Words to the Wise Budget Bride

Weddings can get pretty expensive pretty fast if you don’t know what you’re doing. According to The Wedding Report, the average wedding in 2010 cost $24,000 – holy cow. Nothing like putting a newlywed couple in debt before they even get started on their lives together. Enter The Budget Bride. She knows what she wants and how much money she has in the bank to get it for – and will not go a penny over. This entry will have important bits of advice and tips for The Budget Bride to use while planning the wedding and budget – and to get what you’ve always wanted and more.

You might have gotten the idea by now that I know a thing or two about weddings.

I know it professionally. Outside of my traditional 8-5 job, I run my own photography & wedding/event planning business. This spring, I will be photographing weddings up and down the east coast from Wolfeboro, NH to Virginia Beach, VA. I hold an International Certification in Event and Wedding Planning from the QC School of Wedding & Event planning and know the ins and outs of “the wedding budget”.

I know it personally. I have several friends who have gotten engaged and married over the last couple of years. Just this past month, my roommate got engaged and has started planning her wedding for this August. The budget and location are small, so we’ve bounced ideas off each other back and forth (since I get to be in the wedding!) about keeping things budget friendly while still making it awesome.

And I just plain love weddings. When I’ve got nothing else to do (and sometimes when I have plenty else to do), you can find me researching wedding trends, advertisements, vendors, websites, you name it! You tell me you just got engaged and I’m going to want to ask a million questions, though I usually try to restrain myself.

Having both the business & personal side of wedding knowledge gives me a really unique perspective on planning a wedding and working with the budget. Unlike some professionals, I think it’s strange to not share this insight with brides planning their wedding, so here we go – my wise words for you Budget Brides out there!


  1. Know your area
    While sure, you can jump right in, make up a budget and start figuring everything out without doing much research, I can guarantee you that if you take some time to figure out how much things cost in your area you will be much more satisfied with what you get. Maybe when you’re researching, you notice that cakes cost a lot more in your area than you expected. You may decide to spend a little less on decor so you can have enough cake for everyone or you may decide to only have cake for you and your husband, giving everyone else a less expensive dessert and giving you more money to use elsewhere! In the country, you run the risk of photography, videography and DJ services being either much higher than normal (they’ve gotta make a living!) or much lower than normal (they’ve gotta get the business in!)
  2. Know what’s most important
    When thinking about your wedding day, what are the most important things to you? The dress? The location? The music? Reception? You can absolutely have a couple of these, but when thinking about what you’ve always wanted for your wedding, what you want to last the longest after and what you find to be the most integral part of your wedding, you will know that these areas are where you want to allow maybe a little more in your budget compared to area prices to make sure you get the best. My roommate and I are both photographers – even before she got engaged, we both talked about how we would not skimp on photography in our budget because photos were one of the most important pieces to us. We want amazing photo memories of our day so we are more than willing to spend a little less in other areas.
  3. Know your budget
    Absolutely important, especially as you start to see all these things that you really want that are outside of your budget. As long as you have done your research and know what’s most important to you, this shouldn’t be too hard to put together and stick to because you’ll be looking at things realistically which is HUGELY important. It’s also good to come up with a flex range – come up with the budget you will mention to vendors and come up with your ABSOLUTE maximum. Most business people know you’re going to do this anyway, but tell them what you would like to spend or maybe a little lower – going straight to the max of what you can spend might mean you spending more than you could have with 0 negotiation.

Here is a quick look at TheWeddingReport.com‘s report on where Bride’s spent their money in 2010. Your budget and priorities do not at all have to echo these percentages at all, but this will give you some type of an idea as to how much things can cost.


Times are tough. Every business knows it just as well as you do. While you’re trying to plan your wedding on a budget that won’t put you in debt, all the vendors you’re working with to plan out your wedding are trying to make ends meet so they can stay out of debt as well. I’m going to go out on a limb right now and say something shocking: you cannot plan a wedding on $2,000. I would love to tell you that you could, that you know enough people that are amazing in all the areas you would need to be completely satisfied and them not charge you a single penny over $2,000… but the truth of the matter is unless you are eloping, a wedding just can’t be done for $2,000. The Knot will tell you that the average US wedding cost in 2010 was $27,000, but you do not have to spend anywhere near this much. Do your research and you can do it for a very reasonable amount, but you must continue to think realistically.


But Hilary, some of these vendors have to be jacking up the price – they’re so expensive! Photographers & videographers especially. It is pretty daunting to think of spending an average of $2,500 on a photographer and $1,500 on a videographer. And I know you’re thinking just like I did when I started my photography business – shouldn’t it be so much cheaper? Well, you’ve got to think about the fact that these professionals (photographers, videographers, bakers, etc.) are doing this for a living – they need to make the money to pay their bills and keep their business running. For every hour a vendor spends with you on your wedding day, they are most likely spending two hours before or after working on things for your wedding. They have to pay for the tools and materials they will need to provide you the service and may even need to pay rent to house their operations. Without all of that, you would have nothing.

You can absolutely find a vendor you like that’s in your budget so long as you keep your budget realistic. While I’m a long-time fan of sending people to The Knot for vendor information, I recently discovered SnapKnot which allows brides to specify their location and budget range for photographers – a very nice feature – check it out (and find me under Nashua!).

I would advise you to plan at least $675 for wedding photography. You want these memories to last, and if there’s one day you want memories of forever – it’s this one (after all, your future little ones wouldn’t exist without this day!).

Wedding planners? Who needs ’em! I can save money by planning on my own! This is one area most Budget Brides just skip right over – why spend money on having someone either completely plan or simply help plan your wedding day when you can save that money and do it all on your own? You’ve got the time! You’re organized enough, right?

Did you know Wedding Planners can save you money? It’s true – part of why I wanted to go into the industry, actually. Wedding Planners and Consultants have connections and networks in the area with local vendors who will give them discounts on wedding services if they are used through that planner. In 50% of weddings the amount of money you would pay a Wedding Planner is actually less than the amount of money you would spend on vendors without their networking discounts – so you save money. Let’s say without the Wedding Planner you will have paid $10,000 for a venue for the reception, food, decor, etc.. Then you hire a planner for $2,000 and it only costs you $6,000 for the venue, reception, food, decor, etc.. You just saved $2,000!

So, you can save money with the planner and they can also save you time and stress. I would suggest hiring someone (or appointing a friend if you really can’t afford it) to be your Day Of Coordinator so that on your wedding day you won’t even know if something goes wrong because they will have it all under control – they will direct the traffic, manage the chaos and your wedding will come out all the better for it. So shop around and get a free planning consultation (most planners offer this) to see if a Wedding Planner will help you save money!

By the way, random note, I personally find it ridiculous how much money was spent on jewelry in TheWeddingReport.com‘s report up there. No need to go over the top – keep it plain and simple. : P


While I do not at all claim that this information will answer all of your questions as a Budget Bride nor will it be the only advice you will need/hear, but I’m positive that this will be helpful to you as you begin (or continue) planning you wedding. Any time you can do research, do it. It may take some time, but I can promise you it will save you money, time, energy and frustration later.

I hope you all find this helpful or pass it on to a friend who will! Have a good weekend!


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