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How can I budget for the wedding or honeymoon I want?

Imagining how to have a dream wedding on a budget? Being able to afford “The Big Day” tomorrow doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your today to make it happen. See what's possible.

By ATB Financial 18 November 2022 6 min read

So you’ve said “yes!”—or were the one asking—and now it's time to make your dreams a reality. Whether you're envisioning a glamorous gala like an A list celeb, prefer an intimate outdoor gathering or have your own unique idea, the price tag that could come with "The Big Day" can spark some stress and questions in to-be-weds.  

While it's natural to feel the tension between what you want and what you can pay for, being able to afford this milestone moment is more possible than you might think (no matter what kind of wedding you're into). We may not be wedding planners, but we do have some expert advice that can help your wedding prep from a financial perspective. We’ve had the pleasure of helping play a small part in thousands of weddings across Alberta and we’d like to share what we’ve learned with you. Before you walk down the aisle, start with this step-by-step guide for wedding and honeymoon planning.

Where are we starting from?

Questions about money can feel very personal (even coming from a fiancé), so there’s a chance you both may not have the full picture of each other’s financial situations. To have an idea what you can budget, it’s helpful to have a realistic understanding of your combined income, expenses and debt. This part is less fun than taste-testing cakes, but it’s essential to knowing what you can realistically afford.

Think of it as an opportunity to get a more complete picture of your shared financial situation. A great place to start is by just asking a few basic questions.

  • Outside of getting married, what are our future financial goals? Do these goals have a specific timeline you need to consider?
  • Will debt play a role in how much you can spend?
  • Do you see all wedding expenses being paid for jointly or are there things that are solely one person’s responsibility?
  • What’s our plan for monitoring these costs? (Will there be regular “meetings” to chat about wedding spending?)

Not every couple has the same style when it comes to finances, so it’s important to work out a system that makes sense for your unique needs. As long as you’re transparent on your spending, being honest about what you can afford and united in what matters to you, you’re starting in a great place.

What are you looking for?

The other crucial piece of the pre-plan puzzle is to align with your partner on what you’re looking for in a wedding. A few key details can have a major impact on what your end budget will end up looking like. Here are some questions to get the conversation going.

  • How much do we have to spend on the wedding and honeymoon?
  • Where is this money coming from? Savings? Family members? Future income?
  • What’s your dream venue? What about our backup options?
  • Is travel involved for our wedding?
  • Do we need to pay for our own and other’s accommodation?
  • How many venues do we need?
  • How many people are we expecting to attend?
  • Are we having our wedding during peak season?
  • What details matter the most to you? Is it flowers? Top quality outfits? Having an amazing DJ? Your favourite restaurant doing the catering? Pick a top priority to focus on.
  • What smaller details will we have to pay for? Think tailoring, any rentals like tables and chairs, sound system, dance floor set up, etc.

Being able to answer basic questions like these are critical for being honest about what you’ll need to pay for, and connecting with your partner. This gives you the opportunity to voice each of your needs, share what’s important to you and communicate your expectations so you can feel united in your planning (and as a couple). Plus, it can spark money-saving ideas that might not have otherwise come up.

How much should I budget for a wedding?

Once you’re on the same page with some key details, you can build a budget that includes what you’ve talked about. 

Create a wedding budget

An interactive sheet to calculate and categorize your wedding expenses.

To get a realistic picture of what it will take to make your dream wedding happen, take the amount of money you plan to spend and divide it by the number of months until your wedding. You might find that when there’s actual money in play, your priorities may change.

Feel like you need more time to be able to afford everything? There’s always the option of increasing the amount of time between the engagement and the wedding itself. This can help you avoid scrambling to meet a deadline that’s not financially friendly and feel confident your plan is on track.

Looking to talk budgeting for your big day with someone who knows how to work with numbers? An ATB advisor would love to chat and provide insight suited to your needs.

More ways to save for your big day

Looking to cut wedding costs so you can afford what’s most important to you? Here are a few tips.

  • Consider opening a shared account that’s just for wedding expenses. This helps you stick to your budget and keep track of where your money is going.
  • Planning on wearing a dress? Into thrifting? Find a pre-owned wedding dress for a fraction of the cost. You might be surprised how many options there are on consignment websites and in your community.
  • Find an affordable tailor through personal connections or even a trusted online marketplace. One of our team members got her wedding dress altered by a friend’s grandmother for $100 and she got it back within a week!
  • Explore non-traditional times, dates and venues. Off-season bookings for venues are way cheaper and event spaces that aren’t typically used for weddings can also come with a lower price tag.
  • Go digital with touches like using email invites through sites like Paperless Post and being your own DJ—you could even make a date night out of putting together the perfect Spotify playlist.
  • Trim the guestlist, or if you have 400+ close friends and family, invite a huge group to your ceremony and cut the numbers down for the reception to save on food and drink costs.
  • Take tipping into account and include some future gratuities in your budget for vendors.
  • Have the flowers from your ceremony do double duty as your reception flowers.
  • Investigate your options for food beyond the local catering company. Restaurants, cafes and other eateries will sometimes offer meals (and more) for less. If you’re going for a more intimate event, you could ask family or friends to make food.
  • More into the honeymoon? Minimize your spending on the wedding and shift more of your funds to your getaway. We recommend taking some time with your partner to ask some questions like we listed above for your wedding planning: what is your top priority for our honeymoon? What’s one thing we have to do? What are your top locations? What’s one thing that wouldn’t make this trip enjoyable for you?

A few small choices during your wedding planning can have a positive impact on your wallet (and your relationship). By taking control of your money and prioritizing what matters to you, prepping for your big day can become a bonding and exciting activity for you and your partner.

Where can I get personalized advice on how to afford an upcoming wedding or honeymoon?

At ATB, we’re built to help Albertans. That includes milestone moments like getting married. Come to us for advice, solutions and budgeting to guide you through the planning stages and create the wedding or honeymoon that works for you.

One great way to get started? Try our wedding quiz!

Want to learn more?

Provide your email address and we’ll send more wedding planning tips.

Need help?

Our Client Care team will be happy to assist.