How to Create and Manage a Wedding Budget Spreadsheet

Everything to know about organizing your wedding budget.

Wedding ceremony setup with wood chairs and florals

Photo by Jake Anderson

There’s no way around it: weddings are an expensive undertaking with many moving parts. How do you keep track of everything you’re spending and make sure you don’t go too far? That’s where your wedding budget spreadsheet comes in. Setting up your spreadsheet in an organized manner can do wonders for keeping the wedding stress at bay. But, how exactly do you create this spreadsheet and what should be factored into it? Couples should account for every single expense that their wedding will accrue from fashion to florals to twinkle lights over cocktail hour. It is also important to be diligent to include every new bill along the way to make sure they aren't exceeding their budget.

The first, and most important, thing to get a handle on is a realistic approach to your wedding budget overall. “It’s crippling to come into a wedding with a set number you want to spend because there’s so much fluidity involved,” says wedding planner Caitlin Maloney Kuchemba of Fulton Events. “Instead of trying to stick to an exact number, I find it’s better to have a target range.”

Meet the Expert

Caitlin Maloney Kuchemba is the founder and creative director of East coast-based Fulton Events. With ten years of experience in the wedding industry, Kuchemba has been featured in national and regional publications including The New York Times, Martha Stewart, The Knot, and more.

To determine that range, Kuchemba recommends reserving 10 to 15 percent of your initial target number as wiggle room for unforeseen costs, extras you opt for later on in the planning process, and cost increases that fluctuate with the guest count. A couple with an initial target wedding budget of $70,000, for example, should aim to cover their key vendor costs with about $60,000. That way, they’ll feel more comfortable adding in expenses as wedding planning progresses, because they’ll be spending within their target range of $60,000 to $70,000.

No matter what number you’re working with, you’ll want an efficient, easy-to-read way to keep track of how you allocate funds along the way—and how much you have left to spend. Read on for expert tips for creating a wedding budget spreadsheet that’ll keep all the most important numbers right at your fingertips as you're wedding planning.

Create an Excel Document for Your Wedding Budget

The best and easiest digital tool to create a wedding budget spreadsheet is an Excel document. This platform not only allows you to easily organize and edit your information, but it also has key functions that quickly calculate totals and divide your expenses into easy-to-navigate columns and tabs.

While you can have a static document on your computer, building your Excel spreadsheet within Google Sheets is great for sharing purposes. This way, your partner, parents, and any other financial contributors to the wedding can see where the budget stands without having to ask you to reshare it. Even if multiple people have access to your wedding budget spreadsheet, it’s best if only one person formally updates it. If you’re using a Google Sheet, you can lock the document so that only one person (ahem, you) has editor privileges.

Sometimes, multiple wedding budget spreadsheets need to happen if there are multiple financial contributors to the wedding. It’s okay to create separate spreadsheets for separate contributors, so no one feels bad about the amount of money they’re spending in comparison. Just make sure you have access to view each sheet and can approve any changes.

How to Set Up Your Wedding Budget Spreadsheet 

Like all spreadsheets, your wedding budget spreadsheet will be comprised of horizontal rows and vertical columns. Make your rows the different components and vendor categories of the wedding. Kuchemba typically lists them alphabetically but has also seen spreadsheets that start with larger costs (catering, entertainment, reception venue, etc.) and then taper off into smaller expenditures, such as the cake and favors. Here are the categories she uses, along with examples of sub-categories in certain instances:

  • Accommodations
  • After Party 
  • Attire and Alterations
  • Beverage/Bar
  • After-Wedding Brunch
  • Cake
  • Catering
  • Ceremony Venue
  • Décor and Styling
  • Entertainment
  • Equipment and Rentals
  • Favors & Gifts
  • Florals
  • Hair & Makeup 
  • Lighting & Production
  • Officiant 
  • Photography 
  • Reception Venue 
  • Rehearsal Dinner
  • Stationery 
  • Transportation 
  • Videography 
  • Welcome Party

How detailed you get is, of course, entirely up to personal preference. While it may be overwhelming for some to have a line item for every single purchase visible in one sheet, others may find it helpful for quickly cutting costs once the numbers start creeping up. “If someone is really trying to watch their dollars, it is helpful to break things out, because then you’ll know exactly what you’re spending on,” says Kuchemba. “A pre-ceremony beverage, for example, might be $800, so if you see that you might decide to cut it if you don’t really want it.” You also should make sure to factor in vendor tips and gratuity into your budget.

Want to see every itemized piece, but not all at once? Create a separate tab for each category within the same spreadsheet, and list out individual expenses there. 

Your columns will be where you track costs and the payment process. Be sure to include one column for each of the following:

  • Proposal and estimate cost
  • Final cost
  • Difference between the estimate and the final cost (this can be automatically calculated by setting up a rule that subtracts the estimate from the final for each row) 
  • Balance (how much is still due to the vendor if you’re paying in installments) 
  • Payment due date 

Sum each column to easily track how your budget is pacing in real-time without having to manually redo calculations each time something changes. You can do this by entering "=SUM" into a cell, highlighting the row you want to add, and pressing the return button.

How to Manage Your Wedding Budget Spreadsheet

The key to any successful wedding budget spreadsheet is, of course, to keep it as updated as possible. (Having the most current numbers will best prepare you for each financial decision.) To that end, Kuchemba recommends inserting new costs as they come in and you sign contracts. “You may also want to have a monthly reminder in your calendar to sit down with your partner and family to discuss where the budget is at that current moment,” says Kuchemba. 

Another helpful way to manage your budget spreadsheet is differentiating between more fixed costs and more malleable costs at the beginning of the budgeting process. Your photography and videography estimates, for example, likely won’t fluctuate unless you add or subtract hours of service, and the same typically goes for music and entertainment services, your officiant, and the costs to occupy your ceremony and reception venues

Other expenses will increase and decrease—sometimes dramatically so—as your guest count rises and falls because they are explicitly tied to how many guests they’ll be catering to. These categories typically include bar costs, food costs, rental upgrades, and floral arrangements. After all, the more guest you have, the more tables you'll need to decorate. Keeping those more fixed costs in mind—and selecting those vendors on the earlier side—will give you a better idea of how much wiggle room you have in categories you won’t know final pricing for until later.

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