Planning Your Wedding Budget: What to Spend vs Save On

April 26, 2023

Getting married? One of the most exciting moments in your life!

…planning your wedding, though? Potentially one of the most stressful moments. 

So, because I’ve made it my life’s mission to make the wedding planning process less stressful, I want to share with you all of my very best Professional Wedding Planner—yes, in capitals, so you know I mean business—tips for minimizing the stress you may be feeling over creating your wedding budget. 

If this is the first post you’re reading of mine, HI! I’m Lindsey, and I’m glad you’re here. But we need to backtrack a bit.

Pause this post for a sec—promise you’ll come back!—and go read the breakdown of your wedding planning budget. That post is focused on what goes into building the foundation of your budget, and where to begin before getting into the nitty gritty of what we’re talking about in *this* post, aka what you should splurge on versus where you should save on when it comes to your wedding. 

*pausing for you to go read that!*

Okay, cool, you’re back. Now we can begin. Let’s talk about what you should plan to spend on, and what you can plan to save on. 

Before we get into it, though, an important note: everyone is different, so it’s difficult to draw a hard line of necessities and non-negotiables.

What is important to one couple may not be important to the next. Each type of vendor will provide a different value to your wedding depending on what YOU are envisioning for your day, so it truly depends on your individual wants and needs. 

As a first step, I suggest sitting down with your partner to have an open and honest conversation about which special touches you’re wanting to spend on, and what vendors you can do without. 

Are you dying to have a live band, a drum soloist, a light show, and a fire-breathing dragon for entertainment, or can you settle for a traditional DJ?

Are you envisioning a 300-person wedding, or can you compromise with only inviting your nearest and dearest loved ones?

Is it important to you to have a kickass custom seating chart, or would a cute sign be okay?

Planning a wedding can be a significant financial undertaking, so it’s important to take your non-negotiables and your budget into consideration when making the decision. Priorities and budgets look different across the board, and it’s ultimately up to you and important to decide what is important to you. 

Of course you want your wedding day to be special—and it absolutely will be!—buuuut… it also needs to be affordable. We ain’t trying to break the bank here 😉

Let’s get to it, shall we?

Wedding Budget Splurges: What To SPEND Your Money On

Don’t forget to have that (very important!) “what’s important to us?” convo with your partner. These large expenses are the ones to sift through as this is going to be the majority of where your budget is going.

#1 – Food

DISCLAIMER: I’m gonna be blunt here. If you are hosting a wedding and inviting guests, you need to provide a decent amount of food for them. And, unfortunately, in the wedding world, this ain’t cheap.

I have been to weddings where all that was served to guests was a cheeseboard, dry chicken and bland cake. Safe to say these guests were not happy.

Nothing kills the vibe of the party like unhappy patrons complaining because they’re all hangry and the food sucks.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to go all out and provide your guests with surf and turf. The options for caterers are endless, and finding great options that don’t eat up (ha, get it?) your enter budget is 100% possible. 

You should definitely have at least 4 passed appetizers during the cocktail hour and one stationary table. 

PRO TIP: Make sure you have options that fit the dietary needs of your attendees. Happy guests, happy life (that’s how that saying goes, right?).

As for dinner, caterers typically offer at least two protein options and a vegetarian option. If you’re choosing to go the more family style / buffet route, you’ll want to offer 2-3 proteins along with 2-3 sides.

#2 – Bar

Another disclaimer for bluntness: I’m gonna tell you how it is. I have to, or else I wouldn’t be doing you the justice of ensuring you have the absolute best wedding possible.

Do not— and I repeat, do NOT—do a cash bar. Don’t do your guests like that. 

I’m all for traditions, but… come on. You know if you were attending a wedding you’d be all over that open bar. 

After all, you do know the unwritten “gift your plate” rule, don’t you? Most wedding guests will gift you something of equal value to (or more than!) what their “plate”—aka the food and drink they get at your event—costs.  

So, think of it this way: it’s basically an investment in your future self for all the lovely gifts you’ll receive. Sounds great when you put it that way, huh?

You’ll also want to make sure you hire enough bartenders and account for their labor. No one wants to wait in a super long line for a drink, so having enough bartenders for your guest count is ✨key✨.

#3 – Entertainment

You get what you pay for. 

There is a large difference in cost between a band and a DJ, so we can’t compare apples to oranges. 

However, those who charge more are doing so because they are of better and higher quality. 

Vendors are able to charge more because they have the clout and the reputation to demand the amount they’re asking for.

Everyone has different taste. You may find that you appreciate someone that comes with a smaller budget. In my experience, I have found for the whole “you get what you pay for” thing to stand true. 

The more money spent, the more musicians and instruments paid for. Therefore, you’re getting a fuller sound with a higher level of production. 

I’m currently working on a wedding with a band that is putting together a FULL  production—I’m talking a haze machine and a spinning disco ball, along with spotlights for the band. The whole nine yards. 

This couple decided to also hire a DJ that will come out for the dance party at the end of the evening. This has a pretty price tag attached, and not every wedding needs this amount of entertainment, but… 

Remember earlier when I was talking about priorities on your wedding planning budget?

This level of talent, production and skill is a priority to this couple as they want to make sure their wedding is a celebration that will leave an everlasting impression on their guests for years to come.

These vendors know how to bring the party, and they care about the quality of services they’re providing for the people that hired them. 

Important Tip: Hire Experienced Vendors!

Even if you have to spend a little bit more to get them, you’ll want to hire vendors that are reliable and experienced. It’s worth paying more to have the peace of mind to ensure that everything will run smoothly on your wedding day.

If any issues come up on the big day, they will know how to handle it due to their experience. They’re not going to bring it to you, expecting you to fix the problem. If they’re highly seasoned, you won’t even be made aware of the issue at all.

Overall, you’re going to get what you pay for when it comes to vendors. The higher quality the vendor, the more expensive it will be. They know their worth and that the service they are providing to you and your guests is worth what they are charging.

From a personal experience (a small brag and pride point from someone that not only plans weddings, but planned her own wedding), my partner and I decided splurging on food and entertainment was the winner for us. 

It was the primary point of our budget, because we wanted to make sure that we and our guests were happy and fulfilled in celebrating our lives together.

To this day, our guests talk about the food and entertainment at our wedding. These aspects left such impressions that we still get comments about the quality of service provided. 

Let me tell you, we paid for it. And it was worth every damn penny. 😊

#4 – Design

Design includes the important elements that create the overall aesthetic of your wedding. The food, drinks, and entertainment set the tone for the atmosphere, but the small touches that visuals bring to the table (literally) can really tie everything together. 

Here’s a list of components that are worth putting extra money towards if you’re into attention to detail:

Linens – Although they’re usually overlooked, linens add so much texture and dimension to the space, really elevating your design to a whole new level. There’s an opportunity to add in touches of color and richness, if you’re about that sort of thing. 

I hate to say it, but nothing kills my vibe more than a white poly linen that requires an overlay because the linen is fugly so cheap and translucent that an additional layer is needed to cover the table. I’m sorry to be a hater, I just can’t.

Flowers – Most of the time, flowers are the main design component that sets the theme and tone of the wedding. 

You really don’t need to exceed your financial means by finding the most expensive florist in the area. There are reasonable ways to go about getting the floral arrangements you want while sticking to your budget, I promise you. 

If you don’t have flowers in your space, I recommend substituting for another design element. WIthout flowers, the space could feel sparse and empty. I suggest candles for center or accent pieces if you’re looking for a cheaper option.

Day-Of Signage – these are fun to add as last minute touches for your guests. These can include bar signage, menu escort display, or guest lists —  just to name a few.

You really don’t have to spend a lot on this element. You can find something on etsy suite, or sometimes vendors will be of equal value and offer customization. 

Ask around to vendors in order to receive a range of prices and ask yourself if the price is worth it.

You also don’t need every single sign you can think of. My recommendation is to be intentional and purposeful with the signage — what is the sign informing the guests of what they need to know in order to have a seamless experience? 

Wedding Budget Saves: What To SAVE Your Money On

I’ve talked a lot so far about the elements of your wedding that you’ll really want to focus on if you’re looking to enhance the overall experience for you and your guests. Quality is key ✨

A few of these smaller details aren’t as important as the others. I suggest cutting them out in order to allow more room in your budget for the necessities.

Welcome signdo you really need it? Unless your venue property is large or the sign is serving a real purpose, it’s not necessary. Your guests know your names and the date; if they don’t, they shouldn’t be at your wedding. Kick them out.

Photobooth – There’s better ways to include fun photography into your wedding that encourages everyone to get together. Adding a photo booth pulls people away from the party, and that’s exactly what we don’t want!

Leave polaroids or disposable cameras at each table for guests to take photos all night. You can then develop them after the event, giving you various points of view from your wedding that you didn’t even know existed. How fun is that?!

Favors – Literally, who cares. No one takes them. If they do then it sits somewhere collecting dust. It’s not worth it. Don’t do it. The memories are your guests’ favors.

Candles – Similar to favors, it’s gonna be a no from me dawg. Candles can be expensive, especially if you get them through a florist (they want to meet a margin, it’s not for you).

If it works logistically, as in you purchase the candles wholesale and have them delivered to the florists or brought to the venue on the day of because this is important to you, then ok — I’ll allow it. But if not, pass on it.

Welcome bags – Personally, I think a welcome note is more important (especially if you’re doing a weekend-away event). However, it is 2023 and you are inviting adults to your wedding that know to bring water, Advil, and anything else they deem necessary. Save yourself the headache and hassle.

Unless you have the budget to really provide a special, guest-centered experience, then I say skip it. If this is totally your jam and you’re all-aboard the welcome bag train, a la Lavender and Pine offers absolutely gorgeous welcome bags.

Save the dates – I’m not against them, as they’re a way to showcase your engagement photos that you love (and spent a decent chunk of change on), but I *do* think there’s a more cost-effective way to create & send them. 

I recommend using an online service, such as Minted — you’ll get the opportunity to show off the gorgeous photos without spending more than $300-$400 on paper and materials. Depending on your guest count, you may be able to get that number under $250. 

Officiant – Consider having a family member or friend lead your wedding ceremony. It’s much more personal, and you could gift them something special to show your appreciation rather than paying a fee. 

Rentals – If the set up of your wedding requires to rent a lot of pieces, there are some ways you can keep cost effective. Choose the standard and basic dinner plates, salad plates, and cocktails. 

There’s no need to go overboard with exquisite dinnerware — as long as they’re clean and do the job, no one will care.

Dinnerware – Chargers, the large decorative plate that sits beneath the functional dinner dish. These are expensive and can run between $8 to $12 per person. They can add a nice touch to the table, but they are by no means a necessity. 

If you have a small guest count or just want to do the head table, it’s likely that your entire budget will be blown if you choose to go with chargers.

Instead, opt for an upgraded napkin and a beautiful menu! It will look exquisite, on top of being a kind gesture to welcome your guests to be greeted with as they sit down at the reception.

Transportation – If you’ve chosen a venue that is easy for guests to drive to themselves, or you are located in a fairly populated area where public transportation is easily accessible for your guests, then don’t worry about including transportation in your budget. 

If you are in a more remote area with limited transportation options, then you’ll need to accommodate this into your wedding planning budget. This is completely dependent upon your venue and something to take into consideration when choosing the location.

Now, what about those midtier expenses—not quite a definite splurge, but not quite a definite save?!

At this point, we’ve covered the spending and the saving when it comes to building the perfect, personalized wedding planning budget. 

But, of course, there’s always going to be those middle-of-the-road components that you can’t quite decide how to navigate.

Again, it’s totally up to you and what is important to you on your wedding day. But there’s one element that continues to present itself as a common placeholder on the middle ground of spend or splurge:

How To Budget For Photographers

If you’ve created your budget to allow you to work with the upper ellichant of photographers, go for it. 

However, there are so many unbelievably talented photographers that I have worked with personally (and I’m talking all over the country, so you’re not limited in options here!) that provide reasonable and fair priced packages.

It all depends on the perspective of what your budget allows. A $50,000 budget is going to allow different things than a $75,000 budget, in terms of which wedding components you are able to allocate more money towards. 

There are a tonnnnnn of photographers out there that you can find with affordable packages and great quality product between $4,500 and $7,000. 

The photographers on the lesser end of the scale will be less experienced (remember that whole point I made about credible and experienced vendors charging you what they’re worth?), BUT that doesn’t mean that they aren’t talented. 

Just make sure to ask them the questions about the things that are important to you, such as their photography style, if they have ever worked at your venue, what is to be expected while working with them, and if they have a back-up plan for any day-of mishaps or misfortunes.

It’s all about balance, baby.

And you, of course. The most important thing is to make sure that you and your partner are getting everything you could want from your wedding day. And yes, you can have it all. 

You can allocate more funds within your budget to areas that are essential to you and make some cuts to the aspects that are not. 

The goal is to have the absolute best wedding possible that is within your financial means and doesn’t put you into debt. I pinky swear that you can have it all.



Hi! I’m Lindsey, Founder, Executive Planner, and Creative Director here at Wildflower Events and Design. Nice to meet you! To learn a little bit more about me and what I do, here are a few ways you can connect with me:

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