How much should I spend on a wedding?

There is no real right or wrong answer to that, but the next step in planning your wedding is to create a budget.

Brides (or their moms) usually make a couple of mistakes in wedding budget planning 1) they don’t have one or 2) their budget is so low that it’s unrealistic and 3) they don’t plan for all of the costs associated with the event or any additional cost that may occur.

There have been brides coming to me to plan the ceremony and reception when she has already spent half of her wedding allowance on the wedding dress. Then, she has to skimp on everything else to make it work or—to her parents or fiance’s dismay—go over budget to accommodate all of the needs of the wedding. By the way, it’s been my experience that the end result has always been the latter.

There have also been brides who come to me saying they are having 300 guests but only have $1,500 to spend on the reception. Sorry, but $5 per person is a bit unrealistic.

Then, there are those fathers (sometimes fiancee’s depending on who is helping to fund the event) who start to get angry as the wedding day gets closer and more checks keep going out for all the little things, like wedding programs, bridesmaid gifts, a guest book, candles, and bubbles. I know what he is feeling. It seems like the cost never ends.

A good budget really helps keep everything on track and, really helps keep everybody sane.

Generally, it will take about $6,000 to have a nice wedding with around 100 guests. We’ve done some much lower and several much higher. The amount depends on where the event is being held, the type of reception you have, the number of guests and how “designer” you want the wedding to be. The average wedding in Atlanta is rumored to cost around $25,000. I know some weddings can certainly cost that, but feel that is a little high for an “average” wedding. I feel most could have a beautiful wedding that meets all their expectations for much less.

Everyone knows the obvious things to pay for, like the dress, the venue, music, and reception food. However, there are several not so obvious things such as renting the formal candle lighters, buying the unity candle and the separate candles for the side of the unity candle, paying the officiant, tipping your servers and bartenders, bubbles, linens, party favors at guest tables or at the door, a wedding cake platform, aisle runner, wedding programs, parking costs for guests, additional thank you notes, toasting glasses, cake cutting knife and server, gifts for groomsman and bridesmaids, gifts for parents, preserving your flowers and dress cleaning/preservation.

Some of these are optional, but most are typical wedding expenses so they should be a part of your initial planning. You can always decide later to opt out, allowing for more money in your budget. It would be much harder to find the money later should you discover you need some of these items and services.

A great budget planning tool, the best in my opinion, is found at That is what I used when we got married. The cool part about their budget program is that it instantly gives you ideas for what you can accomplish on your budget. Since it lists absolutely everything and you just plug in numbers, it is extremely user friendly so a bride or fiance doesn’t have to think about everything to include.