Wedding Planning Budget Tips: Making Every Moment and Dollar Count

By Jacqui Photography

Making Every Moment (& Dollar) Count

By Paula Ramirez, Historic Mankin Mansion

Hosting weddings is a classic tradition which will always be in fashion. Given that the average cost of weddings nationally is $35,000, it behooves you to spend wisely with a well-defined budget. Having a sit-down, heart to heart, open and honest conversation with contributors about finances. as well as to set expectations, is key. A wedding budget should be comprised of your savings (less 3 months expenses) plus contributions from family members added to what you can accumulate in the meantime.

Here is the general rule of thumb and a great starting point when setting a budget…

50-60% on the reception – venue, music, rentals, catering, décor, dessert, favors, and bar

15-20% for photography, transportation, videography, and miscellaneous vendors

10% on the ceremony and related items such as invitations, officiant, flowers, rentals, & decor

10% for attire for both of you including hair and makeup

5% as a buffer or contingency

Before spending $1, you will need to choose the venue. This is the one budget line item which will have a ripple effect on all the others.


  • Venues that specialize in weddings will have more offerings, requiring less vendors. This can equate to saving time and money vs. choosing a raw space like a backyard where everything will need to be brought in, down to the restrooms, flooring, lighting, heat, air conditioning and even the upgraded power to support such an event.
  • All locations are not created equal and each offer different services, which when chosen thoughtfully, will help the budget and time spent on planning. Choosing a lovely space which includes a planner, DJ, set up/tear down, décor, tables, chairs, tent, lighting, etc. may be a better option. A special few may even offer transportation in a Bentley or a Range Rover for a dramatic entrance to the ceremony or the grandest of exits.
  • Choosing a lush venue with natural beauty will save tons on added décor and flowers. Additionally, it could be better for your budget to select one that allows you to choose from a variety of caterers and price points vs. those that require in house catering. Also, consider booking a place where you are allowed to provide the alcohol with a one-day license, lowering costs, and taking all the leftovers home!

After touring a minimum of three places and reserving the venue, create your top three priorities that are non-negotiable. Those features should be secured next.

Hayes & Fisk Photography


  • Be sure to read the fine print in contracts and ask the right questions…is the gratuity included or optional, are there additional expenses like cake cutting, corking fees, set up/tear down, parking, valet, local taxes, etc.?
  • Choose to have the wedding and reception at the same place, it can save $3-4K.
  • Forego liquor and instead serve a variety of beer & wine, this can save $3-5K based on your crowd.
  • Opt for a Friday, Sunday, brunch, or winter wedding, again saving oodles of cash with nearly all vendors.
  • To save money on flowers, offer to supply the florist with a variety of personal vases from home.
  • When making hotel room blocks, choose one with no attrition fee (these can be as high as 75% of the entire block of rooms) and utilize a AAA discount or veteran status (if applicable) to save even more.
  • Remember, guest count matters-when considering food, rentals, favors and alcohol. Each guest will add $100+ to the bottom line.
  • Tipping for most vendors is never expected, but when you are more than thrilled with their services, you may want to express that with an added gratuity.
  • Wedding insurance is highly recommended to cover deposits lost should you need to postpone or cancel due to severe weather hindering the event and to protect you from unexpected liability. Markel has the lowest premiums and best overall coverage against both liability and cancellation. Travelers, Wedsure and WedSafe are others to consider.

Kirsten Guthrie Photography

It is important to remember that a wedding is most likely the largest and most expensive party you will ever throw. Starting with a well-planned budget, and honoring it as much as possible, will not only make for a joyfully successful event, but will also set the standards for your financial partnership and expectations for the future.

Paula Clark Ramirez is the Proprietor of Historic Mankin Mansion Private Wedding & Event Estate in Richmond, VA. Paula and her husband Martin have lovingly restored this National Landmark to its original grandeur and are honored to share this treasured landmark with couples and their families. The property features stunning architectural views and is the past recipient of countless awards and features in Forbes, Orbitz, The Travel Channel, Martha Stewart Weddings, The Huffington Post and Oprah Magazine.