That is the average cost of a wedding, according to a survey conducted by bridal resource, The Knot. If that figure leaves you speechless – and more than a little scared – you’re not alone! But remember, this figure is driven up by lavish nuptials costing $50,000 and more. People can, and do, have lovely, unforgettable weddings for less. Regardless of your specific budget, however, it is important to create a wedding essentials checklist to keep costs to spiraling out of control. It can also help keep your emotions to spiraling out of control by giving you increased peace of mind. So, how do you start?
At the beginning, of course. Take a look at your budget and how much you have saved for your wedding. Traditionally, certain parts of the wedding and ceremony have been paid for by the bride’s family, while the groom’s family assumes other financial responsibilities.
The Short Wedding Checklist
If you have family that is willing and able to help, this is what is traditionally paid for by each side:
- Groom’s engagement ring
- Gifts for groom and brides’ attendants
- Groom’s tuxedos and accessories
- Bride’s engagement ring
- Gifts for bride and groomsmen
- Boutonnieres for groom, fathers, grandfathers, and groomsmen
- Corsages for mothers and grandmothers
- Bouquets for bride
- Wedding stationery
- Bride’s gown and accessories
- Flowers and décor for ceremony and reception
- Flowers for bridesmaids
- Ceremony location fee
- Wedding reception location fee
- Food and beverages
- Transportation rentals
- Entertainment for reception
- Wedding cake
- Engagement party
- Officiant’s fee
- Marriage license fee
- Rehearsal dinner
If you notice, the bride’s family has a long list! This is a “traditional” list that may be too outdated for modern couples. But if you do have family who are eager to help, this can give you direction. The bride’s family does not have to pay for all of the items on the list, but if they could take care of, for instance, the flowers or the wedding cake, that is an expense you can check off your list.
The Complete Wedding Checklist
Next, when you have an idea of what resources you have, and what others are going to contribute, you can start nailing down specifics. Find a wedding budget checklist format online that you can print out. They are widely available, but here is a good one along with a budget.
Take a look at each expense and cross off those that do not apply to your wedding. For instance, if you are having your best friend do the photography, you do not have to worry about that fee (though a nice gift would be a thoughtful gesture). Likewise, if you plan on doing your own hair, makeup, and nails, you can cut those off the checklist immediately.
Next, it is important to do some preliminary research, and this is why people start planning their weddings a year in advance! How much are typical reception venues in your area? How much are typical dresses, cakes, flowers, and professional services (photographers, DJs, etc.)? How much will your officiant charge? Call around, look at your local wedding supplements, or go to area bridal shows to get a sense of how much things cost.
Wedding Budget Calculator
The great nerds at Nerdwallet have a great calculator to figure out how your budget stacks up for your area. has a great expense checklist on which you can enter in your zip code. It displays the average overall budget for your area, as well as a breakdown of expenses. You can delete subcategories that do not apply to you, add those that do, and record what you have spent thus far. The breakdown by category and subcategory can help you keep spending in check and even cut down on extraneous costs (Can you eliminate a full bar? Can you have a backyard BBQ in lieu of a formal rehearsal dinner?).
With so much to plan for, there really is a wedding checklist for every part of the wedding. With proper planning and help, having a wedding that fits your preference and your budget is possible. You just have to plan, prepare, and keep your expense checklist updated!