How to Stay on Your Wedding Budget

From creating your wedding budget to saving without sacrifice, we'll show you how it's done.
by Liz Zack
Person typing at a computer

All done establishing your wedding budget? You'll spend the next few months keeping track and allocating your funds. Follow these four points to make sure your spending is where it should be.

Step 1: Get a Wedding Budget System

Put your accounting skills to the test by deciding on a budgeting system to track all the money coming in and out.

  • The easiest way? The Knot Budget Calculator, which automatically tells you how much you should be spending on everything from music to mother-in-law gifts, and allows you to track all your payments and their due dates.
  • Otherwise, you can put all your info in an old-fashioned spreadsheet. Just make sure you record every payment you make and who you owe what.

Step 2: Explore Hidden Wedding Costs and Extras

Knowing all the costs up front will guarantee that your budget can actually cover it all.

  • Avoid overtime. If the party's hopping, those extra 45 minutes may whiz by, but you'll probably pay dearly in overtime costs for everyone from the photographer and the caterer to the venue manager. If you suspect the wedding may go long, work overtime costs into your budget—if you don't use it, it'll be a nice surprise chunk of cash.
  • Factor in tips. From the sexton who cleans the church to the hotel steward who delivers your welcome bags, even conservative tipping can add hundreds to your wedding cost. Make sure to account for these costs in your initial budget.
  • Remember that trials aren't always free. A florist's demo may be gratis the first time, but if you make repeated changes, you risk being billed. Budget your trial hair style into your overall hair budget.
  • Don't forget the little stuff. Things like stamps for the RSVP cards, ribbons for the favors and marriage license fees seem so small that you can shrug them off, but like any costs, they add up. Going "just over budget" in a couple different categories with a vague plan of making it up somewhere else can push you past your limit.

Step 3: Plan to Go Over Your Wedding Budget

If you account for budget overages, then you never actually blow your budget. Try to earmark five percent of your budget for unforeseen costs.

These are some areas where you might go over:

  • Flowers: A last-minute realization that something previously unconsidered needs to be decorated, or a request that an additional family member wear a boutonniere or corsage.
  • Weather-related expenses: Umbrellas for a rainy day, space heaters for an unseasonably cool day, additional shade for a particularly hot or humid one.
  • Small accidents: Gown needs last-minute spot removal, something breaks in the days before the ceremony, menus get damp and need to get reprinted.

Step 4: Be Smart with Your Wedding Budget

Take advantage of budgeting and money management tricks along the way.

  • Put all your wedding money in one separate account, so you can easily track additions and withdrawals without getting it confused with the rest of your day-to-day funds.
  • Pay for as many of your expenses as possible on a credit card that gives you benefits like mileage, rewards, or cash back. Make sure everyone making purchases (your fiancé, your mom, and so on) are all on the same card system, allowing you to benefit from the rewards and also from the easy tracking of your purchases.
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Your Wedding Budget Calculator - The Knot
Use The Knot’s personalized wedding budget calculator to track wedding costs. Follow a checklist with a breakdown of your budget to make planning a wedding on a budget easier.