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Couples & Money

Creating a Wedding Budget

When you’re planning a wedding, you want everything to be perfect, but you don’t want to be faced with a huge debt after the honeymoon.

The average wedding in the United States costs $26,645 (not including the honeymoon). In the Austin metropolitan area, the average wedding cost in 2015 was $29,879 with the majority of the funds going to the venue, catering and rentals.

The first step to planning your wedding is to create a wedding budget that will help you determine how much you are comfortable spending and help you allocate your money according to your preferences for the event.

Paying for the Wedding

As with any budget, the first step is to determine your “income” or how much you have to spend. Traditionally, the bride’s parents pay for the wedding. However, this isn’t always the case anymore. Now, both sets of parents contribute and more and more couples are actually footing the bill.


If your families plan to contribute to the wedding, it’s important to talk with them about how much they can afford to pay and to get a specific dollar amount.


If you and your partner decide to dip into your savings for your wedding, make sure you pick a dollar amount and stick to it. It can be tempting to continually go back to your savings for an extra dollar amount for something you have to have.

You should also be cautious about dipping into any retirement savings for your wedding. Withdrawing funds from your retirement funds can be costly with fees and tax penalties, but they can also cost you in the long run as you lose out on potential interest/investment gains.


If your parents and family cannot cover the entire wedding and you don’t have enough in savings, another option is to borrow money to pay for your wedding. If you plan to finance your wedding, set a budget and make sure you stick to it.

If you plan to use a credit card or other revolving debt, use the card with the lowest interest rate and pay it off as quickly as possible.

Remember – even if you’re borrowing money, that doesn’t mean you can/should spend up to your limit. Pick a budget that works for you and that you can pay off quickly.

Before Anything Else

No matter what your budget, you and your fiancé need to answer this question: what things are the most important/must haves for your wedding?

Write out your must-have list first, then build your budget and determine how you want to spend your money.

Things to Consider

As you develop your budget and start to break down how you want to spend your money, keep your answers to the following questions in mind:

  • What style wedding do you want? Formal? In-formal? Semi-formal?
  • Where do you want to have your wedding and reception?
  • Do you want it in-state, in a different state, or out of the country?
  • Does it need to be in a particular city?
  • Will you need to rent a space?
  • Will you need to pay for both a place for the ceremony and for the reception?
  • Do you want a place that provides everything – tables, linens, catering, etc.?
  • How many people do you want to invite?
  • What time of year do you want to get married?
  • What time of day do you want to get married?
Average Costs

There’s no right way to spend your wedding budget. Here are some averages on how expenses breakdown:

Item Average Percentage of Budget
Reception 48-50%
Ceremony 2-3%
Attire 8-10%
Flowers 8-10%
Entertainment/Music 8-10%
Photography/Videography 8-10%
Stationary (invites, thank you cards, etc.) 2-3%
Gifts 2-3%
Miscellaneous 8%
Just in Case 5%

If you and your fiancé plan to pay for your own honeymoon, you’ll want to include that in your budget as well.

Stay on Budget

Once you have your budget and figured out how you want to spend your money, it’s time to start booking venues, vendors, and making decisions.

While it’s easy to get caught up in the moment when you’re making wedding decisions, keep your budget in mind and remember that if you spend over in one area, you’ll need to cut back in another.

Here are other tips to help:

  • Record every expense. One of the easiest ways to track expenses is with a spreadsheet on your computer. You can set up your budget, break it down by category, and set up formulas to quickly total all your expenses in each category. Use this tool to keep on track with your spending and ensure you’re not going over in a particular area.
  • Don’t forget the little expenses. Make sure you include tips, service fees, and overtime fees when working with vendors and venues. If they’re not explicitly included in the contract, you still need to include them in the budget.
  • Prepare for the unexpected. Make sure you’ve included a little wiggle room in your budget for unexpected costs such as weather related expenses (like umbrellas, fans, heaters, etc.) or small accidents like gown adjustments or lost items.
Working with Vendors

Whether it’s the reception venue, the florist, or the caterer, when you work with a third-party vendor, you want to make sure you get what you agreed upon and that the contract you sign reflects that.

Before you sign, review each contract carefully. Make sure it reflects what you want and what was discussed. Check for the following details:

  • Dates and times of all services – includes arrival and completion time
  • Date of the wedding
  • Name of all parties
  • Deposit and final payment amounts
  • Contingency plans – this will detail what will happen if something goes wrong or if the vendor cannot get a particular item
  • Detailed description of the services the vendor will provide
  • Cancellation and refund policies
  • Contact information for main contact and day of contact
Ways to Save

There are any number of ways to save money on a wedding. How you save will depend on the type of wedding you have and your budget.

Here are some common ways to cut expenses:

  • Cut the guest list. Depending on the cost per head for the venue and catering, you may be able to easily cut costs by reducing your guest list by 5-10 people (or more).
  • Save money on invites by limiting the number of ink colors and keeping the information to one page. You can even use an app or website to record RSVPs instead of a separate card.
  • Flower costs can quickly add up; to save, choose flowers that are in-season or limit the types of flowers used to 1-2. You can also use the bridal party bouquets as centerpieces for the reception.
  • Keep the menu simple by limiting the number of options and number of courses. You may even consider doing a buffet or just serving appetizers and drinks.
  • Order a smaller cake for display and larger sheet cakes for serving. Keep the cake flavor and design elements simple.

Wedding Budget Worksheet

Use this budget worksheet along with the Creating Your Wedding Budget guide to build your wedding budget. Track and categorize expenses every time you spend.

Before and After Wedding Paperwork

As you plan for your big day, don’t forget about the important before and after paperwork.

Before the Wedding
Marriage License in Texas

If you’re planning to marry in Texas, you and your fiancé will need to go to the County Clerk’s office together to apply for your license. This license will be good in any Texas county, but may not be legal in other states (you’ll want to check the requirements in the state in which you plan to marry).

Texas requires a 3-day (72 hours) waiting period between the time the application is filed and the ceremony. Once the waiting period is over, the marriage ceremony must occur within 90 days.

There is a fee to receive your marriage license and the fee will vary from county to county.

When you go to the County Clerk’s office, both you and your fiancé want to make sure you bring:

  • Proof of identity and age with a valid, government-issued picture identification such as copy of a birth certificate, a driver’s license or state-issued ID, passport, visa, or military ID
  • Social Security Number for each applicant
  • If applicable, a certified copy of the Divorce Decree must be presented if planning to waive the 30-day required waiting period

Following the ceremony, confirm that the officiate files the marriage license with the County Clerk who issued the license no later than the 30th day after the wedding.

Be sure to order additional copies of the certified marriage license at the County Clerk’s office to assist with the post-wedding paperwork.

Destination Wedding

If you are planning a destination wedding outside the United States, research the country’s license requirements well in advance of the date. This information should be easily found on their tourism website.

You may need to get documents translated and countries require blood tests in addition to proof of identification. These types of tests and translations can be expensive and require a lot of advance notice.

Another option to avoid these issues with a destination wedding, is to get legally married in the United States and have a symbolic ceremony in the destination of choice. It could possibly save money and headaches getting the paperwork in order.

After the Wedding

The majority of wedding paperwork happens after the wedding. Much of the paperwork will require your marriage license, so make sure you have it handy.

Changing Last Name

While not required, many spouses take their new spouse’s last name. If that’s the case, you’ll want to make sure the following items get changed as well:

  • Social Security Administration – visit the Social Security Administration website to get the Application for a Social Security Card. While it’s free to apply, you will need to provide proof of the name change, such as a marriage certificate. You can either mail in the form along with the supporting documents, or you can visit your local Social Security office.
  • Texas Department of Motor Vehicles – once you have your new Social Security card and within 30 days of the name change, you’ll want to bring that along with your current driver’s license, marriage license, and original vehicle title to the DMV (this must be done in-person) to get your new license and vehicle registration. You can also update your voter registration while at the DMV.
  • Texas Office of Secretary of State – if you do not change your voter registration when you change your name at the DMV, you’ll also need to update that information. This can be done online or in-person.

The following items also need to be changed, but the process is much easier once you have your Marriage License, updated Social Security Card and updated Driver’s License.

  • Employer/payroll
  • Financial institutions including your credit card companies
  • Insurance companies
  • Post office
  • Doctors and other health companies
  • Investment accounts
Legal Documents and Beneficiaries

Once you’re married, you’ll want to make sure you and your spouse update any legal documents and your beneficiary designations on any necessary accounts, if you haven’t done so already.

  • Wills (note: if you don’t have a will yet, now is the perfect time to get one developed)
  • Any power of attorney or advanced health care directive/living wills
  • Life insurance
  • Financial accounts
  • Investment accounts such as your 401(k) or other retirement accounts
Additional Items to Consider
Health Insurance

You may find it more cost effective to join your spouse’s health insurance or have them join yours. If that’s the case, ask your employer what time frame you have to decide to make sure you don’t have to wait for the next open enrollment period.


You and your spouse need to determine if you plan to file jointly or separately. In the eyes of the IRS, no matter when you get married in the year, you are married for the entire year.

There can be some significant advantages to filing jointly including a possibly lower tax bracket and increased deductions, credits, and exemptions.

However, there can potentially be some negative consequences to filing jointly. It will all depend on your combined income and potential exemptions/deductions. Always consult a tax advisor before making any tax decisions.