How to Create a Priority-Based Wedding Budget


February 2, 2023


I literally LOL every time I see a wedding publication release a blog post that tells couples how to allocate their wedding budgets.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s a really helpful starting point, but what I find so often is that couples find themselves constrained to the recommended percentages that don’t total out to be realistic numbers for hiring wedding vendors.

This results in couples feeling frustrated and experiencing a feeling of hopelessness about the likelihood of achieving their dream wedding.

So let’s talk about the right way to allocate your wedding budget; by your priorities.

I talk to dozens of couples every month and their priorities for their wedding are as different as their love stories. Some prioritize food and want to create interactive culinary experiences for their guests to enjoy. Some prioritize music and hire a big brass band to play. Many prioritize photography or planning. And because each of their priorities is different, the way they allocate the exact same total will be different as well.

But better than tell you how to allocate your budget, I want to show you how different the exact same budget can look, depending on your priorities, with the same total ($50K), the same guest count (150), and the same wedding party total (4 on each side).

Here’s’s budget based on their recommended percentages:

Venue & Catering $20,000.00

Photography & Videography $7,500.00

Floral & Decor $10,000.00

Stationery $1,500.00

Entertainment $5,000.00

Cake/Dessert $1,000.00

Transportation $1,500.00

Misc $3,500.00

Couple A’s priorities are the following:

  1. Photo
  2. Video
  3. Food
  4. Wedding Management (AKA Day of Coordination)
  5. Decor

Their bottom priorities are:

  1. Stationery
  2. Entertainment
  3. Cake

So this is how we divided the funds up:

Venue $10,000.00

Catering $18,000.00

Planning $2,500.00

Photography $6,500.00

Video $5,000.00

Floral & Decor $5,000.00

Stationery $500.00

Entertainment $2,000.00

Cake/Dessert $500.00

We budgeted for a completely doable $120 per person (pp) catering total, a standard venue rental fee of $10K, a midrange Wedding Management package of $2500, and a floral budget of about $125 per centerpiece and a $1000 ceremony arrangement, Minted for Stationery, a dessert table instead of a traditional cake, and a midrange DJ. But with the top 2 priorities being photography & videography to document the day, we allocated nearly 25% of the total budget to these 2 items alone. If this couple followed’s recommended percentage of 15% total, they would have likely felt that they couldn’t afford their dream photographer or videographer, when they could, just by shifting the numbers.

Now let’s look at Couple B. Their priorities are as follows:

  1. Wedding Planner
  2. Stationery
  3. Floral & Decor
  4. Cake

Their bottom priorities are:

  1. Food; they want to feed people but it doesn’t have to be 5 star
  2. They don’t want video

So this is how we divided up the funds:

Venue & Catering $24,000.00

Photography $5,000.00

Floral & Decor $10,000.00

Stationery $1,500.00

Entertainment $2,000.00

Cake $1,000.00

Planner $6,500.00

For this couple, we went with a hotel venue that charges a minimal rental fee or $4K, but requires a catering minimum of $20K. We booked a Signature Planning package with a Chicago Wedding Planner and budgeted for approximately $250/centerpiece, as well as a large floral statement piece at about $2500. For Stationery, we budgeted for a custom suite, as well as a custom design for the cake. Photography is in the middle of this couple’s priority list so we booked a midrange Photographer and a midrange DJ.

For our last couple, Couple C, their priorities are as follows:

  1. Transportation for guests; they’ve rented a piece of property in the middle of nowhere and need to provide transportation for guests to and from the hotel.
  2. Tent with flooring; the property doesn’t have an indoor space, so they need to plan for a tent in case of extreme heat or rain.
  3. Lighting; because they’re on a piece of property in farmland, there’s no lighting after the sunsets.
  4. Restrooms; because there is no indoor space, they need to rent restrooms

The bottom of their priorities are:

  1. Stationery
  2. Floral & Decor

Venue $1,500.00

Tent & Rentals $10,000.00

Catering $18,000.00

Lighting $3,000.00

Entertainment $2,000.00

S’mores Bar $300.00

Planner $3,000.00

Transportation $1,500.00

Photography $5,000.00

Stationery $500.00

Restrooms $3,600.00

Floral & Decor $1,600.00

The couple rented the outdoor space from a family for the weekend for $500/day. Their tent, lighting, restrooms, and catering took up a good chunk of their budget because they had to bring everything in. This couple wanted a Wedding Manager to help facilitate the weekend. We also allocated enough funds for a midrange photographer. The couple will DIY their centerpieces and bouquets and Stationery will be through Minted.

As you can see, there are SO many ways to divvy up the exact same budget. The best way to maximize your budget is to work with a Wedding Planner early on in the process.

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