The 60/40 Wedding Budget Approach

by Melissa on May 9, 2012

Remember a few months ago when I posted our distribution of wedding expenses by amount, and realized that, based on my analysis, 60% of our total budget was spent on expenses less than $500!?

That was an insane realization for me. Absolutely insane.


Weddings are so expensive and I was so focused on saving on the big ticket items, like catering, videography, and deejaying. And of course, I’m not saying that focusing on decreasing those big item costs was bad or unnecessary or anything like that, but I shouldn’t have forgotten about all those “small” expenses of $500 or less, which added up to more than $14,000!!


So, I got to thinking. Why are wedding budget tools so damn complicated. I mean, nearly all of my wedding wire budget categories were drastically different than what was projected. Why do I need to focus on each category so specifically? Especially when those categories’ prices can vary so much depending on your geographic location.

Let’s try a different wedding budgeting technique. I’m calling it the 60/40 Wedding Budget Tool.  And here’s how it works.

The 60/40 Wedding Budget Technique

You see, most of those smaller, less than $500, expenses were “unknown” expenses. They’re expenses that didn’t fit neatly into typical wedding budget categories, like wedding cake toppers, photobooth props, cardstock for signage at the wedding, foamcore for display signs … you get the idea. All things I couldn’t really estimate how much I was going to spend.

However, most of the “big,” greater than $500.01 expenses, were known, anticipated expenses. Because, for instance, I knew what our venue fee was going to be. I knew how much our photographer was costing us, and how much our catering budget was going to be (plus or minus a few hundred dollars depending on our final guest count). Of course there are a few exceptions. For instance, I “knew” how much our officiant and hair stylist was going to cost, and those were both less than $500.

Here’s how I suggest projecting your wedding budget:

Add up the expenses from your desired (or already booked) big ticket vendors, like the caterer, photographer, deejay, videographer, etc. You should anticipate that the sum of all those vendors’ costs will comprise approximately 40% of your wedding budget, so you can expect to spend approximately.

Let’s say those big ticket expenses add up to $4000. And from this formula, you can assume that you’ll be spending 60% of your budget on expenses less than $500, most of which are probably going to be “unknown” expenses. So if you’re spending $4000 comprising 40% of your budget, then that means you’ll likely spend an additional $6000 (or 60%) on expenses less than $500.

That works out great if you have a wedding budget of $10,000. You’ll spend $4000 on big ticket items and then $6000 on smaller expenses.

But, what if your budget is $10,000, but when you added up all your “big ticket” expenses, that it came to $5760. That would mean that your “unknown” and lesser expenses of less than $500 will likely add up to $8640. Now, all of a sudden, you’re looking at the potential for spending more than $14,000 on your wedding. More than $4000 over your budget!

This is a really easy trap to fall into. Saying, that you have a $10,000 budget, and then spending 90% of it on your big ticket vendors and figuring you’ll still have $1000 of wiggle room budget and money to spend on décor. Wrong-zo. You need to allow yourself significantly more wiggle room in your budget than 10% for all your unknown and smaller expenses.

I realize that my wedding is just one wedding an the 60/40 ratio might not work for everyone. But I do think mine is an illustrative example of someone who really tried to save money (got very inexpensive catering, two wedding dresses that were less than $200 each, the only flowers we had were my bouquet and corsages and bouts for family members, we self-deejayed, etc.) but we STILL managed to go more than $8000 over our intended wedding budget.

So, while 60/40 might not work for everyone, you should anticipate that it will be something similar. Maybe 50/50 or 40/60, etc.

Did anyone else out there track their wedding expenses obsessively like we did? Was your expense distribution about the same?


Remember last month when I did a distribution of our wedding expenses and noted that more than 23% of our wedding expenses were incurred during the actual wedding month? And heck, that 57% of our wedding expenses were incurred in the two full months leading up to our wedding?

I think that this is excellent news for those of you who think that paying for a wedding might be a huge struggle. Even though it’s not something I recommend, if you stretch out your engagement for 15 months or so, you would have plenty of time to save up money to pay for probably a $15,000 wedding!

There are lots of tips in the personal finance blogosphere on how to save money, and I’ll show you those in a few minutes, but here are some that I think are especially useful for engaged (in other words, soon to be married!) couples!

  • Move in with your fiancé (or vice versa). You’re getting married, right? If you aren’t already living together, that is a huge financial mistake. You’re paying probably twice the rent (or mortgage) than necessary. Forget your parents’ (or your) objections, and move in with each other to save some serious cash before the wedding.
  • Now that you’re moved in together, that means you can eliminate other things like extra cable bills, water bills, etc.
  • Sell your stuff. Whether you’re already living together or just moving in, start selling your stuff. Old furniture, old books, clothes that don’t fit … whatever. Clear out the house in anticipation of those nice shiny wedding gifts that will be filling it up soon.
  • Speaking of cable, cut back on all cable. You won’t have much time for tv-watching as the wedding approaches anyway
  • Combine all your insurances. Thanks to domestic partnership laws in a lot of states, you and your fiancé can likely combine insurances to save some money. So, consolidate your health insurances, auto insurance, etc.
  • On a similar note, if you have a decent enough emergency fund to cover it, consider increasing the deductibles on all your insurance policies. This will help you save money each month on your insurance policies!

Without further ado, here is a list of links that contain an insane amount of tips for how to save money. Implement them now, and be able to pay for your wedding in cash!

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Wedding Expenses Lessons Learned

by Melissa on March 16, 2012

Well, I started to talk about this a bit last Thursday, but didn’t want to get too far ahead of myself. 

Am I ashamed that we went more than $8000 over our desired wedding budget?

I’m not sure.


Image Source

Yes, I think it reflects badly on me and hints at some overall irresponsibility with regard to spending that Ken and I have. After all, I set out to have a “budget” wedding! What did I end up spending? Close to the national average expense of a wedding.   Although definitely on the low end of what weddings cost where we live.  

I’m confused.

We self-deejayed. I bought two wedding dresses, both of which were less than $200 each. We had no videographer. No floral centerpieces. No fancy limo (or heck, even bus) transportation. We had no bridal party, which meant no bouquets and boutonnieres for them and no gifts to have to buy them to say thank you. I DIYed my own wedding day makeup.

I was doing everything I thought we could do right to save money. 

Allow me to throw a pity party for second and place blame everywhere but on myself.

Those “average” wedding expenses? I think are drastically UNDER ESTIMATED.  Maybe I’m just being a self-important brat here, but I think there are very few couples that have ever tracked every penny of their wedding-related expenses like thumbtacks for their escort card display, parking fees during their engagement session, and tin buckets for s’mores supplies. But, maybe they do track it. Who knows. Maybe those types of expenses are taken into account when determining the average wedding cost

When I read wedding submissions on wedding blogs, I find it very convenient that their wedding cost “total” is something like $12,000. Or $9000. Really? It came out that nice and evenly? Because our wedding expenses were $23,598.91. This doesn’t just include the “major” expenses.

Like here,

Or here.

Am I bitter that some folks can (or at least claim to) have a budget wedding of approximately $8000-ish, and I can’t even have one for $15,000? Heck, or even $20,000?


And here’s why. Despite about $1000 worth of “regrettable” expenses, there is nothing else, and I mean nothing, that I would’ve cut or changed from our wedding. So no, I do not regret our $760 dance lessons or our $87.25 (plus $10.95 shipping) lego ring bearer box. Or renting our wedding venue for three days instead of two or just one. Or spending $490.17 (plus shipping) on some really rockin’ wedding invitations.

Here’s what I really don’t regret. Basically inviting EVERYONE we knew. “They” say the easiest way to keep the cost down for a wedding is to lower your guest list. What fun is a wedding if ALL your friends and family (including their plus ones!) can’t celebrate with you? So, although inviting nearly 300 people was a bit stressful at times, I was so happy that about 150 could make it and celebrate with us. Plus, we were able to keep our costs low on the catering, which allowed us to invite that many people without REALLY breaking the bank. Anyway, we could’ve easily cut our budget without cutting our guest list anyway!

Everything about our wedding really, truly, was “us.” Because we didn’t allow any outside involvement, there was nothing in our wedding that was forced on us. We were cognizant of our expenses. We continued to track them even when we started to go WAY over our budget.

So, while it may seem ridiculous to go more than $8000 over budget on anything, I have zero regrets here!


Overall Net Cost of Our Wedding

by Melissa on March 13, 2012

One of the nice things about wedding expenses is that sometimes you can manage to actually “recoup” some of your costs. After all, you get nice gifts and/or cash, and you can sell many of the items you purchased during the wedding planning process.

So, what was our overall “net cost” of our wedding? Lucky for you, I’ve figured that all out for you!

Wedding Gifts

We already know that our grand total of wedding expenses was $23,598.91, more than $8000 over our intended $15,000 budget. Now, let’s take a look at the money we “made” from our wedding. These figures include the wedding only, and not shower gifts.

Amount of Cash and Gift Cards Received: $2340

Total Value of Goods Received*: $2438.91

Total Amount of Gifts Received: $4678.91

* For gifts we received that were on our registry, we used the price of that good to calculate the price. For gifts that we could not easily determine the value of, we made a best guess estimate.

Selling Used Wedding Items

We’ve been sticking to our strategy for selling used wedding items.  It’s been going well, but we still have a few additional items to sell.  Therefore, in addition to wedding gifts received, we have also managed to recoup some of our wedding expenses by selling lots of items.

Total Amount of Goods Sold: $1684.00

Total Estimated Value of Goods Remaining to be Sold: $500

Total Estimated Value of Recouped Costs: $2184

In the near future, I’ll do a more in-depth post about our experiences with selling our used wedding items. But compared to the total cost paid for the items that we sold, we’ve recouped about 80% of those costs.

Total Net Cost of our Wedding

$23598.91 (-) $4678.91 (-) $2184



This calculation makes me feel a *wee* bit better, knowing that our overall net cost of our wedding is much closer to our original $15,000 budget. That’s not exactly how we intended to get there of course, but it still helps.

But wait! What about repurposed items?

For the purposes of my calculations, I’m not going to delve into the value of the goods that we can reuse in the future. At least not now. Maybe it’s a topic for a future post.

But just to give you an idea, we have a decent number of items that we purchased for the wedding that can be used for future (non-wedding) events, or in some cases, already have been repurposed. For instance, all of my wedding accessories I purchased, including pearl necklaces, shoes, and bracelets, are not very wedding-y looking, so I am able to wear them with regular outfits. Ken can wear his suit, tie, and dress shirt in the future, and our save-the-date prop and sand ceremony kit now serves as art in our home. At future parties, we can reuse the coffee urn and chalkboard A-frame we purchased for the wedding. Heck, there’s even an argument for saying that part of my bouquet has even been repurposed!

Oh, and Frequent Flier Miles Too!

There are other aspects of our wedding expenses that reaped financial benefits that are much more difficult to quantify. For instance, during the course of wedding planning, Chase offered a phenomenal British Airways 100,000 bonus miles promotion. I signed up for the new credit card, and promptly started putting all our wedding-related expenses on it. All told, my current British Airways miles balance stands at 104,352 miles. That’s enough for 4 round trip coach tickets to Maui, or 2 round trip business class tickets to Maui. Or two round trip coach tickets to Maui plus one coach ticket to Europe.

You get the idea. It’s difficult to quantify these rewards because they have so many different redemption values. And before that British Airways card, I was putting our expenses on my normal everyday card, my Southwest Airlines Chase card. When we went on our minimoon to Las Vegas in November, our airfare came to 10 bucks for two tickets. Granted, I also put my everyday expenses on that card, but the increase of expenses thanks to the wedding helped contribute to those free tickets!

So, if you use a credit card strategy wisely for your wedding purchases, you can also reap additional rewards from stuff you’d be buying anyway.


Please remember that I am writing this from a purely financial perspective. I’m not saying that you should plan a wedding just to get gifts or try to keep your wedding expenses low and, in tandem, invite only your wealthiest friends and relatives. But just keep in mind that although your wedding day itself has the potential to be expensive, you can indeed recoup many of your costs!


I’m not sure how common Ken and I’s situation is. I’ve mentioned before, that we make good money (Our combined income tax return this 2011 was for $153,000 after things like retirement contributions and such), so it’s not like we couldn’t afford a more expensive wedding, it’s just that we didn’t want an expensive wedding. So, we set our budget amount of $15,000. somewhat arbitrarily, and agreed to track our expenses meticulously during the wedding planning process.

Well, as I mentioned yesterday, we went over that $15,000 budget by more than $8000. Luckily our financial situation allowed for it, so, except for our savings account balances being a bit lower by a few thousand dollars compared to where they were last year, it didn’t have any huge effect. Irresponsible? Maybe. Er, probably.

But, what if we weren’t so lucky? What if we absolutely positively HAD to stay at $15,000 or under? What could we have cut from the budget?

Disclaimer: Some of these figures of savings will be estimations. It’ll make more sense as you read through it.

Let’s start with the expenses that were just plain old regrettable.

Regrettable Expenses

First wedding hair and makeup trial: I found an uber budget hair and makeup stylist online. Well, after my trial, I realized that you very often get what you pay for. She was TERRIBLE (for both hair AND the makeup. Both sucked): Savings: $80

Wedding Cake: Our cakes were completely wrong at our wedding. We originally were just going to buy sheet cakes or round cakes from Costco or Wegmans, but decided we should go with a more reputable “wedding” cake bakery. Well, she fucked up. Luckily she refunded about 25% of our money, but still, if we had gone with a regular old bakery, we could’ve saved some dough! Estimated Savings: $200

Day of Coordinator: I’ll repeat my sentiments. If you’re organized, have a clear vision, and a few folks willing to help, you absolutely DO NOT need a day-of-coordinator. They will just add more hassle to your life!: Savings: $450

Items I purchased during the wedding planning process, but never used at the wedding (many of these are listed in yesterday’s post): Savings: $249.47

Wedding magazine subscriptions and books. These were a huge waste: Savings: $106.50.

Total Regrettable Expenses: $1085.97

Hmmm. Well, that doesn’t get us much closer to our $15,000 budget. In fact, that only gets us to $22,512.94.

So, let’s take a look at our “avoidable” expenses. These are much different than our “regrettable” expenses. The avoidable expenses are not expenses I regret, but rather, they’re just the expenses that, if we absolutely had to cut, we could’ve. So for instance, although we LOVED taking dance lessons (even Ken!) and love the fact that it helped us dance a real dance for our first dance (instead of just doing the high school prom side-to-side shuffle), obviously if we were on a super tight budget, this could’ve been cut.

What I did was went through all our wedding expenses and kept cutting until I got to $15,000. Here’s what we could’ve avoided if we were forced to stay within our budget. Now obviously I realize that ALL wedding expenses are avoidable except for a marriage license application, so these are simply judgment calls.

Avoidable Wedding Expenses (but not regrettable)

$195.80: Two nights hotel room. We could’ve just stayed at our home, about 20 miles north of the venue, instead of staying closer

$37.60: Personalized Wedding Dress Hanger. Especially since I forgot mine at home. Bummer!

$141.59: Ken purchased and customized a lighting ball that he could control from his iPhone during the wedding. It was wicked cool, but if we were on a tight budget, we could’ve done without it.

$142.45 (estimated): If we had just had open seating, like I originally wanted to, we could’ve avoided the costs of table number holders, escort card display supplies, and the postcards we used as our “table numbers.” This figure is estimated because the cost of things like foam core and cardstock and fabric for the escort card display are combined with other “supply” purchases from places like Michaels.

$704.10 (estimated): The picnic tables at the venue were clean and in great shape. We could’ve avoided purchasing tablecloths and expensive burlap table runners. This figure is estimated because we did need SOME tablecloths for the ugly rented tables we needed, like the gifts table, deejay table, and family tables.

$60: String lights. Definitely added great ambiance to the reception, but could’ve been cut if necessary

$49.80: Custom luminaries. These ended up looking pretty cool, but they were much smaller than anticipated. Kinda disappointing.

$146: Bunting/Banners. Was for nothing other than décor purposes. I loved them, but could’ve avoided them if necessary

$17 (estimated savings): Cake topper. Could’ve DIYed this fairly easily. From the picture on Etsy, I thought it was some sort of plastic. But really, it was just a piece of cardstock.

$262.70: Second set of deejay equipment. We wanted music playing in the pavilion (our main reception site) as well as the mess hall (another building at the campground where we had the photobooth set up, a few games, and other drinks. People could also go in here to warm up.

$100 (estimated savings): Could’ve purchased cheaper favors

$45.90: One extra day of ABC liquor license. We wanted to make sure we “played by the book” and had a liquor license for two days, since some folks would probably be drinking at our rehearsal. But, we could’ve skipped on the alcohol for that night and saved ourselves nearly 50 bucks.

$450: Could’ve avoided formal bartenders at the wedding. However, the bartending services also included the cups, sodas, juices, and waters, so we would’ve had to purchase that separately, so this might not have been an absolute savings.

$37.22. We had one case of wine that was opened, but none of the bottles were used. Luckily this only happened with one case. We were able to return two unopened cases.

$100: Tip for caterers. We tipped a full 18% for our caterers. We could’ve lowered that to 14% and saved ourselves 100 bucks

$109.19: We had an entire half keg that went completely unused and was never even tapped. But, unfortunately, the folks at Total Wine and More don’t offer refunds for it. Why isn’t this a “regrettable” expense? Well, frankly, I’m still glad we had it just in case we did need more beer. Because the other keg was almost completely empty.

$180: We could’ve moved our own 400 pound venue picnic tables (somehow) and strung our own lights from the ceiling

$496: We could’ve moved our own stuff from our house to the venue. Certainly not a regrettable expense for us though, because professionals even took 3 full hours to move everything, and we were still nice and refreshed when we arrived at the venue so we could get started right away getting things set up.

$300: Could’ve skipped our engagement photoshoot. This would’ve saved an additional $84 (for my hair style that day plus Ken’s professional shave) and another $51.95 for the “prop” we used at our engagement session

$600: Could’ve had our reception at the Mess Hall indoor space at the campground instead of the outdoor pavilion. Since it was in November, we wanted to rent plastic siding walls in case it was chilly, which is was. This was very pricey.

$572.73: We also purchased three patio heaters and three propane tanks to keep our guests warm. If we had it indoors, this could’ve also been an avoidable expense. But I would like to point out that the indoor space would not have accommodated all our guests, so we would’ve had to have cut our guest list

$32.90: Certainly didn’t need some fancy-pants return address stamp, but it did look nice on our invitations and save-the-dates!

$203.60: for photobooth props and backdrops. Ken did a great job DIYing an amazing photobooth setup, but we did go a bit overboard on backdrops and props. But, the backdrops were also used for our invitations, so they did have a dual purpose

$535.52: We bought 10 digital cameras and 8 new SD cards to put on the reception tables as a kind of modern day spin on the disposable cameras. We loved the pictures that came from these, but definitely could’ve been avoided on a tighter budget

$760: Dance lessons. I LOVED taking dance lessons, but if we were forced to comply with a much tighter budget, this obviously could’ve been avoided.

$139.65: Could’ve worn just one wedding dress the entire evening and not bought the reception dress. Additionally, this would’ve also saved approximately $40 on alterations

$350: I was originally going to purchase a much plainer wedding band that was going to cost $400. In the end, I bought a diamond band that matches my engagement ring band for $750. I could’ve opted for the cheaper band and saved $350.

$66 (estimated): Could’ve simply used a plain vase for our sand ceremony instead of getting a custom etched shadowbox frame.

$540. We could’ve rented our venue for just two nights instead of three. The reason that I think one night would’ve been impossible is because you can’t check in until 3PM. I don’t know how you could get things set up quickly enough even for say, like a 6PM wedding or something. But, if you do think it is possible, then that would’ve saved us $1080 instead of just $540.

Total “Avoidable” Expenses: $7551.70

And there you have it folks!

Actual Expenses (-) Regrettable Expenses (-) Avoidable Expenses




$39 UNDER Budget instead of $8598.91 OVER Budget


How can this help you budget for your own wedding?

Did you notice one thing I did NOT cut to decrease these hypothetical expenses?  LOWER OUR GUEST LIST. 150 guests? Still paid for.

I’m going to get on my soapbox for a second. Maybe a few.


The common wisdom among wedding experts everywhere is that lowering your guest list is the easiest way to save money on your wedding.


There are a few reasons why lowering your guest list won’t have much of an impact:

  • Most caterers and venues that we encountered have their own workaround to smaller guests lists have food and beverage minimums, no matter how many guests actually come.  What we have found is that most caterers will charge for a minimum of 75-100 guests.  So, it doesn’t matter if we’re willing to keep our guest list below 50.  You’ll be charged for a minimum amount of guests anyway.  You may pay for fewer tables and linens, but delivery and setup fees are typically the same.
  • If you are having an off-site wedding (meaning that the venue itself does not provide catering) then there are several sunk costs associated with the catering, regardless of how many people you have.  Setup, delivery, equipment, and a minimum of personnel are among those sunk costs.  For the most part, we have found that amount does not vary much regardless of how many guests we account for. 

I know there are fans of “intimate weddings” out there, who only want to invite 20 people to their wedding. More power to them.

But for folks who WANT to invite tons of people, but can’t because they think they think that chopping their guest list is the only way to save money, remember Tuesday’s post!

60% of our expenses were under $500! Yep, added together, our expenses under $500 came to more than $14,000. So, cutting a bunch of the SMALL stuff can help your budget significantly!

Just remember, what would you rather have? A very well adorned rustic-chic-glam (or whatever) wedding that only half your friends can come to, or cut back on all those small expenses and invite ALL your family and friends?

I know what I would decide!


Comprehensive List of Wedding Expenses

by Melissa on March 7, 2012

Okay, I’ve talked about how our expense categories compared to WeddingWire’s expense categories, and how are expenses were distributed, in time, quantity, and amount.

Now, it’s time for the big reveal. Wowza. Our master list of ALL OUR WEDDING EXPENSES.

Here ya go

Pasting images as big as these is a bit unwieldy, but if you don’t feel like clicking on the above link of expenses, here are some images of our spreadsheet.

Wedding Expenses by Date



Wedding Expenses by Category



Wedding Expenses by Amount (lowest to highest)


Like I mentioned yesterday, some of the figures may not match exactly the figures used in yesterday’s post, because that post did not take into account “negative” transactions, such as refunds and returns.

So what do you think? As you review the expenses, does anything seem crazy? Anything need clarification?

Tomorrow, I’ll do post more analysis of all of these expenses, including my reasoning for saying that while we spent $23,598.91, why I don’t consider that to be what our “wedding” actually cost and why that it is actually our expense of “getting married.”

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Distribution of our Wedding Expenses

by Melissa on March 6, 2012

This post is part of a series that analyzes our wedding expenses. See also our Our Comprehensive List of All Wedding Expenses, The Cost of Getting Married vs. the Cost of our Wedding, Our Avoidable and Regrettable Wedding Expenses, The Overall Net Cost of Our Wedding, and Some Wedding Budget Lessons Learned

As part of my ongoing discussion this week about our wedding budget and expenses, today I’ll talk about the distribution of our wedding expenses.  I realize that this is something extremely important for folks who are on tight budgets and are trying to figure out how to budget their regular monthly income for wedding expenses. 

First up, our wedding consisted of 174 separate expenses (this may vary a bit from figures I mention in the future, because our “wedding expenses” spreadsheet also includes transactions such as refunds from things like, oh, missing wedding dresses, and returns of items I didn’t want. So, there are a few negative (-) figures included in our overall transactions. But for the purposes of this analysis, I’m just including postive (+) figures.

Also, you’ll note that this will affect the overall amount “spent.” These figures will appear higher than the amount I mentioned yesterday, because yesterday’s figure included ALL the wedding expense transactions, including refunds and returns. It’s just that the negative figures really affected the charts and graphs, so I decided not to include them.

Wedding Expenses by Month

We had a 13 month engagement (engaged in October 2010, married in November 2011), so first up, let’s take a look at our wedding-related expenses by month:


As you can see, the wedding month itself was the most expensive month, but only by about $900 from the second most expensive month. Since we couldn’t apply to our wedding venue until March, and didn’t find out that our wedding date was confirmed until the last day of May, our wedding expenses for the first seven months of our engagement were fairly minimal and included wedding magazines and books, dance lessons, and some other random things. (Yet another reason why you can plan your wedding in a much shorter time frame than the traditional “it takes a year to plan a wedding” advice).

Our big spend months are pretty consistent with what I thought they would be. Our November 11 wedding date was confirmed on May 31st, so we sent out a bunch of deposits in June. And then in September, I was trying to finish 99% of wedding tasks two months before the wedding, so we spent a lot of money that month too.

(And just as an FYI, that $134.22 expense in January 2012 was for our thank you cards and stamps. I’ll be posting the comprehensive listing of ALL our expenses tomorrow.)

How this can help you if you’re on a budget and need to pinch your pennies?

So what do these figures mean for other couples planning their wedding? Well, of course every couple will be different, but in our circumstance, this is how we spent our total wedding budget by month:

We spent nearly 23%, or nearly one-quarter, of our total budget the actual month of the wedding. So, if you have a $10,000 wedding budget, you can expect that approximately $2500 of that will be spent the month of your wedding. Nearly 20% of the total was spent two months before the wedding, and 15% of the total was spent one month before the wedding (and another 15% of the total was spent five months before the wedding). 

Here’s a quick reference table, based on our experience, of what percentage of your budget you can expect to spend during a 13 month engagement. Again, this isn’t universal, especially given our unique venue situation, but I hope it can still be useful.

T-13 Months 1%
T-12 Months 0%
T-11 Months 0%
T-10 Months 0%
T-9 Months 0%
T-8 Months 4%
T-7 Months 1%
T-6 Months 4%
T-5 Months 15%
T-4 Months 9%
T-3 Months 8%
T-2 Months 19%
T-1 Month 15%
Wedding Month 23%
Post Wedding 1%


Distribution of Expenses by Amount

I’ve talked about our distribution of expenses before, and I thought it was a useful exercise. It helps illustrate that smaller wedding expenses add up to huge chunks. So, while categories listed on sites like Wedding Wire and The Knot include the major expense categories (catering, venue, photographer, attire, etc.), you also have to be keenly aware of those expenses that are less than $100.  Because they add up like crazy!

So, I did some analysis of our expenses for the following categories:

  • Expenses less than $100
  • Expenses $100.01-$500
  • Expenses $500.01-$1500
  • Expenses greater than $1500.01

Now, a few caveats. Our wedding expense tracking spreadsheet (more on that tomorrow) lists out each individual expense. So, for instance, our catering deposit is a different line item than our catering balance, which is different than the catering tip (and different from the beer, wine, etc.) So yesterday, when I mentioned how our catering expenses (or, as we categorized it, our “food and beverage” expenses) was $3933.92, that was our TOTAL food and beverage expense. For the purposes of the distribution of expenses, I’m accounting for each individual line item such as deposits vs. balances.

Another caveat: like the above analysis, I’m not including transactions from our wedding expense spreadsheet that were negative, such as refunds and returns. Therefore, not including those negative transactions, we had a total of 174 expenses.

Here goes:

    • 124 expenses less than $100 that added up to $4819.25
    • 42 expenses $100.01-$500 that added up to a whopping $9,627.05
    • 5 expenses $500.01-$1500 that added up to $3769.10
    • 3 expenses greater than $1500.01 that  added up to $6212.85 (Our biggest single expense was $2910 when we paid our wedding photographer in full after we negotiated a $150 discount for paying the full balance up front)



When I looked as these figures, I was completely flabbergasted! All of those “less expensive” items (i.e., less than $500) accounted for TWO-THIRDS of our wedding expenses!  It wasn’t our “expensive photographer” or renting our wedding venue for three days instead of just one or two that broke the bank. It was all those “small” expenses of less than $500 that completely killed our budget!

How this can help you budget for your wedding expenses

Figure out what your individual “big ticket” expenses will be (i.e., expenses greater than $500) and add all those up together. Using our wedding as an example, you can expect that the sum of all those “big ticket” expenses will be approximately 40% of your budget. The remaining 60% should be set aside for expenses less than $500, that often can’t be anticipated.

For example, let’s say you added up all your estimated “big ticket” expenses, and that figure added up to $4000. You can likely estimate that you will spend another $6000 (60% or approximately two-thirds) of your budget on additional expenses that cost less than $500. If your wedding budget is $10,000, then you’re in good shape! If your budget is only $7500 though, then you’re unfortunately well-positioned to go over your budget.

But there is hope!

You can learn from our wedding! You can be very careful about what you spend money on that is less than $500, or heck, even less than $100. In a few days I’ll talk about what expenses we could have avoided for our wedding, so maybe that will help illustrate it a bit more, but just be very wary of those little expenses that add up to such significant amounts. You know what costs less than $100? DIY supplies, thrift store vases, table number holders, cake toppers, cute little chalkboards, stamps, and tons of other items. So, even though I thought I was saving money by buying things from, for instance, the thrift store, those expenses still added up significantly!


How about you all? Were your expenses distributed similarly? Any additional distribution analysis you would like to see?

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How much money did we spend on our wedding?

by Melissa on March 5, 2012

This post is part of a series that analyzes our wedding expenses. See also our Distribution of Wedding Expenses, Our Comprehensive List of All Wedding Expenses, The Cost of Getting Married vs. the Cost of our Wedding, Our Avoidable and Regretable Wedding Expenses, The Overall Net Cost of Our Wedding, and Some Wedding Budget Lessons Learned

One of my earliest blog posts here at SuperNoVABride was about our $15,000 wedding budget, according to Wedding Wire. I lamented why nearly HALF of our budget would have to go towards food, and I freaked at the prospect of what a shitty photographer I would have to settle for if I could only spend $1200. 

As a reminder, here was our $15,000 budget breakdown, according to WeddingWire:

Wedding Wire Budget Screenshot

All in all, this was a very humbling exercise. To see how LITTLE a $15,000 budget would actually get you.

Here’s what we actually spent (using Wedding Wire’s Categories)

Wedding Wire estimate

What we actually spent






Beauty and Health



(This included my hair and makeup trials, hair for our engagement photoshooot, and Ken’s shave for the photoshoot)









Ceremony Music







(for self deejay equipment we purchased)


Dress and Attire








Flowers and Decor



(only $355 of that went to flowers. The rest went to décor)





(I’m including cost of Save-the-Dates in here too. Includes all envelopes, stamps, labels, etc.)


Wedding Rings








Other (according to WW, this includes accommodations, gifts, etc.)



(This also included the hotel room for our out-of-town officiant, a family friend)





















(This included venue rental for THREE DAYS, required insurance, and application fee) 






Hidden Expenses

So, is that it? No.

As they say, the devil is in the details.

As you can see, we went over budget in 14 out of the 19 categories.  All told, from the way that our expenses, based on these categories, cost us $19442.54.  Significantly over budget, but nothing we couldn’t handle. Because, after all, we were on a budget by choice, not by circumstance.

So, was that what we actually spent? Nope, we spent $3704.88 more than that. Our grand total wedding expenses were $23,147.42 (more detailed analysis coming in future posts)

That remaining amount, 3704.88 came from categories not included in any “normal” wedding budget breakdown, or, what would be included in the “miscellaneous” category. 

I’ll talk more about those “hidden” expenses over the next few days!


How about you all? How did your estimated budget breakdowns vary from your actual?


Our Wedding Expense Analysis: A Prologue

by Melissa on March 5, 2012

wmw-2012This year, I’m participating in Women’s Money Week, all about encouraging women to speak up about money, take control of their finances, and reshape their financial futures. I definitely recommend checking out all the amazing bloggers participating and topics that are being discussed.

This week, all of my posts will be about our wedding expenses and budget. How much we spent. How much we’ve made back by selling items we used at the wedding. What expenses we regret. And what expenses were well worth it!

Ummm, you’ve been married for almost four months now … what took you so long?

I’ve been putting off my wedding budget posts for a while now. There’s a few reasons.

1) We’re still in the process of selling items from our wedding. We started posting our wedding items for sale at the end of December. We’ve sold more than $1600 worth of stuff ($1664 to be exact), and still have about another $500+ worth of items to sell. Since that will factor in to the overall net cost of the wedding, I didn’t want to call any of the figures “final” until we had unloaded ALL of our wedding stuff.  But, the figures will be close enough, and I can always come back and update the final figures when we’re done selling all the items.

2) This whole wedding expense tracking thing is complicated shit. Ken and I tracked every.penny of wedding-related expenses. $1.25 parking fee during our engagement session? Accounted for. Cardstock purchases at Michael’s? Yep, it’s on the spreadsheet. But there are additional complications though.  Exactly what expense category do “patio heaters” go into? Or what about the foam core I purchased to make our escort card display? Or the royal blue totes I purchased as our wedding welcome bags? Or the buckets I purchased to hold our s’mores supplies next to the fireplace? Somehow, WeddingWire and The Knot do not have categories for these types of purchases!

So, here’s the deal. A lot of the categories are simple judgment calls. Should the s’mores buckets go into the food expenses or the supplies expense category? Well, I put it in the “supplies” category, but it just have easily could have gone in the food expenses bucket since, after all, it was holding food items. Does the liquor license go into the venue expense category (since our venue required it) or does it go in the “food and beverage” expense category? Well, I put it in the “food and beverage” expense category. Do tablecloths go in the decor budget or the supplies budget? Well, I put them in the decor budget.  Judgement calls. That’s it.

Other folks may have categorized these items as something totally different, and that’s fine.

3) There are just so many budget and cost-related things to discuss, I had no idea how to organize it. So, I’ve done my best to organize it in the clearest way possible, but, since I don’t have the skills to do a pretty infographic, I will write about a bunch of topics, all in separate posts.

Post Schedule for this Week

    • Monday: Projected Budget Breakdown according to WeddingWire vs. Actual Budget Breakdown (still using WeddingWire’s categories)
    • Tuesday: Distribution of Expenses (i.e., how many expenses were less than $100, $101-$500, etc. and how our expenses were distributed during our 13 month engagement)
    • Wednesday: Comprehensive listing of all expenses and pretty charts to go along with it.
    • Thursday: Wedding Day costs vs. The Cost of Getting Married (and what the heck the difference is)
    • Friday: Avoidable expenses vs. Regretable expenses (again, a lot of judgment calls in this post. Realistically, all wedding expenses are “avoidable” except a marriage license fee. So, this will just be my own judgment).
    • Saturday Tuesday: True Wedding net cost: Total cost of getting married (minus) wedding items sold (minus) wedding and shower gift values
    • Sunday Friday: A few wedding budget lessons learned

So, check back later today for the first post in the series! I hope that this series will be the most comprehensive analysis of wedding expenses that you have ever seen and that it will be helpful to couples trying to budget accordingly for their wedding!


Combining Finances after Marriage

by Melissa on February 6, 2012

Ken and I have begun the process of combining our finances now that we’re married. Although we lived together for nearly three years before we got married, we always kept our financial accounts separate, but we had a monthly ritual of determining all our shared expenses. 

How we share our expenses currently

Let’s start with how we currently figure out our shared finances. We’ve been using this process since we first moved in together.

We share a spreadsheet on Google Docs called "Shared Expenses" (original, I know!)

At the end of every month, we enter expenses we consider to be "shared" into the spreadsheet. For the most part, we split all shared expenses 50/50. The only exception is the mortgage. When Ken and I moved in together, we agreed that I would contribute to a third of his mortgage instead of half, since he makes significantly more money than me. This is a screenshot of last month’s shared expenses. (Expense amounts that are preceded by a negative (-) sign are expenses that I paid.)


The top portion are the expenses that are generally fixed. Cable bill, house cleaning, water bill, etc (the mortgage amount is listed at the very bottom).  Ken usually pays all the fixed expenses except for the house cleaning.

The bottom portion contains expenses that are not fixed. These are expenses that are typically incurred by me, since I do most of the household shopping. However, there are occasions when Ken has line items to add to the non-fixed expenses. I enter all my expenses as negative numbers because that amount, in essence, gets “subtracted” from what I owe. (Typically I owe Ken money because the non-fixed expenses rarely exceed the fixed expense amount since my portion of the mortgage is $748 alone.  Although for a couple of months when wedding expenses were quite high, there were times when Ken owed me money at the end of the month). 

Then, whatever the total amount adds up to, I transfer that amount from my primary checking account to the Joint Checking account we had set up solely for the purpose of our shared expenses. Then Ken transfers that money from the joint checking account to his personal checking account.

It has worked beautifully for three years.

If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

In the near future, Ken and I are going to combine are checking accounts. But why should we do that, if the shared expenses tracking works out well? 

Well, there are a few reasons. 

  1. Plain old simplicity’s sake. Between the two of us, we have three checking accounts. Mine, his, and the joint checking we set up solely for the purpose of transferring our shared expenses.
  2. Although the shared expenses spreadsheet is very straightforward, it does take time at the end of every month to go back through all of my expenses and determine how much money I spent at the supermarket or on our plane tickets for an upcoming trip. It’s 20 minutes spent every month that can be spent on something else.
  3. I just think it’ll be nice to have one, shared account so that we can more effectively track our finances as we move forward in our marriage. 

Since our new joint account will actually be Ken’s current personal checking account, most of the burden is on me to make sure my accounts are in order before I begin, for instance, direct depositing my paycheck into his account and beginning to pay bills from that checking account. This is taking quite a bit of time, but here’s what I’ve been doing.

Making a list of every account that has my checking account number linked to it so that I can change it.  This is mostly for the purposes of paying accounts online. This is fairly straightforward because I maintain a master list of all my 20 credit cards, but here are some other things that have made it on my list, including other accounts like:

  • Paypal
  • Student Loan accounts
  • Utility bills (although since Ken pays most of those through his account, I don’t have to worry about that one as much, except for my cell phone)
  • Direct Deposit
  • Monthly investment contributions (to Roth IRA, brokerage accounts, etc.)

Am I missing anything?

For probably at least the first six months of the transition, I’m going to keep a decent chunk of money in my current personal checking account (maybe $2000 or so) to make sure that any direct debits from my checking account that I may have missed won’t overdraft that account. I use credit cards for all of my day-to-day expenses, so I’m not too worried about things like getting a new debit card right away, and we can just use Ken’s checkbook until I get checks in my name for that account (you know, for the like 10 checks total I write every year).

I also have a slight fear of not knowing for sure how long it takes for changes to checking payment accounts to take effect. For instance, if I change the checking account number so that my student loan payment now debits from Ken and I’s new joint account, would that go into effect the very next day? The next week? The next month?

Anyway, my point is just that I don’t want to cause any financial headaches during the transition. Or at least try to minimize them.

We’ll be getting started within the next few months combining our accounts! I keep detailed financial spreadsheets, including two spreadsheets I complete at the end of every month, in addition to the shared expenses spreadsheet, called "Financial Portrait" (which is basically a net worth statement) and my monthly cash flow statement. It’ll be fun to fine tune all of the spreadsheets for our new shared financial future! Ken knows all about my spreadsheets, so I hope he won’t find it to be a complete hassle.

I’ll be sure to let you know how things progress.

How about you all? Do you share joint financial accounts? Did you make the transition before or after you got married? How did you share expenses when you were living together?