Wedding Budget Breakdown: How to Allocate and stick to your Wedding Budget

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Welcome back my totally organised, financially savvy wedding planners – you’re at Part III of the Wedding Budget Guide. You’ve started your wedding budget, followed by setting and spending on your priorities, and now you want to get on with the rest of the Wedding Budget Breakdown.

Wedding Budget Breakdown: What Comes First? 

Once you’ve got an estimated budget, an initial guest list, and your priorities on lock-down, it’s time to look at how you can choose a wedding venue. Begin researching to find a venue which caters to your number of guests comfortably, within a cost you can afford. You can expect to spend anywhere from 50 to 70% of your budget on venues, depending on whether the price includes catering.

When it comes to choosing a wedding venue, one of your first big questions is going to be whether to go for a ‘dry-hire’ or ‘venue only’ location, or an all-inclusive, fully comprehensive and catered spot.

Many people assume that this is a cheaper way to do it, because you don’t have to pay restaurant rates for wine, and you’re not obliged to use in-house catering, theming and decorations.

However, if you’re aren’t well organised, good at budgeting, and into the idea of making all the arrangements yourself, a dry-hire venue may not be for you.


wedding-organiser-organizer-diary-planner-book-little-white-bookGet well organised with the little white book wedding organiser and diary.

To make a space completely your own though, and for a wedding that’s unlike any other, you can turn the empty shell of a dry-hire venue into a really special and completely personal space. It’s all up to you, but it’s also at your expense.

Breaking down of the Biggest Expense – Your Wedding Venue

Some fully catered wedding venues won’t have a hireage fee, but either way, you need to know exactly what is, and is not included: how much time? Exclusive use? Taxes, gratuity, cleaning? Staff for set-up, decoration, food service, packing up, planning assistance in the lead up? A sound system for music and speeches? Some venues may offer a wedding planner to assist.

Conversely, even the very basics, such as tables and chairs, won’t be included in a dry hire venue, so you’d better find out now. As an example of the costs involved with a dry-hire venue, with ours because we had to hire all the tables, chairs, crockery, cutlery, glassware, linens and a little décor, the cost was an extra $100 per person – and that’s without the need to hire a marquee, which itself is thousands.

I also offer a venue questionnaire pack which will really help you with these questions.

Read more: How to choose your wedding venue – General
 Read more: How to choose your wedding venue – Auckland and surrounds

After the Venue (& After your Priorities) – What’s Next?

Your choice of wedding venue may also dictate many other aspects of your wedding, such as the general style and formality, and other details like catering and beverages. Beyond that, though, you are going to have tens, if not hundreds, of small decisions to make on every other little element.

As we’ve already talked about your priorities I’m going to assume that you’ve allocated resources towards those, and that now you are dealing with the balance. Reminder, you may wish to return to the sample wedding budgets too.

How you choose to spend the balance of your wedding budget is going to be very personal, it’s all going to come down to what’s important (and what will honestly make absolutely no difference to you). Each decision you make will have a bearing on how you allocate your wedding budget, and what will remain of your budget to spend on other things.

You’re probably going to have begin with a list of things you may book (i.e. have a look at the ‘budget’ pages of the little white book) but it’s important to consider that just because it’s included in a list, does not mean you need to have it.

As you look at these budget pages and begin thinking about estimates, you might see things you hadn’t even contemplated spending money on – such as transport, wedding favours, or a rehearsal dinner. My advice would be that if you haven’t contemplated those things yet, you needn’t. They obviously aren’t important to you, so strike them out!

To get married you need a bride, a groom (or sometimes two brides and two grooms in NZ), two witnesses, a celebrant and a marriage licence – everything else is negotiable.

Read more: Spark Joy in Wedding Planning

What, a Wedding without a Wedding Cake?!

Indeed, even going sans something which seems so “integral” (or just commonplace) as a wedding cake does not invalidate your wedding…

My wedding cake was smashed en route to the venue the day before the wedding, and I can tell you how much difference it made – absolutely none. It was just as delicious in bits, and I’d certainly encourage others to save $500 or $1000 and serve a cheaper, one tiered cake instead, if not forego it altogether and serve dessert.

What about the importance of having beautiful Centrepieces?

On the day of the wedding, it transpired that the platters of banquet style food we had were so large that they wouldn’t fit on the tables, unless we took off most of the centrepieces, flowers, candles and all the different glassware. Again, noone noticed. I could have saved thousands.

Should I just DIY?

When you feel like your budget isn’t meeting your expectations, and you realise you’re going to have to save money in some areas, I suggest that rather than think ‘What could I DIY to save money’ or ‘What could I get cheaply’ rather, return to What do I really want and need to have, and don’t go beyond that.

Don’t go along with something just because you’ve seen it in every Hollywood Rom-com, or at all your friends’ weddings. Challenge every assumption you make that you “must-have” something.

The easiest things to save on, I suggest, are on stationery (which can now be completely electronic or print at home – thanks Etsy!), flowers, centrepieces and much of the reception décor, signage, favours, transport, new shoes and jewellery, but the list really goes on, you don’t need to have any of those things, which makes allocating the remainder of your wedding budget much, much easier.

We have heaps of money remaining, we want to spend it!

With your Wedding Venue (and food/drink) booked and a few key priorities secured, if your wedding budget allows and you feel like it, I suggest that you allocate your budget in a way which is going to make the biggest difference to both you and your guests’ enjoyment of the day.

Music: While you can absolutely organise your own playlists for music, there’s no denying the ambience created by a live singer or band, and the entertainment is always appreciated by the guests – especially if you are taking post-ceremony photos. You may also want to consider a DJ or band for the evening festivities. See Wedding Music.

Catering: Once you’ve taken care of the main catering choices and made sure your guests will have plenty to eat and drink, you may wish to consider having a late-night snack (we served pizza!) for your guests, or a wedding cake, if you’re a sweet tooth and have your eye on something beautiful. Not necessary, but enjoyable!

Photography: I realise that *most* of you will have a wedding photographer, but that’s not the case for everybody. I recently had the most amazing (and amazingly funny!) message sent to me by a follower – she said she’d chosen not to have a photographer – because she didn’t want to spend $4,000 on a new Facebook profile picture! So, while it may be important to you, everyone else is planning their weddings

If you do want and feel the need to have all of those things, the most effective way to trim the budget is by having a smaller wedding – the cost of food and drink for each guest adding a tremendous expense, not to mention per person cost for all the little things that add up.

Our Budget Doesn’t Allow us to have Everything

You may find yourself getting disappointed, you had all these huge ideas, this Pinterest perfect wedding, but you really needn’t. To start with, a note on Pinterest, please, be aware that much of what’s on Pinterest, and often on vendors’ websites, are styled shoots, which is the wedding industry’s way of advertising. They haven’t been replicated on a large scale, which would be at a huge expense.

Personally, I go to a lot of weddings, and none of them look like they do on Pinterest – in fact, my wedding is on Pinterest, but you can’t see the things all the things that went wrong (the cake is noticeably absent!)

It’s akin to Facebook, it’s everyone’s highlight reel, but don’t get caught up in what it’s all ‘supposed’ to look like. It will be beautiful, you will have an amazing day. And at the end of the day, you will be married – and it’s only the beginning!

If you’ve just started planning, head to the wedding planning index and take a look at the little white book wedding organiser and diary.

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