, which encompasses the ten biggest planning categories. Our rough estimates are a good starting point, but you'll likely need to adjust buckets according to your priorities and preferences.

  • Venue and Catering: 40 percent of your budget
  • Photography and Videography: 15 percent of your budget
  • Wedding Attire and Beauty: 5 percent of your budget
  • Music/Entertainment: 10 percent of your budget
  • Flowers: 10 percent of your budget
  • Favors and Gifts: 2 percent of your budget
  • Transportation: 3 percent of your budget
  • Stationery: 3 percent of your budget
  • Cake: 2 percent of your budget
  • Décor: 10 percent of your budget

Keep this question in mind: Is your dream venue (or that dress, or those imported peonies, or whatever is on your wish list) non-negotiable? If it puts you over budget, cut back in another area that matters less to you and your partner. And if it isn't a deal-breaker, find another option that you're sure to love just as much.

Don't Forget to Create a Spreadsheet

To track your spending, follow in the footsteps of wedding planners and create an Excel workbook or Google Doc to include everything that makes up your big day. Divide each category's cost into its component parts. For example, under "bride's attire," make line items for the dress, accessories, and alterations.

Fill in the columns with all the necessary information. Every spreadsheet should include vendor contract information, estimated cost, actual cost, additional service fees and tips, transportation and parking costs for off-site vendors, and taxes. Create a line for your total and use the auto-sum function to add as you go.

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