March 17th, 2023 Wedding Ideas, Tips and Inspiration

Wedding Budget Breakdown: Common Expenses to Plan For

Your wedding could be the best day of your life, but all the romance and festivities come at a cost. Not only is wedding planning time-consuming, it gets expensive quickly.

According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding reached $30,000 in 2022. While it’s possible to stick to a modest budget, it's not unreasonable to anticipate spending tens of thousands for your wedding day.

Most couples would argue that a picture-perfect start to married life is well worth all this time and money. That being said, stressful planning and heavy spending are by no means inevitable. Prioritization is key; you need to understand where you're willing to splurge and where you can realistically limit your expectations.

Getting started early is important; not only will this give you more time to find great deals, you'll find the entire process a lot less stressful if you can tackle it a little at a time. 

List of Wedding Expenses by Category

Now that you're rocking a sparkly engagement ring, you're ready to embark on the wedding planning process. To begin, determine where the biggest expenses will arise. This basic understanding will encourage you to start strategizing right away. This will also help develop a total budget range that you want to stay between. 

To help, we've compiled a wedding budget breakdown that highlights all of the common expenses that you may incur in the leadup to your big day. We’ve broken down costs into the following categories: 

  • Wedding planner

  • Venue

  • Dress and Attire

  • Hair, Makeup, and Accessories

  • Decor

  • Flowers

  • Food

  • Alcohol

  • Music

  • Photographer and videographer

  • Engagement parties and rehearsal dinner

  • Day of extras 

We go into more detail on each category below. 

Wedding Planner

Does the thought of planning your wedding make you feel stressed or anxious? It might behoove you to hire a wedding planner at the outset. This person can help you handle all the details you might otherwise find stressful. A solid wedding planner can even offer cost-cutting suggestions or clue you in on the most affordable vendors. According to WeddingWire, couples who invest in wedding planners typically spend between $1,000 and $2,500 


The sooner you reserve your wedding venue, the better — competition for the best spots can be fierce. Costs may fluctuate wildly depending on the location, time of year, and size of the space. Still, with an average cost of nearly $12,000 cited by The Knot, this is clearly one of the spendiest parts of throwing a wedding. Backyard weddings, public parks, and church-based receptions could prompt significant savings, although even these could prove pricier than expected.

Another compelling option? A destination wedding. At the outset, this might seem a lot more expensive — but remember: the guest list will almost certainly be smaller, so you might not spend as much as you anticipate. What's more, this approach may allow you to build in the cost of your honeymoon, instead of adding this as a completely separate (and potentially expensive) category. 

Dress and Attire

When you picture your dream wedding, a gorgeous gown may be the first thing that comes to mind. You may be surprised to discover that, while this is arguably the most memorable part of being a bride, it's far from the most expensive. The Knot lists an average price of $1,900, but there is a lot of room for variation. For example, today's minimalist and cottagecore styles often cost less. Depending on your budget, however, you could easily indulge in an ornate gown that includes lots of embellishments.

Thankfully, this category doesn't need to feel like a compromise. Here at Val Stefani, we're pleased to provide options in every price range. If you're looking to keep costs low, you'll be amazed by our Simply Val Stefani collection, which includes many stunning dresses that typically retail under $2,000. If you want to treat yourself to a couture design, you can up your budget slightly and get a gown from our Val Stefani Bridal collection. Depending on the style, this may cost anywhere from $2,500 to $3,999. Don't forget to set aside money for alterations, which will ensure that your dress reaches its full potential.

This category also encompasses the groom's attire. Many prefer to rent tuxedos, although a suit could be perfectly acceptable for a casual wedding. Either way, it's typical to spend less than $500 to get a groom looking spiffy. 

Hair, Makeup & Accessories

Your wedding dress forms the basis of your bridal aesthetic, but details can either elevate or detract from your carefully selected gown. Some dresses are specifically designed to draw attention to ornate jewelry, sparkly shoes, or intricate updos. Other brides can stick with simple accessories because the gown's lace, rhinestones, or pearls are more than sufficient. Either way, your budget for shoes and jewelry could vary wildly based on your personal preferences. When in doubt, set aside at least $200 for each.

No matter how you accessorize, you'll want to bring out your natural beauty with a lovely hairstyle, plus makeup that helps you glow. Experts at The Knot reveal an average of $250 for these appointments. Some brides do their own hair and makeup, but expert application is definitely preferred — otherwise, it's far too easy for makeup to smudge or hairdos to fall out. 


There's more to a beautiful wedding than the appearance of the bride. Yes, the right dress will make anyone swoon, but the backdrop also matters. This could be extra important for a budget venue, where drab surroundings can take away from the fantasy of the day. An outdoor wedding, however, could deliver the best of both worlds: natural beauty and a limited need for extra decorations.

Indoors or out, this category can be far-reaching. After all, it may encompass both decorations for the wedding ceremony and reception. These are sometimes provided by venues but often left up to the couple. Common elements worth considering include centerpieces, linens, candles, and photo backdrops. The cost can increase quickly if you hire a professional decorator. Even if you handle this all on your own, Zola highlights a potential price range of between $200 and $3,000. 


Don't confuse flowers with standard decor. While flowers certainly amplify the look of your wedding, they belong in a category all their own. In addition to centerpieces or arches, your wedding will almost certainly include lots of beautiful bouquets, which should be artfully arranged.

The cost will depend on the types of flowers and how many arrangements are required, not to mention who is responsible for arranging them. According to estimates from The Knot, working with a florist involves an average price tag of $2,400 per wedding. 


Great food will instantly elevate a wonderful celebration. There's nothing quite like gathering with friends and family members for this extra special meal. How it's served and how much it costs will vary, but experts at The Knot reveal that today's average couple spends $75 per head on catering.

Dining expenses can be difficult to determine at times, as the cost of food is sometimes built into the price of the venue itself. Buffet-style meals can limit costs, as can avoiding a full meal altogether and sticking with hors d'oeuvres instead. If you're not willing to forgo dinner, affordable entrees such as pasta are sure to please without breaking the bank.

The wedding cake is a key part of this category. The Knot lists an average price of $510, but acknowledges that the cost per slice could easily range between just $2 and $15. Obviously, this will escalate quickly for a larger wedding, although prices can be limited by avoiding the traditional multi-tier cake. 


Technically speaking, alcohol is an optional expense. Many couples throw dry weddings, both for budgetary and personal reasons. For others, a middle-ground approach might involve a cash bar. An open bar is sure to please, but watch out: expenses will add up quickly and guests may get rowdier than you prefer.

If you're not into the cash bar approach, you could purchase your own alcohol and hire a bartender to serve it. Typically, at least 70 percent of guests will stick with beer and wine, while 30 percent will opt for spirits.

How much you purchase will depend on how many adult guests attend and how many drinks per guest you anticipate. The typical rule of thumb is two drinks per guest during the first hour, followed by one drink per hour for the remainder of the event. If this all feels a bit overwhelming, you can always use a wedding alcohol calculator to guide the process. 


After a meaningful ceremony and a delicious meal, wedding guests are ready to let loose on the dance floor. These days, most couples opt for DJs instead of live bands. The former costs around $1,500, but sources tell Brides Magazine that live bands could increase these expenses tenfold. Still, some are more than willing to spend extra, as there's no denying that live music can elevate your wedding reception.

On the flip side, some couples have taken to a DIY approach: acting as their own DJs. This definitely takes more work but is a potential option for a strict budget, so long as the playlist is properly planned and the audio equipment is decent. In most cases, however, a professional DJ provides a middle-ground, reasonably-priced solution that will have guests dancing all night long. 

Photographer and Videographer

Treasured memories of your wedding should be expertly preserved so you can continue to look back on your big day for years to come. A talented photographer and videographer can tell your love story while bringing the most meaningful moments to life. Few people regret spending a little extra in this category.

According to The Knot, couples spend an average of $2,600 on wedding photography. Videography will cost you at least another $2,000. It's increasingly common to set aside money for both, as these capture different facets of your special day. 

Engagement Parties & Rehearsal Dinner

Your wedding is by no means the only exciting event you'll experience as a bride-to-be. Rather, it's the culmination of many festive occasions, beginning with an engagement party and ending with the reception. Along the way, bachelorette parties and rehearsal dinners can also be expected.

This can all start to feel like a lot, so remember: you don't have to add extra events to the mix. If your wedding will be at all elaborate, however, a rehearsal will bring much-needed peace of mind — and the rehearsal dinner provides a great thank you for the wedding party and other loved ones who have supported you along the way.

The Knot places the average cost of a rehearsal dinner at $2,400, but you have more leeway than you think. Sometimes, family members are happy to cover this expense. In other cases, you can cut costs by preparing your own food and serving it in a casual setting such as a backyard party. 

Day Of Extras

In addition to the major categories highlighted above, there are also several smaller expenses that could add up quickly on the day of your wedding. The officiant, for example, could cost a few hundred, although you may be able to get a loved one to take over for free.

Wedding favors and gifts are also worth considering. While these are technically not required, they remain best practice from an etiquette standpoint. With favors, the best way to save is to get crafty and create something meaningful on your own. The supplies may cost less than $100, but the thought will definitely be appreciated. If you order personalized favors, however, you can expect to pay up to $15 per guest.

Gifts for bridesmaids and groomsmen will be far more expensive; while there's no set price point, experts at The Knot suggest spending between $75 and $150 to provide sufficiently generous tokens of your appreciation. 

Plan Your Dream Wedding

Like it or not, weddings nearly always involve some element of compromise. Yes, you want it all for your special day — but ultimately, a lot will be dictated by your schedule and overall budget.

If you start early and determine where, exactly, you're not willing to sacrifice, you won't feel let down if you need to scale back other elements. In fact, you just might discover that the understated aspects of your weddings are ultimately what you find the most special.

With nearly every category, guest count is important; a smaller wedding will always make it easier to splurge. Think carefully about your guest list and who you actually want by your side for this important day.

As you move forward with wedding planning, let the experts help you streamline at least one key part of the process: bridal dress shopping. We're pleased to offer a vast collection of stunning gowns, incorporating a range of styles and price points. Browse our offerings online or visit an authorized Val Stefani retailer to learn more.




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