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Wedding Expenses Guide: A Detailed Breakdown

Congratulations, you're engaged! Now you get to experience the anticipation and happiness that comes with planning a wedding. If you are like many couples, you have been dreaming of your wedding or planning it in your mind for months or even years. Now, you get to put your money to work and create a budget for your wedding.

According to The Knot 2021 Real Weddings Study, the average cost of a wedding in the United States is $28,000. However big or small your budget is, you want to get the most out of it.

This wedding expenses guide will break down specific wedding planning categories and how much the average couple spends to give you a starting point for your dream wedding.

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Key Takeaways

  • The wedding venue and catering are typically the largest budget expense at about 40%.
  • Invest in quality photography and videography for your wedding with about 15% of your budget.
  • Plan on spending about 5% of your budget on wedding stationery like invitations, reception place cards, and ceremony programs.

What to Include in Your Wedding Budget

Once the euphoria of getting engaged wears off, the reality of wedding planning starts to set in. While this is a time of joy and excitement, you can easily feel overwhelmed, especially if you are unprepared for certain expenses.

Here are 10 of the most common expenses in a wedding budget and what percentage of your budget you should plan to spend in each category.

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Wedding Expenses Guide

Explore this detailed wedding expenses guide to help you allocate your budget.

Venue and Catering – 40%

The largest portion of the wedding budget is the venue and the food. The venue, in particular, is something most of your guests will remember for years to come. Most couples spend about 40% of their budget in this category. This may include:

  • Room rental fee
  • Ceremony fee (if the ceremony is at the reception site)
  • Dance floor rental
  • Liability insurance
  • Tax and service fees
  • Food
  • Catering equipment
  • Service staff
  • Alcohol

Photography and Videography - 15%

One of the best ways to capture the magic of your wedding day is through a quality photographer and videographer. If you have the extra money in your budget, this is an excellent place to spend it. Many couples spend about 15% of their budgets in this area. This budget may cover:

  • Engagement photos
  • Rehearsal coverage
  • Wedding day coverage
  • Albums or prints
  • Wedding day film
  • Highlight reel
  • Raw footage

Music - 10%

While live music isn't a requirement at a wedding, it can make the day more memorable. Consider allocating about 10% of your budget for music, whether live or pre-recorded. This might include:

  • Live musicians for the ceremony (singers or instrumentalists)
  • Live band
  • Sound system
  • Karaoke equipment
  • Reception DJ

Flowers - 10%

The flowers you choose for your wedding can significantly impact the event's look and feel while transporting you into a serene garden or tropical paradise. Many couples spend about 10% of their budget on flowers. The flower budget typically covers:

  • Bouquets
  • Boutonnieres
  • Corsages
  • Ceremony Arch
  • Flowers for the flower girl
  • Ceremony arrangements

Decorations - 8%

While most weddings use flowers as a primary decoration, you should also budget for other décor that complements your theme and color palette. 8% is a typical allotment for this category. It may include the following:

Wedding Attire - 5%

Wedding attire is a focal point of most weddings. It is a day to look your absolute best. Most couples spend about 5% of their budgets on wedding dresses and suits. Other factors to consider include:

  • Alteration fees
  • Rehearsal dinner outfit
  • Wedding shoes
  • Reception outfit (if you plan on changing)
  • Wedding dress cleaning and preservation

Stationery - 5%

The stationery you choose for your wedding and reception is a vital wedding detail. Your save-the-date cards and invitations set the tone for the event months before it happens. You should plan to spend 5% of your budget in this category. Don't forget your stationery needs beyond the invitations, like the signage for your reception or the programs for the ceremony. These are items that are heavily photographed and become lasting memories. You want these details to look elegant and match the tone and décor of the rest of your wedding.

The stationery budget typically covers:

  • Save-the-date cards
  • Invitations
  • Thank you cards
  • Postage
  • Ceremony programs
  • Reception place cards
  • Seating charts
  • Table numbers
  • Dinner menus

Transportation - 3%

If you want to arrive in style for your wedding and reception, consider allocating 3% of your budget for transportation. This can include:

  • Limo for the wedding party
  • Luxury car
  • Valet parking
  • Shuttle service for guests

Favors - 2%

Many couples like to show appreciation to all their friends and family with wedding favors. This can be a small gift that shows your guests how much it meant to you that they came and usually ties in with the wedding theme. Plan to spend 2% of your budget on favors.

Popular wedding favors include:

  • Candy
  • Personalized candles
  • Plants
  • Coasters
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Cake - 2%

A wedding cake is typically a show-stopping dessert. Most couples choose a cake design that complements the wedding theme and colors while spending about 2% of their budget.

The cake budget might include:

  • Cake
  • Cutting fee
  • Additional desserts

Other Wedding Budget Considerations

Because of the nature of weddings, there will be extreme differences in budgets and priorities from couple to couple. In addition to the features above, some couples may want other amenities on their wedding day. Some examples include:

  • Wedding planner: A wedding planner is a popular wedding expense that could cost about 5% of your budget. They can help you plan your event and manage everything on the wedding day.
  • Guest entertainment: If you are worried about your guests getting bored, especially while they wait for the wedding party to arrive, you can invest in extra entertainment. This might include caricature artists, photo booths, or extra performers. You should plan to spend 3% if you want to include this.
  • Emergency fund: No matter how well you plan, there may be something you forget or something unexpected that happens. Some couples like to save about 5% of their budget for emergency expenses. If you don't end up spending it, you can put it towards your honeymoon.

Use Your Stationery Budget Wisely with Shine Wedding Invitations

At Shine Wedding Invitations, we pride ourselves on offering timeless designs for modern weddings. We love working with couples to design the perfect invitations, thank you cards, and other signage to create a beautiful wedding.

You can see what sets us apart by requesting a free wedding invitation sample set.
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Built on a foundation of classic design and quality materials, Shine Wedding Invitations was launched in 2008 as a response to the need for elegant and timeless wedding invitations. Our designs are simple, clean, and modern, yet stand the test of time. We respect trends, but we don’t rely on them. Our goal is for you to be able to look back at your wedding invitations in 10, 20, or even 30 years and still be thrilled with the design.
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Request a free wedding invitaiton sample todayFind your wedding invitation style by taking our styling quickFind your perfect design by visiting our wedding invitation shopping pagesUse letterpress wedding invitations to really make a statement

Request a Free Sample Set

Experience our papers, colors, and printing in person.

Not Sure Where to Start?

Take our styling quiz to find the right look and configuration for your stationery.

Bring Your Vision To Life

Browse our invitations and find the perfect design for your wedding.

A Difference You Can Feel

Make a statement with our luxurious letterpress wedding invitations

See Us Shine

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