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Asking Family for Money and Other Wedding Budget Tips

For most couples, the wedding is the first opportunity to create and sustain a budget as a team. Regardless of your tastes or financial means, you’ll put a lot of effort into drafting a budget that works for your wedding vision as well as the event logistics. This is a deeply personal choice for many couples. It’s not always easy to balance the desire to create moments that last a lifetime with a wedding industry that’s ready to exploit your one-time willingness to splurge on event planning. We can’t set a budget for you, but we do have great tips about how to set a budget you won’t regret.

Figure Out Who’s Going to Help

Before setting your preliminary budget, talk with your families about who wants to take on which responsibility. Traditionally, the family of the bride picks up most of the cost, but more frequently, grooms’ families have been participating in sharing the cost. This list is a helpful resource for understanding which aspects of the wedding is traditionally covered by which party.

Often, it’s a good idea to sit down which each family separately. If you’re having a difficult time starting the conversation, simply ask if your parents are planning to contribute to the cost of the wedding. If they are, ask about which portions of the wedding they would like to contribute to. Do they want to buy the dress? Help cover the food budget? If they don’t have anything in mind, politely ask for an estimated dollar amount and explain that you’re trying to establish an overall budget. The conversation tends to be easier when framed in terms of the planning process.

Consider the Scope of Your Wedding

Reflect on what type of wedding you want. Would you prefer an intimate gathering with close friends and family, or a massive party in a hotel ballroom? If you live in a big city, do you want to have the wedding downtown, or somewhere in the suburbs? (It goes without saying, for example, that a wedding in Manhattan will be more expensive than a wedding in Hoboken.)

So, what’s typical? According to some sources, the average wedding today costs as much as $35,000. There are undoubtedly some areas where you’re more or less willing to splurge than the average couple, but often it’s helpful to have a general sense of how much of the total budget to assign to each part of the wedding. With this in mind, the typical breakdown looks something like this:

Reception (food, beverages, rentals, and site)—40%-50%


Photography and Video—10%

Bride(s) and Groom(s) Attire—10%



Wedding Rings—3%-4%

Miscellaneous (Favors, Transportation, etc.)—10%


Create Your Guest List ASAP

Drafting your guest list before seeking out larger bills will help narrow the scope of what you’re willing to pay. The venue, as well as food and liquor, are typically the largest expenses you’ll encounter and need to be scaled for the size of your guest list. Once you draft your guest list and approximate the size, you can more easily assess how much money you’re willing to spend per person. If your dream wedding includes an elaborate party with 200 or so people, it’s often smart to use a buffet instead of table service. You’ll cut costs while providing guests with more food options.

Some couples, who know exactly what they want their wedding to be, may actually work backwards. First, they figure out how much their dream wedding is likely to cost per head and then they determine which family members they can afford to invite. Know, however, that larger wedding venues typically have minimum attendance requirements.

Determine Your Own Contribution and Willingness to Compromise

Once you have a preliminary budget in place, look at places where you’re more or less likely to splurge or to make compromises as needed. Weddings do not exist in a vacuum. Big or small, almost every couple will have some kind of trade-off to consider:

  • Would you rather have a dream wedding in a premium downtown location, or have a 20% down payment ready to go on a new home later this year?
  • Rather than getting your weekly manicure, can you find more room in the budget by doing your own nails for a few months?
  • Would you rather give up your daily latte beverage so that you can splurge on a designer wedding dress, while also dropping those five extra pounds?
  • Is it worth making amends with a family member who’s done you wrong in exchange for their help covering the wedding costs?
  • What about the date and time? Popular choices—like a Saturday evening in late spring—will tend to cost more.

Keep in mind, that you’ll likely pay for the wedding over time as you hire each vendor. To this point, you may also be able to save money by booking these vendors months in advance, so it’s often best to start saving even before the preliminary budget is set.

Other Costs for Your Wedding Budget

Weddings also tend to have a number of smaller costs that are easy to overlook during the initial budget planning phase:

  • Tips and Service Fees—Between bartenders, servers, and coat checks for chilly seasons, you may end up adding a few hundred dollars to your wedding cost. Service fees may also be applied to cover the cost of the venue staff and transportation.
  • Storage—Need to clean out the spare bedrooms for out-of-town guests? Hosting a home wedding and need every last square foot of your home available for the wedding? Planning on saving your wedding dress, or moving into a new place after you get back from the honeymoon? Take it from us: Storage for weddings is more common than you think.
  • Pay-for Samples—Whether you’re tasting wedding cakes or trying to get your bouquet just right, you may end up getting billed. Keep this in mind when testing out food, hairstyles, and makeup.

Looking for more tips? Check out all our Wedding Planning resources.