des moines, iowa and beyond

workflow & systems strategist

Sweet Beginnings: The "B" word

For Brides, Sweet Beginnings

Hi sweet brides! Remember when I promised we would discuss all of the aspects of planning a wedding in more detail? Well we are going to start with the big “B”- Budget. I know, I know, this is not a fun topic, but I promise you that if we tackle it first, the rest will be much more harmonious and smooth.


While I am not a big number person, I definitely am a stickler for budgets. They give us guidelines, help set priorities and force us to get creative and truly curate what is important in our lives. Ahem, weddings.

The first thing everyone wants to know is how much should I estimate spending? That answer depends on so many factors. The best way to approach things is to know what you can afford and work from that number. In order to determine that, discuss numbers with your fiancé and your families. Decide who will be able to contribute what and any wishes they have for how that money is spent. For example, maybe your parents give you a flat amount and leave it up to you to allocate. Perhaps they’d prefer to pay for certain aspects within a certain price range.

Once you know who is contributing what amount, you have a starting point for your total available budget. From that number, allocate what was requested and then enter estimated budgets. This means what you predict you will spend in each area. There are many resources for suggested breakdowns, but the simplest and my favorite is from Every Last Detail.

Reception and food: 45%; Photography/Videography: 18%; Floral/Decor: 15%; Planner: 10%;

Paper Goods: 6%; Entertainment: 4%; Ceremony/Misc: 2%

Even though these are recommended, they are just that. Guidelines are there to help you have the conversations needed and give you a starting point. Which brings me to my next tip.

Choose three priorities, that the two of you agree upon, for where to spend your money. This is one of the first things I ask all of my clients. Every couple I work with has a different list of priorities, which makes your budget entirely unique to you as well. When AJP and I planned our wedding, photography was my top priority, followed by our ceremony and guest experience. Others might consider food, entertainment or dress their priorities. There is no right answer.

Another reason this is really helpful is that it helps you to return to the list if you get in a ‘heated’ discussion over a budget item or detail. If it doesn’t contribute directly to a priority item, it might be a good thing to reassess. Again, guidelines my darlings.


(isn’t this Southern Weddings Planner so pretty!!)

As I have mentioned before, guest count is one of, if not the, biggest contributor to budget realities. If inviting your entire extended family and having a big soiree is your cup of tea, then expect to pay a bit more or have a very simple affair. Keeping your list much more intimate allows you to either spend less overall or spend more on those priorities, depending on your circumstances.

 Another thing to think about when budgeting for your guest list is gratuities, fees and taxes on top of your per guest costs. Just because you find a $30 per guest rate for catering, doesn’t mean that is the real cost per guest. Be sure to read all of the fine print and ask for a complete quote and ensure that you ask about additional fees before deciding on any vendor.

A few additional resources are The Knot, Martha Stewart Weddings, and Cost of Wedding (run by The Wedding Report). Cost of Wedding helps give you a guideline more tailored to your area (search their database by zip code) and how elaborate or simple your wedding will be. Again, this is simply a guideline and could vary from what they provide, but it’s a great starting point if you are really into numbers!

Don’t forget that the main purpose of a budget is to help be realistic, curate what matters and guide you to a wonderful marriage. No one wants to enter their marriage in debt, right? Focus on what truly matters. That is, at the end of the day, you will be married to your best friend and your happily ever after is just beginning.

xoxo, Jenn

p.s. don’t forget to submit your planning questions to

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