Budgeting for the Big Day

Let’s talk money. I know this is a tough subject and generally taboo, but your wedding is a huge investment. The average wedding in 2018 cost $44,ooo. That’s a solid full year’s income! Maryland is the 8th most expensive state to get married in, with our weddings costing around $35,000 each.  My home state of New Jersey is the 2nd! No matter where you get married, it can easily be the second biggest all-around purchase of your life (aside from a home).

It’s always awkward to talk about money. I am asking for your patience and kindness as you read this because I am not trying to talk you into spending more or less money or judge or make assumptions about your wedding based on how much it cost. If you follow me online or have ever met me in person, you know I care a million times more about marriage than weddings. I love my job because I am able to support and strengthen marriages that will last a lifetime. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about!

All that being said…money is a big deal. Your wedding is a big deal. Getting married is a big deal. Talking about money and your wedding is what? A BIG DEAL.  So let’s talk 🙂


The first piece of advice I have for you is to think about what is most important to you about your wedding. Is it having 300 of your favorite people in attendance? Because that will affect what percentage of your budget goes toward catering and venue. Is it getting married in a particular place? Destination weddings are amazing, but they change the structure of your budget too. Is it having photos and/or a video that helps you remember every detail of the day? Is it having a particular dress you’ve had your eye on for months or years? Is it being convenient to family and friends? Is it getting married on a specific date that means something to you guys? It is having a bouquet full of peonies? Is it having a DJ or a live band who will help your guests party all night long?

I recommend talking to your fiance and deciding what your top 3-5 priorities for your wedding are, in terms of money. There are so many! For Daniel and I, we cared the most about photography, florals, and the location of our venue. My mom really prioritized the DJ.

(Keep in mind, I am talking about financial priorities. The thing we cared the absolute most about was that our guests knew how God loves us and designed marriage to be a representation of His relationship with the church. Luckily, we could do that for free! This is just an example of non-financial priority for your wedding, aka not what I’m talking about in this blog.)


Please note the use of the word general. This is just a list to give you an idea of where your budget may go and approximately what percentage of it various vendors will take up. I wanted to give you this so if your hair and makeup artist is trying to charge you 50% of your overall budget…you know something’s up!

Catering: 39%

Photography: 12-14%

Venue: 9-12%

Flowers: 8%

Music: 7%

Dress: 8%

Stationary: 3%

Cake: 2%

Wedding Rings: 2-4%

Planner: 2%

Transportation: 1%

Favors & Gifts: 1%

Hair & Make Up: 1%

Groom’s Tux: 1%

Additional: 2-5%


Also, check out my post about Hidden Costs on Your Wedding Day to help you plan for the things that fall under the “additional” section of this breakdown!


Keep thinking about your priorities as you read this section!

In planning my own wedding and being in the wedding industry, I’ve learned a lot of little tricks about ways to save money. And I’ve seen what things are super important to get right! I feel like I need a disclaimer because as a wedding photographer, I LOVE luxury weddings. I’m not going to lie to y’all, those are very fun to photograph.But I also understand that not every couple can afford a $40,000+ wedding and I do not want to pressure anyone into spending more than they can afford! This list of ways you can save money on your wedding completely comes from my financial priorities with wedding planning that I shared before.


You can save money by…

  • using Vistaprint for your stationery! They have high quality, highly customizable products with great customer service. Plus, they have sales all the time!! Some other places I recommend for stationery are Earmark Ink, Just Jurf, and Shine Wedding Invitations. All of these are quality options, but will be more expensive than Vistaprint.
  • bulk ordering your bridal party gifts. Most stores, especially on Etsy, offer discounts if you purchase more than 5 or 6 of one item.
  • having a dry, or limited alcohol wedding. I know…GASP. Remember, if having an open bar is one of your priorities, then stay true to that! I am just providing my insights. Adding alcohol can increase your per person costs by 20% or more, so sometimes just offering wine and beer, or limiting when it is offered can result in big savings.
  • getting married on a Friday or Sunday. You’d be surprised how much cheaper it can be! Daniel and I saved thousands because we chose to get married on a Friday. More of your favorite vendors might be available too!
  • having two cakes. I know this sounds weird, but it’s common to have a ‘stage cake’ which is what you would have out on the table with 2, 3, 4, 5 tiers, but only one of them is real! That’s the layer you guys cut into, but there are sheet cakes in the back that your guests will actually eat. If your baker doesn’t mention this option to you, make sure to ask because it can give you more cake flavors just more cake. I mean more cake is always a good idea.

Now that I’ve told you a few ways you can cut costs on your big day, I want to share a few of the places from both a bride and wedding professional perspective, that I do not recommend skimping on.


You should consider splurging on…

  • your hair and makeup. You will be in more photos and looked at more on this day than probably any other day of your life. These are the moments you will look back on every year and show your kids. You also don’t want to be worried about rain, tears, sweat, and hugging messing up your hair or your make up. This is a place to INVEST.
  • flowers. This is another thing that will be in alllll your photos! Bridal bouquets, bridesmaid bouquets, floral decorations at your ceremony, centerpieces, boutonnieres…these will be in almost every single one of your photos. Plus, bouquets can add so much drama and interest to the overall vibe of the day. Big, extravagant bouquets make a huge difference and can make a wedding look and feel so much more luxurious.
  • photography. Shocker, right?! The photographer thinks photos are important. But y’all…I REALLY DO. I don’t think I could be any other type of wedding professional because my heart wouldn’t be in it. You are investing so much time, money, and energy into this day. A day later, a year later, 10 years later, all you will have left are your photos. The flowers die, the dress gets preserved, and the guests leave. But having good images from your wedding day can transport you back to the emotions you felt in an instant. It allows you to share the day with friends and family who may not have been able to be there. A high quality, experienced photographer will capture the big and small details of your wedding that will allow you to relive it from multiple perspectives. You will get to see how your mom and grandmom reacted while you said your vows. IT IS WORTH IT PEEPS.
  • your dress. Not only is this probably the only time you will wear a dress this glamours, but you will be wearing it for hours. You will be walking, standing, dancing, and moving a lot in this dress. It is important that you feel beautiful and confident and comfortable in it! The joy your dress gives you will radiate throughout the entire day, I promise.

Stationary by Shine Wedding Invitations

Thanks for reading my book about budgeting gals and gents. I always find myself spilling my guts to you all on the blog, especially when I plan on a post being short and sweet! How about long and sweet? I hope this was helpful to all of you! And if you’re a #MarieMedinaCouple, you get allllll my knowledge fo’ free! I am always here to serve my couples and I believe that goes beyond photography 🙂


Let me know what you thought of this! And if you have any recommendations for future “For Brides” posts, please comment below!

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