2024 Wedding Budget: How much should I spend?

Couple Celebrating
May 01, 2024 | Anne Purcell

Congratulations! You're engaged!

After the excitement of the engagement has settled down, you and your partner may have started to think about the wedding. While there's no one right way to plan a wedding, it can get pricey if you don't have a plan. In a 2023 study, The Knot found that the average wedding cost, excluding the ring, is around $35,000.

Before picking out a venue and flowers, here are some topics to discuss with your partner before making that first deposit.

The type of wedding:

Do you want to have a big wedding or just an elopement? Do you have a lot of friends and family that you would like to invite, or only want to include a few special people? These are some of the questions to talk about with your partner before diving headfirst into wedding planning, because questions like these will help guide you through the process of deciding what you both want.

The first thing to discuss is the type of wedding. You may want a more intimate wedding, and your partner might wish to have their entire family there. By discussing this topic early, you can decide on the best type of wedding to fit both of your wants.

Here are some of the different types of weddings:

  • Traditional Weddings: Think of the all-day kind of weddings that are in movies. A traditional wedding will have variations depending on your and your partner's beliefs, but for the most part, these types of weddings will have a ceremony, cocktail hour and a reception. Traditional weddings also tend to be a little larger, with an average of 150-200 guests.
  • Destination Weddings: When people think of destination weddings, they think of a wedding on a beach or someplace exotic. While this is sometimes the case, destination weddings are often celebrations outside the couple's residence. A couple might pick a wedding like this because they love to travel or have a significant place from their relationship where they wish to celebrate. Sometimes, these weddings can be more intimate because they require more travel costs from the guests.
  • Small Weddings: These can have the same cadence as a traditional wedding but on a smaller scale. A small wedding is a good idea for those who have a smaller budget or want to select a small guest list, like family and maybe a few close friends.
  • Elopements: These are weddings at the smallest scale and are usually an intimate ceremony with just the couple, the officiant and maybe a witness or two. Some people have elopements at a courthouse or city hall, while others plan to do it someplace special, like a beach or national park.
  • Courthouse: While these can be elopements, they are not always. In a courthouse wedding, couples are married in a non-religious ceremony and will sometimes plan a reception afterward to celebrate with their friends and family.

The wedding budget:

The type of wedding you want to have can be a crucial indicator of your wedding budget. For example, if you want to have an elopement somewhere nice, like a national park, your budget might just include things such as park fees, permits, a photographer, outfits and rings. Whereas if you are planning a larger wedding, venue, food, drinks, décor, etc., might be part of your budget.

Before looking at venues, discuss how much you and your partner are comfortable with spending. After you have this number, you can start breaking down your budget with the different elements of the wedding, such as the venue, ceremony, food, etc.

A good rule of thumb when outlining your wedding budget is that most of your budget will go to your venue and catering, while a smaller portion will go to things such as décor or the DJ.

If you have a strict wedding budget, here are some tips that can help:

  • The day of the week: Saturdays are not only the most popular but also the most expensive day to get married. If the day of the week doesn't matter, check to see if another day would be more cost-effective when you're looking at the venue.
  • The season: Just like the day of the week, there is a time of the year when getting married is more expensive. Peek wedding season is generally April through September. If the time of year doesn't matter to you or your partner, some venues and vendors offer discounts if you have a wedding in the off-season.
  • The location: Where you are getting married can play a huge factor in the cost. The top three most expensive cities to have a wedding are New York, Chicago and San Francisco. If you live in one of those places and want to get married there, you may find more cost-effective venues outside of city central, such as the suburbs or another city close by.

Your must haves and nice to haves:

When planning your wedding, there will be things you care about that may not matter. Outlining those with your partner can really help you save money and put on an event that most fits your style.

For example, say you want some flowers, but having huge centerpieces doesn't matter. Instead of hiring a florist, you can rent vases (some venues have them in your package), buy flowers in bulk from a wholesaler and put together the centerpieces yourself. Or, maybe the cake isn't super important to you, but the food is. Instead of going all out for both, you could choose a more expensive caterer but look for a cheaper option for dessert, like sheet cakes from a nearby bakery.

Planning a wedding can be stressful, especially if you want to include many loved ones during the big day but have a tight budget. However, it isn't necessary to spend your entire savings on just one day. By having open conversations with your partner about what type of event you both want and the overall budget, you are sure to plan something special. At the end of your wedding day, it won't be about how little or much you spend, but that you are married to someone you love. 

Read more wedding and marriage tips from Alliant: 

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