How to set a realistic wedding budget

How to set a realistic wedding budget


Love doesn’t cost a thing, but a wedding sure does! The average wedding in Canada runs upwards of $30,000 these days. Don’t stress, though. Setting a realistic wedding budget is possible.

I’ve never really wanted a big wedding, but, from the moment I got engaged last summer, I knew I wanted our closest friends and family around us as we exchanged our vows – preferably followed by food, drink and music. So, after much deliberation and number crunching, we decided to throw a small celebration with 60 guests. At the time, I budgeted $10,000 all in.

How naive I was! Unless you’re getting married in your backyard, that number, on average, is twice or even triple that amount.

After getting over the sticker shock, I started to research ways to pare that number down; to skip the frills and only have things that are actually important to us. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up on how to set a realistic budget and still get the wedding you want for under $20,000.


Budget estimate: $3,597

Peak wedding season is May to October. During that time, Fridays and Saturdays are the most expensive days of the week. Winter weddings can be incredibly gorgeous and are certainly much more affordable, but if your heart is set on the summer, aim for a less expensive day like Sunday or Thursday. Another trick is to choose a municipal venue, as their rates are considerably less than private ones.


Budget estimate: $7,000

Pinterest boards are filled with dreamy, rustic chic images of “family-style” tables ladened with rows and rows of plattered food. I had my heart set on this style but, after researching with my caterer, I realized this almost doubled my food budget. As it turns out, the problem with family-style catering is that people tend to over-serve themselves and lots of food goes to waste. Nobody wants that! Also, this style requires that food is placed in the centre of the tables, so unless your venue has extra-wide tables, you’ll need to rent special ones to accommodate this arrangement.


Budget estimate: $1,750

Look for a venue that allows you to purchase your own alcohol. In my case, I chose to offer only wine and beer, instead of the pricier mixed-drinks option. Everything Wine frequently has amazing sales. That, combined with the discount you get on case purchases, reduces your spend considerably. They also allow you to return any unopened bottles!

How to set a realistic wedding budget


Budget estimate: $915

I love a good bloom as much as the next gal, but unless you’re able to sell or re-use all of your florals the following day or even week, there’s a lot that goes to waste once your wedding is over. Flowers also significantly inflate your budget. (I can’t tell you how many crazy stories I’ve heard of brides spending $20k on flowers alonethat’s my entire budget!). I opted to skip flowers altogether and, working with my amazing florist, stuck with an abundance of greenery: a healthy mix of ruscus, King ferns and moss, in line with my “West Coast” theme.


Budget estimate: $750

Here’s where you can get creative — use your friends, family and bridesmaids, and throw in a good ol’ DIY. I found all of my decor — particularly the vintage items — in thrift shops and specialty stores. I waited for the 50% off coupons at the craft store. Finally, my stationary and signs are from a low-cost printer—all of which came in at less than $150! Bonus: While I spent around $750 on decor, I know I’ll be able to re-sell everything to future brides and come out on top.

Rounding out my budget are:

  • Photography: $2,800
  • Dress: $350
  • Day Of Coordinator: $1,200
  • DJ/Emcee: $996
  • Officiant: $515
  • Transportation: $300
  • Make up & hair (bride only): $280

Total estimate: $20,453

The big day is coming up this summer at the Museum of Vancouver. Stay tuned for a follow-up post about how closely I stuck to my budget. 


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