10 May 2023

How to budget for your wedding

In these straitened times weddings can be emotive subjects for key participants and personal preferences may be more strongly felt than usual. There is a huge weight of expectation when it comes to the ‘big day’ and if you are feeling pressurised, money can be a tense subject. This doesn’t have to be the case, so long as discussions happen at an early date and in an open fashion. Respect, clarity, flexibility and being prepared to listen are all vital during these discussions. If you come to the table with an ideé fixe, and no willingness to compromise, you will almost certainly be heading for difficulties.

Everyone involved needs to be frank and realistic about money from the outset. It may burst the bubble of excitement, but an early decision on the budget, which will involve setting and agreeing the upper limits, will smooth the planning stages. Once the budget is set, negotiations can start.

A first step may be for the couple to have a discussion with their parents. Traditionally, the bride’s father bears the cost, but this is by no means expected today; parents on both sides may be keen to help. If the in-laws do not contribute towards the wedding, they may wish to host a pre- or post-wedding dinner or lunch.

Alternatively, the couple may wish to pay for the entire day themselves. As couples nowadays often marry later in life, and both men and women enjoy financial independence, the old norms aren’t always applicable.

Whatever the financial situation, just because someone is contributing towards the wedding does not mean that they control it. This is tricky ground – open discussion before accepting generous parental donations may save a lot of trouble further down the line. All too often, people who are paying for a lavish celebration feel that their generosity entitles them to be involved in every stage of decision-making. At the very worst, they may begin to treat the wedding as their own party, insisting on inviting their own friends, to the detriment of the couple who are marrying. All these difficulties need to be confronted at the outset, even if it means having a very explicit conversation about what accepting a generous subsidy entails.

Clever Budgeting

Most couples who are planning a wedding change their mind several times as to exactly what they want and how much they are willing to allocate to any given aspect, so a concrete budget right at the beginning is unrealistic. Everyone involved in planning the wedding will have different ideas about spending priorities, so it helps to consult as few people as possible, set a budget and work towards it.

There are two key mantras to bear in mind: prioritise and compromise. Think about what is essential, what is unnecessary, and the areas where costs can be cut. Be assured that however much the budget is, it will never be enough, so even those with large amounts of money to spend will be restricted. Costs should never be underestimated.

It is a good idea to identify the most important elements of the day at the outset – for example, the reception venue, the dress, and the quality of the wine. Ensuring there is an ample supply of wine and investing in great entertainment might be considered far more crucial than blowing thousands of pounds on flowers to decorate the venue. While you may well want everything to look perfect, remember that a wedding reception is primarily a large party, and prioritise expenditure on ensuring that all your guests have an enjoyable and memorable day.

Elaborate food will make a dent in even the most generous budgets, but as a bad dinner will be something that guests remember, the answer may be to choose quality over quantity. A delicious simple main course and pudding will be much more enjoyable than a mediocre five-course lunch.

Finalising the Budget

First agree on the provisional costs for every element of the day, then shop around and record the estimated amount to be allocated to each feature of the wedding. As costs are finalised, a record should be kept of the total sum plus any deposit paid. Now it is simply a matter of balancing the books. When a saving is made against your provisional estimate, the amount saved can be allocated to a different area, and likewise wherever the budget is exceeded, a saving must be made in another area, or extra cash found. Assess your essential expenditure before you can indulge in more luxurious additions; it is always a good idea to identify elements of the day that can be discarded without too much regret if costs are becoming too burdensome.

Quotations and Costs

Most suppliers of services will provide the customer with an estimate for their services. It is important to be aware of the difference between an estimate (just that) and a quotation (the real amount to be paid, which is set in stone). The final budget should, of course, be prepared only after acquiring quotations, rather than relying on estimates that may no longer reflect the extent of the service being provided.

A large event such as a wedding requires careful organisation; chaotic paperwork will only add to pre-wedding stress. All correspondence, quotations and receipts should be kept, and a note made of deposits paid, when balances are due, and sums outstanding. Be aware that most suppliers’ quotes exclude VAT, so allow for the extra percentage to be added on.

The ‘W’ Word

Any goods or services associated with the word ‘wedding’ will automatically be marked up in price. Ways of achieving the same result without falling into this trap – perhaps using friends, acquaintances, or personal recommendations – should be investigated. Areas where it might be possible to bypass the big wedding suppliers include the cake, bridesmaids’ dresses and flowers.


Tips are not usually made to companies or individuals that supply services at ‘wedding rates’. Friends or acquaintances who give special rates – for example a florist who supplies flowers at cost and does the arranging for free – may be better rewarded with a thoughtful present rather than the host insisting on paying market rates.

Equally, friends who go beyond the call of duty for the wedding day deserve a thank-you present. Costs add up, so these extra add-ons must not be forgotten.


You can never be too careful. Weddings involve a substantial outlay, and insurance is one of the first priorities when planning the wedding. It should be put in place as soon as the budget is established and before the couple begin to book suppliers, as it covers against such issues as cancellations, failure of suppliers, accidents, problems with the wedding transport and loss of rings.

Wedding insurance can be purchased from banks and high street stores as well as specialist insurance companies, so it is wise to research all options and the cover they offer.

There are various levels of wedding insurance, but the following will usually be covered:

• Accidental injury to any person.

• Cancellation of the wedding or reception.    

• Loss of, or damage to, the wedding attire for the main wedding party

• Loss of, or damage to, the wedding rings, cake, flowers or presents.

• Failure of any supplier.

• Failure of prints and videos.

• Failure of wedding cars and transport.

• Legal expenses.

The insurance policy will not cover cancellation costs if either the bride or groom decides not to go through with the wedding.


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