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Wedding Budget: Plan for Wedding Bliss, Not Wedding Bills

By Royal Bank of Canada

Published June 3, 2024 • 11 Min Read

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Getting engaged and planning a wedding is an exciting time filled with milestone moments. But it can also be expensive. Creating a budget for your wedding is a great way to improve your planning efforts — and ensure that your wedding costs don’t catch you off guard.

According to The Knot’s 2023 Global Wedding Report, the average cost for a wedding in Canada is $19,000 and includes 89 guests. Yet, with every wedding as unique as the couple getting married, the expenses can range from well below the average figure to far above.

Building a wedding budget allows you to estimate how much money you’ll spend on the event, what each expense category entails and ways you can save. That way, you can prioritize what matters most and begin your life together with a meaningful event that doesn’t break the bank or require you to take on too much debt.  With proper planning, you may have extra money to enjoy elsewhere — perhaps on your honeymoon or pursuing other life goals as a married couple. 

Wedding budget breakdown

You’ll likely begin with an idea of how much you plan to spend on your wedding. From there, you can break your wedding budget into common expense categories and estimate how much you’ll spend on each. Here’s a look at the major components of the event and how the budget breaks down for an average wedding in Canada:

Venue — 30%

Your wedding venue dictates the vibe of your event. For example, a wedding in a park or on a beach differs greatly from a wedding in a downtown hotel. As expected, the costs vary widely by venue, but for the typical Canadian wedding, you can estimate your venue costs to account for about a third of your overall budget.

Catering — 30%

The food and beverages served at your wedding are another key component in setting the tone. Again, the possibilities are endless — you might opt for a casual brunch, backyard barbecue or a multi-course meal. Calculating the food expense depends on what you serve, as well as how many people attend your wedding, as caterers typically charge per person. As you plan for your big day, consider that food and beverages at your reception will likely make up another third of your budget.

Wedding attire — 10%

What you wear to your wedding is a critical (and fun) component of your event and budget. The vast majority of women opt for wedding gowns. Meanwhile, men often wear a suit or tuxedo. You can rent both of these, which is a smart way to keep attire costs in check. If you opt for traditional wedding wear, you can anticipate your clothes to account for about 8%. In addition to the clothes, this part of your budget will also account for shoes and any potential alterations.

Photography services — 8%

Documenting your special day with photographs and videos ensures your memories are preserved forever. This is where a professional wedding photographer comes in. Wedding photographers usually offer a range of packages from photographing and videoing every aspect of your special day to just documenting the ceremony. Photos and video account for about 7% of the average wedding budget, though the rates vary dramatically based on your needs.

Wedding planner — 5%

Having an expert help coordinate the details of your wedding can be a lifesaver, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the planning or getting married in a city that’s not where you live. Wedding planners can help define your vision for your event — and make it a reality. They also have connections in the wedding industry, which makes finding other vendors much easier. Consider dedicating about 5% of your budget to a professional planner.

Flowers — 5%

Flowers can play a starring role in your wedding or simply be a sweet accent to your clothes or reception tables. Couples often work with florists to select arrangements and décor that match their wedding theme. Your flower budget may include bouquets, boutonnieres or table centerpieces and may comprise about 5% of your budget.

Music — 3%

For some couples, the best reception is one that includes a live DJ and lots of dancing. On average, the cost of a DJ for your wedding reception might be about 3% to 5% of your total wedding budget, depending on where you live and the experience of the person you hire. A live band is usually more expensive, while simply playing music through an available sound system is free.

Hair and makeup — 2%

You may choose to hire a professional to do hair and makeup on your big day. These costs often include the service for your wedding, as well as any pre-wedding trials. As with many other things, hair and makeup costs vary, with the rates dependent on the person’s experience and location. If you’re looking to book a hair and makeup specialist, you can estimate it accounts for about 2% of your budget.

Ceremony — less than 1%

In Canada, you need a licensed officiant to perform the wedding ceremony. This can be a religious or non-religious person. The fees for this service vary. You may pay nothing if the officiant is a family friend or your longtime pastor, or you may be charged a nominal fee to find an officiant via a database or celebrant service.

Wedding cake — Less than 1%

A wedding cake is both a delicious dessert for your guests and a part of your wedding décor. Even better — to select one, you have to cake tasting. The cost of a cake depends on how many people you’re serving, but most couples spend less than 1% of their budget on a wedding cake.

Wedding favours, stationary, rentals and other costs — 5%

While the above list includes most of the traditional wedding expenses, there are other miscellaneous items that you might want to include, from guest favours to paper invitations to additional décor or lights. Reserve 5% of your budget to cover ancillary costs for small items that make a big difference in your décor or experience.

A wedding budget that suits you

Just like your wedding, your wedding budget is unique to you and your partner. The percentages provided reflect the average Canadian wedding. However, you may decide to devote more of your budget to a venue or catering and less to photography or clothes. The size of your budget also makes a difference. For example, if you’re planning on spending less than $10,000, you might seek out a less or even free venue and put the rest of your budget toward the other aspects of the reception, such as food and furniture rental.

The right budget for you is the one that reflects your wedding wants and fits within how much you aim to spend on your event. Planning and tracking your spending is another aspect of wedding planning that helps keep your budget on track with expectations. You can use a spreadsheet to monitor your wedding costs or find wedding budget templates online.

What to consider when you’re creating a wedding budget

There are a lot of factors that determine your eventual wedding budget, such as your current finances, the number of people contributing to the wedding costs, how many people you plan to invite and more. The good news is that, as with other budgets, you can often adjust many of the components, finding ways to save in one area so that you spend a bit more in another.

Your current finances

The amount you can contribute to your wedding is a big component of creating your budget. You may be planning to save for your event or pay as you go. Examine your personal budget to glean how much extra you have available to put toward wedding costs. This will help determine how much you ultimately spend on the event.

Who’s paying for the wedding

As you build your wedding budget, consider whether anyone else, such as your parents or other relatives, is helping pay for the event. Talk with your family members early in the process about how much they plan to contribute and if they’re considering providing a set amount or paying for specific aspects of the wedding. Having conversations about your budget at the beginning of the process can prevent misunderstandings and ensure everyone is on the same page.

The number of guests

The number of people you anticipate will attend your wedding is the magic number determining much of your budget. In general, a large wedding with lots of guests is more expensive than a smaller wedding. With the former, you need a larger venue and will have to spend more on food and drink. Conversely, reducing the number of guests is a good way to save — and can help keep your wedding within your expected budget.

The venue

The cost of your venue is one of the biggest components of your budget. As expected, larger and/or nicer venues typically cost more than smaller venues or those with fewer amenities. The style of your wedding and the venue go hand-in-hand; a more formal venue for a formal wedding will likely cost more than a casual wedding with an informal venue. The location — city versus rural, destination resort, etc. — also makes a big difference.

Date and time

When you decide to marry is another determining factor in your budget. If you want to get married during a popular time of year, such as summer, venues and other wedding vendors may charge premium prices. But if you opt for off-season or shoulder-season dates, you might be able to find a deal. The same goes for days of the week, with weekends likely costing more than weekdays.

Other goals you’re saving for

Creating a wedding budget is an important financial task, but it may not be the only thing on your agenda. Consider how the cost of your wedding impacts your other financial goals, such as buying a home or saving for retirement. Weigh whether the wedding expense is worth slowing your progress on other things you want to achieve — and adjust your wedding budget if the impact is too significant.

How to create your wedding budget

Once you understand all the factors that impact your wedding budget, you can begin to build one. Here’s how:                

Set a budget limit

Determine who will contribute to the wedding expenses, how much of your savings you’ll use, and any other assets that may fund your event. Then, create an overall budget number for the amount you want to spend on your wedding.

See where you can save

Examine each budget category in your wedding budget, including venue, catering and wedding attire. Look for ways to save in the big categories, such as considering a dinner buffet over a dinner service, or renting a venue on a Sunday instead of a Saturday.

Budget for extra costs

Create a small buffer for unexpected costs so they don’t impact your expected expenses. Some of these extra costs might be transportation to your event, additional vendor fees or licenses or permits for specific venues.

Avoid these wedding budget mistakes

Couples make a few common financial mistakes when creating their wedding budget. By understanding the potential pitfalls, you can avoid adding stress to your special day.         

Not discussing your wedding priorities

Talk with your partner early and often about what you want to prioritize for your wedding. You may each have different ideas for where to spend and where to save. Finding compromises and ensuring you each have a say in your celebration makes the day even more special. 

Not tracking your spending

Closely monitoring how much you spend can prevent you from inadvertently overspending in one area or, more alarming, blowing your budget before the actual wedding day. Between vendor deposits and wedding-related purchases, you will be spending well in advance of your event. Track your expenses, estimated and real, so that there are no surprises.

Misallocating or under-allocating your budget

Understanding the cost of various aspects of your wedding can help you create a more accurate budget. Each item has a wide range of costs, but having a sense of what the expenses could be makes it easier to create a budget that is rooted in reality.

Not trying to save costs

You might have a budget wedding or a big blow-out party; either way, investigating ways to save can really pay. Shop around for vendors, look at different venues and caterers and explore how changing the date or size of your wedding impacts the cost.

Funding your dream wedding

Your wedding is an important day. Pay for its costs, save in advance and shop around. Then on the big day, you can celebrate your future together instead of being concerned about the event’s expenses.   Still have questions about budgeting for your wedding? We can help. Book an appointment with an RBC Advisor today.    

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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