More Couples Than You Think Go Over Their Wedding Budget (and Here's How Much They Overspend)

If you're shelling out more than you'd initially planned, you're actually in good company.
kim forrest the knot
by
Kim Forrest
kim forrest the knot
Kim Forrest
Senior Editor
  • Kim writes and edits articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a speciality in etiquette and planning advice
  • Kim manages freelance writers for The Knot Worldwide
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Kim was Associate Bridal Editor at Washingtonian magazine and Associate Fashion Editor at Conde Nast’s Brides Local magazines
Updated Mar 03, 2022

Coming up with the right wedding budget for you isn't always the easiest or most glamorous part of the planning process—but sticking to your number is a whole other ball game. How are you realistically supposed to anticipate every little wedding expense that bubbles up (seemingly out of thin air) on your way to "I do"?

First of all, if you find you're going over your original wedding budget, please don't beat yourself up. You're far from the first couple to do so. After polling over 15,000 US couples for The Knot 2021 Real Weddings Study, we learned 49% spent more than they'd planned by an average of $6,373. Some high spenders even blew past their already lofty limits by over $20,000. While some of this may have to do with inflation and supply chain issues (nearly 40% of couples said their budget was impacted by the economy, an increase from 25% in 2019), overspending on a wedding is nothing new.

These days, when it comes to sticking to a budget during the wedding planning process, flexibility is key. If you're just starting to plan your wedding day, there are a few important decisions that can help you save money and avoid overspending right from the get-go:

  • Set your budget before doing anything else: Before starting to research vendors, it's essential to figure out how much you can spend on your wedding. Sit down with any family members who may be contributing and figure out the total lump sum you can spend. Then, head over to The Knot's Budget Tool to divide up your total budget for different wedding-related products and services. While the average cost of a wedding is around $28,000 (not including engagement ring), it varies widely based on where you're getting married, guest count, etc.
  • ​Give yourself plenty of time to plan: While sometimes short planning timelines can't be avoided, if you're able to give yourself at least a year to plan your big day, you may reap certain benefits. If you're running on a short timeline, you might incur additional rush fees and other charges that can put you into over-budget territory.
  • Choose a date that's in the off season or on a weekday: Some wedding venues and vendors may offer discounts if you're marrying during the off season (winter, in most parts of the country), or a on a weekday. And because of the current wedding boom, we anticipate that weekday weddings and morning weddings (hello, brunch!) will be trending this year anyway.
  • Hire a wedding planner: Yes, a wedding planner is an additional expense, but one that can save you money in the long run. Planners know the industry inside and out and will make sure you hire vendors that will fit your budget, and help you avoid overspending.
  • Invite fewer wedding guests: The higher the guest count, the more you'll spend. According to our study, the average wedding cost for events with 50 guests or fewer was $15,000, while the average cost for weddings with over 100 guests was $38,000—big difference.
  • Keep your wedding party tight: While it can be fun to have a huge wedding party, keeping your crew small can mean big cost savings. Bridesmaid hair and makeup, gifts and other expenses can add up quickly.
  • Trust your wedding vendors: Because of current supply chain issues, certain products and services may be costing more than before. This is particularly true with wedding flowers. So instead of focusing on a particular type of costly bloom for your bouquet, trust your florist to find a beautiful array of flowers that fit your color scheme—and your budget.

Even with all of these money-saving tips, overspending is common enough that we recommend actually planning to go over your budget while making your overall budget. It's kind of a genius way to beat the system when you think about it: By accounting for extra splurges and line items (like weather backup plans, hidden costs, overtime fees, miscellaneous emergencies), you allow yourself a little wiggle room and won't technically end up overspending on your big day. Also, don't forget to include often-forgotten wedding costs, like gratuities. An experienced wedding planner can help you account for these extra charges.

But beyond these often overlooked extras, today's couples continue to put personalization and guest experience first. That means if given the choice to upgrade their linens, rent an awesome late-night food truck or hire some canine ambassadors to charm the crowd (yes, that's a thing), they're likely to go for it—even if it wasn't part of their original budget plan.

So what's the moral of the story? Be realistic about your budget. Cut where you can (maybe leave your cousin's cousins' significant others off the guest list) and make a little room for unexpected expenses you'll be happy to have saved for down the line. You can still have a beautiful wedding without overspending, we promise.

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