8 Things to Know About Setting a Wedding Budget
Advice

Expert Advice: 8 Things to Know About Setting a Wedding Budget

Setting a budget for your wedding day is one of the biggest decisions that you will make before your planning even begins. Your budget sets the tone for selecting your venue, the rest of your vendor team, and possibly the date.

With budgets and finances being a delicate issue to discuss with your partner or someone who is contributing to your wedding fund, we asked our Tampa Bay wedding experts to share their insight and best tips for setting a wedding budget.

1. Determine Your Wedding Style

“We know that starting the process of wedding planning and figuring out your overall wedding budget can feel like a daunting task! So the first place to start is by narrowing down and determining your wedding style. Think about the overall feel, size, and location of your day. Then from there start to research wedding vendors that match your style and overall price range.” -Miranda Gates, Limelight Photography

“Start by thinking about the type of wedding you want to have. This means location (i.e. beach), number of guests, the formality level of the wedding, etc. Once you and your fiancé have agreed on most of these elements, it’s time to research and figure out the approximate cost of everything. It is impossible to create a wedding budget without first knowing the estimated cost of the elements you want for your wedding day. For example, you don’t want to create a budget of $1,000 for an open bar only to find out that an open bar tab at your venue actually costs $3,000.” -Brandon Wheeler, owner of Gulf Beach Weddings

“Have a realistic expectation of what weddings cost overall and what each wedding pro will most likely cost on their own. You can find wedding cost guides online that will help you understand investments on the national – and even local – level. It's important to understand, however, that the figures you see online tend to be estimated for simpler weddings. If you're looking to have a blowout bash, expect to spend more: most of the weddings you see on Instagram are at least six figures.” -John Campbell, owner of John Campbell Weddings

“Couples should begin exploring their wedding vision with a quality wedding planner before they set a date or budget.  A wedding planner can help them determine a realistic budget based on their style and vision. If necessary, couples can choose a longer engagement period to allow more time to save towards the budget or multiple family members may be willing to contribute towards the event (nowadays it's rare that the parents of the bride cover 100% of wedding costs; it's typically a combination of parents and the couple.)” -Christi Winsor, owner Winsor Event Studio


2. Think About What's Most Important

“The first thing that is most important, is to decide a range in what you would like your budget to be. This amount does not need to be set in stone yet, because there is still some research to be done. Work together to prioritize and make a list of the things that are most important and the things that you might be able to do without contingent on your budget (venue, photographer, wedding planner, florals, food, cake, attire, etc.). Once you have made your list, decide on an estimate for each category and then begin your research. Reach out to some ideal vendors to see if they fit into your budget or if you have a little wiggle room to allow or if you might have to cut some things that you weren't dead set on. After you have gotten a better idea of the ideal vendors and the costs of everything, revisit this list and make a final decision on what your precise budget is for each. For many people, this is their first wedding and they do not have much experience. In doing some research and reaching out to vendors, the couple can then decide more specifically their final budget range.”  -Amber McWhorter, owner of Amber McWhorter Photography

“Budget with your personal priorities in mind. Make a list of anticipated expenses (catering, entertainment, etc.) and rank them from most to least important. If you know having an incredible band is more important than décor, you might take some of your floral budgets and add it to your entertainment category.” -John Campbell, owner of John Campbell Weddings

“Think about the items that are the most important to you (i.e. band/DJ, catering, the photographer, the wedding dress) and decide what percentage of your total funds you’d like to spend on those things. This will help you be a little more flexible with your budget since you’ll be okay with spending a little outside of your budget on the things you prioritize while going under budget (or doing without) things that don’t matter as much to you. Sit down with your spouse and separately write down 2-3 items that are most important to both of you. Compare your two lists and figure out how you can combine them. Also, write down the 2-3 items you can both go without (i.e. rose petal aisle way). Adjust your budget numbers to reflect your priorities.” -Brandon Wheeler, owner of Gulf Beach Weddings

“We help with prioritizing the wish list items and dividing the budget into those specific categories. Focus on the bigger items and worry less about tiny details your guests may not even notice or will not remember. With a comfortable budget and realistic expectations, your planning will be much less stressful and we guarantee you will love your wedding day.” – Karen Cerboni, owner and lead planner of EventFull Weddings

“We suggest making a list of every must-have wedding vendor so that you can budget those that are most important to you. For example, if wedding photography is most important to you and you want the very best, then budget accordingly for that dream wedding photographer.” -Miranda Gates, Limelight Photography

Romantic Pink and White Wedding Reception Decor, Gold Beaded Charger, Taupe Linen Napkin, Gold Flatware, Pink Vintage Glassware | Tampa Bay Wedding Photographer Lifelong Photography Studio | Wedding Planner Special Moments Event Planning | Wedding Rentals Kate Ryan Event Rentals

Intimate Pink Gold, and Rose, Gold Backyard Wedding | Special Moments Event Planning | Lifelong Photography Studio

3. Determine Who is Paying for What

“Having conversations about money is never any fun. However, we'd be willing to bet finances surrounding the wedding are something that most parents have given a little thought to, regardless of how much or how little they can contribute, so having that conversation is probably a little easier than you think. Don't dump all the money into one big pot. People who contribute money to a wedding like to have some input on how their money is spent. By keeping it separated, you can have those discussions without them needing to be too involved in other spending.” -Tammy Waterman, owner and Master Wedding Planner at Special Moments Event Planning

“Couples should begin exploring their wedding vision with a quality wedding planner before they set a date or budget.  A wedding planner can help them determine a realistic budget based on their style and vision.  If necessary, couples can choose a longer engagement period to allow more time to save towards the budget, or multiple family members may be willing to contribute towards the event (nowadays it's rare that the parents of the bride cover 100% of wedding costs; it's typically a combination of parents and the couple.)” -Christi Winsor, owner and wedding planner at Winsor Event Studio

“Talking about money can be difficult. When it comes to your wedding budget, you have to have open, honest conversations with your partner and those helping to pay for your wedding. Discuss with your families about who will be paying for what. While some couples' families will pick up the entire tab, other couples prefer to cover costs themselves. If you’re uncomfortable asking your parents or future in-laws for money, how about asking them to purchase certain items? For instance, the wedding cake or let them pick up the tab for the rehearsal dinner. Whether your family pays a portion of your wedding costs or foots the entire bill, having upfront conversations about who will be paying for what will certainly relieve the stress of limited cash flow.” -Riley Gersch, owner and wedding planner of Elegant Affairs by Design


4. Figure Out How Much You Can Afford to Spend

“Don't rely on general information on wedding budgets you find on some of the mass media wedding websites. They are very, very general based on averages that are not specific to the area you live in! As you prioritize the things that are most important to you, start meeting with the vendors that you are interested in and see how much they charge, then work to fit in the things you really want to spend your money on. The best way to do this is to hire a professional wedding planner. They are going to be very skilled at helping you create a budget that is realistic and with the vendors in mind who will fit that budget and your personality the best.” -Carrie Wildes, owner, Carrie Wildes Photography Art & Design

“I'm sure the number question is ‘Where do I even start?!' When chatting with our couples, we always ask what their estimated budget is knowing that they won't have all the answers. Unless you have inquired with every vendor and venue, it is hard to know what to base that number on. We assist our full-service clients with budget management and help determine what is most important to put more funds towards. When discussing your budget, first chat about your guests and guest count. This is a huge factor in regard to what venue you will choose, how much catering and rentals cost, as well as decor and florals. There really is no standard budget when it comes to a wedding because it depends on your style, guest count, and what the maximum is you wish to spend. However, wedding planners can always give you guidance as to the range of cost for what you imagine for your special day!” – Lauren Gertz, owner of MDP Events

“You don’t want to start your marriage out with wedding debt or cause added stress because you are stretching your finances too thin. These can be delicate conversations but they are a must. I believe the budget should be based on what you are comfortable spending and can actually afford, not by listing all the things you want at your wedding and then trying to afford them. A lot of couples don’t realize the cost of weddings, so if the budget doesn’t fit the vision we need to reset expectations and discuss how we can still work to achieve their dream wedding.” – Karen Cerboni, owner and lead planner, EventFull Weddings

“Media hype in weddings is enormous. Too many of the pretty things you'll see online actually cost more than you might expect and everything grows exponentially. That one swoon-worthy centerpiece on Pinterest might be okay if you need one, but not if you have twenty tables. Have realistic expectations, don't go into debt; and use those fantastic photos as an inspiration for something that works in your budget.” -Tammy Waterman, owner and Master Wedding Planner at Special Moments Event Planning

“I always suggest to my couples to take their overall budget and divide by how many months they have in the planning process, and then I have them make payments to different vendors throughout the planning time. This is super helpful because they don’t feel like everything is due at once and at the end of the planning process. It’s much more manageable for couples, and they love it in the planning and budgeting process. Typically, we start with how many guests they are going to have, then we break it down by categories to see where their budget works with each category. We explain how it will change based on the number of guests. Most couples come to us with an overall budget in mind, and we help tweak it for them.” -Katy Turchich, owner of Coastal Coordinating

“Budget sustainably! You shouldn’t be getting a second job or borrowing from your emergency savings to pay for your wedding. When my clients come to me with budgetary concerns, I remind them that this should be a happy process centered around their union. Why put unnecessary strain on your psyche, relationship, and wallet over an event that lasts one day.” -John Campbell, owner of John Campbell Weddings

“Don’t go into debt to pull off your dream wedding! Remember, this is only the beginning of the rest of your life. We know that it’s tempting to want to spend the max amount for your big day. However, we advise you to wisely determine how much you can afford before you even start to look for vendors and venues. Once you have your set amount, stick to it!” -Miranda Gates, Limelight Photography

Tropical Pink and Green Rooftop Waterfront Outdoor Wedding Reception Decor, Round Tables with White Linens and Folding Garden Chairs, Teal Napkin, Low Floral Centerpiece, Monstera and Palm Frond Leaves, Orange Roses, Pincushion Protea, Pink Anthurium, Pineapple, String Lights | Tampa Bay Wedding Planner Coastal Coordinating | St. Pete Waterfront Rooftop Wedding Venue Hotel Zamora | Lemon Drops Floral

Pink and Green Tropical Rooftop Wedding | Hotel Zamora | Coastal Coordinating | Cornelia Zaiss Photography

5. Understand How Your Guest Count Impacts Your Budget

“If you’re looking to cut costs, the first place to cut down on is the guest list. The average guest costs you at least $100, so the difference between having 50 guests versus 100 guests is huge. Another easy way to cut down wedding costs is to have your wedding day outside of the peak seasons, and perhaps even consider having a mid-week wedding. In addition to cutting down the price, the privacy, availability of vendors, and reception locations make these days ideal. In addition, hotel stays, airplane fares, rental car rates, etc. are all more inexpensive during the week…take advantage!” -Brandon Wheeler, owner of Gulf Beach Weddings

“More wedding guests always means more money, and controlling your guest list is always a struggle. The ‘+1' is one of the most significant ways to drive up those costs quickly. We have a colleague who preaches “no ring, no bring.” If the friend you are inviting isn't engaged or in a serious relationship, they don't get a +1! It's cold, but the reality is your friend will more than likely spend the whole night with mutual friends, leaving the ‘date du jour' alone. Another excellent barometer for judging who makes the cut on the guest list is to consider if you would take them out for an expensive dinner, any other night of the year, and pick up the tab.” -Tammy Waterman, owner and Master Wedding Planner at Special Moments Event Planning

“Take your overall budget and divide it by the number of guests. So for example, if your overall budget is $25k divided by 100 guests then that’s $250 per guest. Now here’s my question: how many of these invited guests would you and your fiancé take out to dinner and spend $500 on them? This begins a great way of backing out the budget or truly analyzing your guest list.” – Karin Bearnarth, Director of Sales and Events, Mision Lago Estate


6. Spend Smartly

Most online wedding budgets are pretty unrealistic when it comes to budgeting for high-quality service providers such as wedding planners and photographers. Professionals in those categories in the Tampa Bay area are priced $3,000-$10,000+, and considering their value, their investments should be planned accordingly, especially if couples want a high-quality result for their wedding. Quality wedding planners work with their couples the most out of any vendor, guiding throughout months of planning and helping negotiate contracts, while also working the entire wedding day to ensure everything runs smoothly and comes to fruition. Quality photographers work the entire event time capturing the celebration and then spend hours editing for amazing images that last well beyond the wedding day. Investing in quality vendors is an investment in your overall wedding experience. – Christi Winsor, Winsor Event Studio

“We all want to be wise with our money and find ways to save. While there are definitely ways to save while planning your wedding, we also advise you to not go cheap on what is most important to you. Cheaper does not always mean better. You want quality vendors who will deliver quality work which in turn will make your wedding enjoyable and stress-free.” -Miranda Gates, Limelight Photography

“Did you know that wedding planners can actually save you money? Planning a wedding can be extremely stressful and expensive! Although planners may be perceived as luxury vendors, it is also important to understand that planners can be a critical part of managing a wedding budget. Wedding planning is not a one size fits all service. Your wedding vision is unique and a wedding planner will customize their services to fit your needs. We help our couples by negotiating volume discounts, avoiding contract nightmares, utilizing preferred wedding vendors, and most importantly, freeing up your time, because time equals money. Most couples can expect to spend an average of $1,000-$2,500 on ‘Day of' wedding planner services.” -Riley Gersch, owner and wedding planner of Elegant Affairs by Design

“Look at a few things as focal points and play them up. Look at a ceremony structure or arrangements that can be repurposed. Splurge on a couple of things that people will notice. Investing in things like upgraded linens, candles, and lighting on a sweetheart table and cake table goes a long way. The two of you and the wedding cake are two of the most photographed elements of a wedding.” -Tammy Waterman, owner and Master Wedding Planner at Special Moments Event Planning

Bride and Groom Jumping on Fun, Unique White Adult Bounce House, Sage Green and Peach Balloons | Tampa Bay Wedding Photographer Limelight Photography | Wedding Planner MDP Events | Wedding Venue Esplanade Country Club | Styled Shoot

Organic Inspired Sage Green Sarasota Wedding Shoot | Limelight Photography | MDP Event Plan

7. Don't Hire Vendors Based on Price Alone

“There is truth to the phrase, ‘You get what you pay for,' and a quality vendor could mean the difference between a fantastic wedding day experience or one filled with regret, so couples should carefully examine their budget and be willing to invest more in areas that are important. Hardly anyone will regret investing in a service or product that delivered everything they dreamed of, but if you pay a ‘bargain price' and are disappointed, you paid too much, no matter how cheap the cost was. You can't go back and re-do the experience, and the last thing you'll want is to cut costs in ways that lead to remorse instead of fond memories.”  -Christi Winsor, owner and wedding planner at Winsor Event Studio

“Price, Product, and Personality are all factors to consider when hiring a wedding vendor, cheap is not always a good thing. If they don't really offer what you want or the thought of spending your wedding day with them bothers you, the price isn't that great. Sometimes cheaper packages are just less expensive because they have taken a bunch of stuff out that you might really want.” -Tammy Waterman, owner and Master Wedding Planner at Special Moments Event Planning

“Decide a range in what you would like your budget to be. This amount does not need to be set in stone yet, because there is still some research to be done. Work together to prioritize and make a list of the things that are most important and the things that you might be able to do without contingent on your budget (venue, photographer, wedding planner, florals, food, cake, attire, etc.). Once you have made your list, decide on an estimate for each category and then begin your research. Reach out to some ideal vendors to see if they fit into your budget or if you have a little wiggle room to allow for them. After you have gotten a better idea of the ideal vendors and the costs of everything, revisit this list and make a final decision on what your precise budget is for each, and cut some things that you weren't dead set on.” -Amber McWhorter, owner Amber McWhorter Photography

“Do your research on different vendors in your area. Look at their reviews to determine how they treat their clients. Whether it be a wedding photographer, a wedding planner, or a hair and makeup team, how someone makes you feel is what is most important. Yes, it’s important to look at the prices of vendors, but it is equally important to hire someone who will make your day less stressful and provide you with the best service.” -Miranda Gates, Limelight Photography

 “Professional photography comes at a cost. Professionals at the minimum start at around $2,000 and up. Your memories documented at the end of your wedding are what you have left.” -Kristen Jeffers, owner Kristen Marie Photography

“Catering makes up the most significant part of your wedding budget. And, unfortunately, all caterers are not created equal. A local restaurant or deli that also caterers might have great food, but can they provide enough staff to care for your wedding guest? Do they provide bartenders, rental items, and linens or do you now need to book those things separately? Wedding venues that provide catering in-house and experienced off-premise caterers might initially look a bit more expensive, but dive deeper into what services they provide compared to less expensive options.” -Tammy Waterman, owner and Master Wedding Planner at Special Moments Event Planning

Florida Bride in Boho Flowy Dress with Groom Kissing Holding We Do We Did We Eloped Sign, on Waterfront Pier, Tropical Colorful Floral Arrangement with Palm Tree Leaves, Pink, Purple, Orange Roses | Tampa Bay Wedding Venue The Godfrey | Wedding Florist Brides N Blooms | Wedding Planner Elope Tampa Bay | Wedding Dress NIkki's Glitz and Glam | Wedding Hair and Makeup Femme Akoi Beauty Studio | Amber McWhorter Photography

Amber McWhorter Photography | Elope Tampa Bay | Tropical Waterfront Tampa Elopement Inspiration | Godfrey Hotel

8. Plan for the Unexpected

“As much as you make plans to ensure that everything goes smoothly and stays within budget, remember that unexpected costs may arise. To avoid breaking the bank and causing you an abundance of stress, lay aside a set amount to go toward the unexpected. Whether it be an unknown vendor cost or a weather-related issue, allow room in your budget to pay for unknown situations. It’s always best to be prepared! ” -Miranda Gates, Limelight Photography

“Not everyone writes their proposals the same way. One vendor's package might look so much cheaper for the same things as others until you realize that they separately price out staffing and rentals. A venue might seem like a real bargain until you add something like a cleanup fee, additional hours, parking attendants, or the rentals you might need. So, read the fine print and calculate all of the extras you might need to add in.” -Tammy Waterman, owner and Master Wedding Planner at Special Moments Event Planning

“Standalone venues might seem less expensive at first glance but, once you add it all up you might be spending more. Ask questions as to what items are included and more importantly, what’s not included. A la carte services like plates, flatware, bars, serving equipment, and staffing can add up. Be sure to ask your venue if there are any additional costs you should be aware of examples could be, security, parking attendants, or even a weather backup space.” -Katie Zeim, Senior Catering Sales Executive at the Vinoy Renaissance

“Oftentimes when I discuss floral budgets with potential clients, I find they are unaware of service fees associated with their contracts. When planning your wedding budget, keep in mind that most contracted vendors will include service charges or fees that you may not be aware of. Some vendors will charge a flat rate for their services.  However other vendors have additional fees such as delivery, set-up, flip, strike (tear-down), and floral mockups. These charges will vary depending on the level of service required on the day of your event, but they are important to keep in mind and factor into your overall budget.” -John Elice, Wedding and Event Consultant and Floral Designer at Bruce Wayne Florals

Quotes have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.