Budgeting 101: Basic Wedding Expenses

Budgeting 101: Basic Wedding Expenses

By Shilora Jean

In our last blog we spoke about the importance of starting your wedding budgeting process by creating an accurate guest list. In this blog, we’re continuing that thought with basic info on the costs you need to consider because they are tied to your guest count. Yes, there are many lists of wedding expenses out there, but this list has to do with multipliers, i.e., those items where the cost is relative to your guest count.

Multipliers: those items where the cost is relative to your guest count.


While this may seem obvious, even a modest invitation can get out of hand. Are you serving food? Then you need an RSVP card. Some of your guests will not be web savvy and will want to return the RSVP card via snail mail, which means an envelope and a stamp for each one. Think it through and create a true estimate: cost of buying invitations, cost of mailing invitations, cost of postage for RSVP cards, and of course, Thank You cards for the gifts you receive. That’s a good start. (We’ll blog later on controlling the cost of invitations)

Wedding Party

Choosing who stands up with you as you exchange vows is a very important thing. They are the people you can count on, and they are also people who will need bouquets, boutonnieres, flower girl petals, bridesmaids & groomsmen gifts, meals the day of the wedding, etc. If you want a wedding party of 14, make sure you account for the things they will need. (Don’t forget parents and grandparents.)

Ceremony Venue

In some venues, guest count matters. (Some venues provide a certain number of chairs, and guest counts in excess of that amount incur an additional cost per chair.) Read all the documents they provide so you know what you get for your money. 

Reception Venue

A cake and punch reception in the community hall of your church is one of the least expensive options. Resorts, unique spaces, or historical venues are probably the most expensive. Ask for a list of everything that’s included in the venue rental fee. 

Luncheon / Dinner / Buffet

If you are serving food, your venue determines how you will feed your guests; outside catering, in-house chef; buffet or plated meal. Some brides opt for a luncheon or brunch to lower the per-person cost. An evening reception with heavy appetizers is also an option, however apps can sometimes cost as much per-person as a meal so do your math. Whatever you choose, you will pay food costs on a per-person basis.


Whether you serve iced tea or a full bar, there is a cost attached and you will pay for consumption on a per-person basis.

Cake / Dessert

The amount of cake or dessert you buy is in direct proportion to your guest count. Smaller guest list; smaller dessert bill. Whether you want cake, cupcakes, a dessert table, etc, the cost is per-person.

Rehearsal Dinner

Big wedding party = big rehearsal dinner. Especially if most of your party has significant others or children. And if children are in your wedding, their parents will be at the rehearsal dinner.


While many things fall under the rental umbrella, when it comes to weddings, tables, chairs, linens, tents, charger plates, glassware, plates, utensils, decor, etc are often needed. Once again, cost is on a per-person basis.


Wedding favors come in all shapes and sizes. Get the cost of your favors nailed down early–even if you plan on making them yourself–so that you’re not surprised at the last minute. (Be sure you count the cost of each item you need to buy in order to make and store/transport your favors; from glue sticks to plastic bins.)

While these are the very basics, I think you can see how your guest count compounds the expense of your wedding. That’s why determining the guest count as early as possible is so important to determining a realistic estimate for what your wedding will cost.  

And of course, I’m sure you’re starting to see that the best way
to control costs is to
control the guest list.

In our next blog, we’ll talk about the next step in planning: Gathering Estimates.

Weddings can be overwhelming but it’s going to be great! We’re here for you™.  

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