Where to Spend Most of the Wedding Budget?

Unfortunately, not all of us can afford to have a lavish $50,000 to $100,000 wedding (nor should we, because that’s a sizable down payment in Vancouver and the cost of an entire home in many parts of the United States).  According to The Knot (perhaps not the best source of credible wedding advice since The Knot seems to condone lavish weddings), the average cost of weddings is now over $28,000.

One of my closest friends is getting married in 2014 and I have had the opportunity to be somewhat front and centre in terms of her decision making for her upcoming wedding.  It has been a great opportunity to see how the wedding budget can actually be adhered to, and how there can be compromise or sacrifices in terms of what to spend money on with a finite budget.  I am sure that the owners of this blog will have some great input as well in terms of where they are spending their wedding budget 😉 (A heartfelt congratulations, guys!).

Here are the usual “necessities” for a wedding:

  • Where to Spend Most of the Wedding Budget?
  • Suits/ Tux
  • Rings
  • Venue
  • Flowers
  • Photography
  • Make up and Hair
  • Bridesmaid & Groomsmen attire
  • Cake
  • Food/ Catering
  • Drinks
  • Decorations
  • Band/ Live Music/ Music
  • Wedding favours

My friend has been trying to stick to a smallish budget for a wedding of around 100.  I’m not sure how much the total budget is, but I have had the opportunity to go wedding dress shopping and help with decision making for make-up.  She was thinking about saving $200 to $300 on hair and makeup by going with a less experience make up artist and stylist.  Looking at the portfolios of the make up artists, I could definitely see a difference between more experience and less experience.  It made me think about what I would focus my money/ budget on if I were to get married (uh….one day hahaha).

Related: The Cost of Weddings – Yours and Everyone Else’s!

Personally, I would spend the wedding budget on high quality:

  • Photography (I’ve seen some amazing wedding videos and some fantastic wedding photography- this is something that you will have memories of for years to come so I think it makes sense to splurge on this)
  • Drinks (I would do an open bar or close to an open bar, let’s face it, people have fun when they are drunk- but of course, safe drunk!!)
  • Food (I think that good food is a must.  I heard of someone who served hot dogs at their wedding, and although this is cute, it might feel tacky for guests)
  • Cake (I have a favourite cake that I have been enjoying for years and it would be fantastic to make it into a wedding cake one day)
  • Makeup and Hair (again, it goes back to the idea that photographs last for years and good make up and hair can make a great photograph!)
  • Venue (Although it doesn’t have to be a fancy schmancy place, this inadvertently becomes the area where most of the wedding budget goes to)

Related: How Much is That Wedding In the Window?

I would try and save money on:

  • The wedding dress (Instead of spending $1200 to $2000 on a wedding gown that will be kept in a box) I would try and go for the custom made mail-order dresses online.  They will only set you back around $350 tops and some of them look amazing.
  • Decorations (can people really tell nowadays whether something is from the dollar store or not?)
  • Flowers (flowers are expensive… perhaps there is no way to save money on flowers I guess.  One could try and opt for less expensive flowers, such as succulents for a winter wedding)

According to an article by Petapixel, Brides most often regret not spending more money on photography.  Ironically, brides most often regret not spending more money on flowers, and at the same time, many brides regret spending so much on flowers.  Guess it depends on the person!

Related: Destination Wedding vs Traditional At Home Wedding: Which One is Cheaper?

Check out the chart below from Petapixel for a breakdown of wishes and regrets when it comes to wedding budget spending:

It makes sense to try and save as much money as you can, because it is one day.  However, it is one day for the rest of your lives together!  Definitely a cause for celebration I suppose


Readers, what would or did you spend your wedding budget on?  Any regrets?



Young is a writer and former owner of Young and Thrifty and the main "twitter' behind Young and Thrifty's twitter account. She lives in Vancouver, BC and enjoys long walks on the beach, spending time with her anxious dog, and finding good deals. If you like what you read, consider signing up for email updates.

15 Responses to Where to Spend Most of the Wedding Budget?

  1. As it stands my biggest budget lines in terms of importance are the food and the photographer, which have thus far been the hardest ones to bring the price down on! Quality photographers are largely hitting around the $3500 mark in this area, if not more, and even a bunch of rookies are charging those prices (it shows in their pictures). I know my fiance originally wanted to do a toonie bar or something similar, but most places in the area that we’ve looked at are charging $7.50 a drink, so we’d still be eating almost 3/4 of the bar cost. We’ll probably buy a couple bottles of wine for each table, and make it a cash bar after that.

    This was a really well timed post for me, because my fiance and I spent the better part of last sunday hashing out the budget and trying to figure out how we could do what we wanted for the budget we’re aiming for. It won’t be easy

    • Keep us updated Cassie, as Justin and I are planning weddings as well. I’ve decided to do the destination wedding thing so my plans look a little bit different.

      • After looking at the numbers, I understand why destination weddings are becoming so popular! My sister is doing one this summer as well. I plan on doing a budget breakdown when its all said and done.

        • Ok, I look forward to seeing that. I feel slightly guilty about asking people to spend that much money to come see me, but our attitude is to simply make sure it is the best experience that it can be for everyone and hope they feel they get their money’s worth. Also, try to make it crystal clear we really don’t want any gifts!

  2. Most important is Photos… we hire a freelance guy for the day. He had an assistant, and we paid there travel expenses, and included him in our meals and activities for the day. Back in $2000 we spent ~$750 to have him for the day, and then spent additional ~ $1,250 on photo package for us. All that said, he also took shots of many that attend our wedding, and set up other family shots since everyone was dolled up anyways, which is where he made an additional $3000+, for which others bought as a result of our day and our settings. The assistant was also taking at will shots all day, so we even have a couple of photos with the photographer setting up stuff, which is part of the day really… Anyways we found the guy by dropping in on a photo class at the local college… Not sure this situation would work for everyone though. Secondly, Food. We had a small noon, outdoor wedding at local heritage site, and had a catered lunch served on mirrors outdoors following the ceremony. The caterer I believe costs us about $2000 for 37 people, which may seem pricy, but the food and service was 5 star! Following the lunch photos were taken at a few strategic locales and then the party shifted to our house, where a second in home catering service and open bar, since it was at our house, was arranged. Photographer stayed with us the whole time and partied and drank till the end. It was a great day, and the bonus, we, our friends and our families all have pictures hanging in our homes of a day that will never be forgotten. As an aside, there are many wedding dress 2nd time around type shops out there. My wife ended up purchasing a dress for $250, which had an original list in the $1500+ category. I did some minor alterations (yes I sew – If they don’t find you handsome, they better find you handy), so total was closer to $350 when all said and done. – Thanks for this post, as it brought back a few memorable moments. – Cheers.

    • Oops, wedding was in 2000, not $2000. All in I think the wedding and ALL things involved topped out at $8400, rings included. Photographer was hired for the day 8am until evening meal was done, but he stayed until around midnight as he took a shot of me on the couch passed out from the days events – Cheers.

  3. When we got married we had some similar non-negotiables – open bar, had to be a saturday night, and good photographer. It was quickly apparent where costs could be cut – (a) limit guests to people who actually want to be there and we know; (b) skip the limo rental; (c) flowers – we got our flowers from Metro (a big grocery store here) and picked them up and delivered them myself, piece of cake.

  4. I’ve been to a lot of weddings (I shoot wedding photography, so this may be biased). I always think back to what was memorable about the weddings. It was never the limo/rides. Or the cake. Or the open, loonie, toonie bar. Or even the decorations.
    A nice venue can set the stage. A Great justice of the peace or pastor (I’ve seen some bumbling ones). Splurge on photography – it’s the one thing that is eternal (and get an album for chrissakes). Nobody can tell if the wedding dress was $500 or $5000, plus in 10 years it will look gaudy and out of style anyways. As a guest, obviously the food is important, but people really only remember if it was REALLY good. Or REALLY bad. A fantastic MC and DJ can really make the night memorable for everyone. Flowers – don’t go with plastic rentals, but any shop should be able to put something nice together. Don’t skimp on hair and makeup.

      • Yes, that can certainly be an issue, especially for those who might not know what is good/great/crap. Best suggestion is to browse through all their previous weddings on their blog and see if the style/look is what you like. Blog postings are much better than their portfolio, since they will post all the best images from each wedding to show the story, rather than cherry pick their best work in a portfolio. Most legit photogs will have a blog.
        Or befriend a photographer that does this already and ask for their recommendation of photographers in your area.

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