The Pinterest Trap: Planning a Wedding Within Your Means

By Becca George

You are engaged! When you come down from the high of putting a ring on it, the realization comes that there is a wedding with many details to plan.  

There are so many questions, but what will your wedding look like is one that tends to be on the forefront. That secret wedding Pinterest board you have been coveting for months can officially come out into the open.  It is easy to look at Pinterest and find so much inspiration and so many things you want to replicate, but that can be a dangerous game.  

Many of the photos on Pinterest come from weddings that are outside the means of a typical couple. While they may look simple, some of the details in them could push your budget thousands over what you planned. For instance, that beautiful chair you have been eyeing could cost you $10-$12 each and those flowers that looked simple may consist of expensive blooms and could run you $150 or more a centerpiece.

Setting a budget is one of the most important aspects of wedding planning. It sets the tone for what you can spend and how and where you are able to splurge.  You can plan an amazing and fun wedding while keeping the budget within a number you are comfortable with.

You haven’t planned a wedding before, so how do you know what to budget?  The average wedding for 100 guests in the US is between $22,000-$37,000. While many go below this, many go substantially higher as well.  Your taste and the choices you make, like what type of food to serve or how many seats you have can largely determine what you spend.

Where do you begin?

Have “The Talk”

This means talking money with everyone who is involved in paying for the wedding. This can be a bit uncomfortable because all of those people may have opinions on where the money goes but it is necessary to know what you are working with.  Some couples may have a set amount given no matter what and some may have a more flexible number.

With so many couples paying for their own weddings or multiple families contributing the traditional “who pays for what” rules may not apply. Talk to those involved about what will be included in the budget, like attire, honeymoon or rehearsal dinner, and about what they expect from the event as well. Some couples may want a more laid back wedding while their parents had a more formal affair in mind or vice versa.


Set your Ceiling.

Based on your discussion, come up with a number that is realistic for you to spend, or save within a reasonable time of the wedding, and set that as your ceiling.  Many times couples simply don’t know what to budget or how much things cost. If you have a wedding planner this would be the time to consult them for their expertise. They may be able to look at what you have pinned on Pinterest or photos that inspire you and give you an idea of what budget range your taste falls into.  

If a wedding planner isn’t in the cards, do some research. Ask friends who have recently planned a wedding with similar taste what they spent. Take some time to call local venues or vendors to get an idea of what their starting prices are. Weddings are more expensive than you think and there can be some sticker shock in the beginning.


Make a List

Come up with a guest list.  The number you spend is directly linked to your guest count. The numbers listed above are for a basic wedding with 100 guests. Many weddings have more than 100. Remember that the overall budget shares that link to the number of guests you have. Each one of those people needs a meal, a chair, a place setting and so on.  

If your budget is small but you have grand ideas keeping the guest list very intimate could be a good way to have the add ons that you want without having to bust through that ceiling.  If a small wedding won’t work for you try to keep an open mind and be willing to make changes where necessary.


Top Three

Come up with your wedding top three. This means the three most important things to you when it comes to the wedding. These may be photography, entertainment and flowers or food, paper goods and cake or something entirely different. Once you have these three make room in the budget for those first.

If great food is really important to you but cake is not your thing, make sure you set aside funds accordingly. Don’t spend a lot on an elaborate cake and leave minimal funds for food.


Be Prepared

Go into a meeting educated. Know what you would like to spend on each category and have that number in your head when you attend meetings with those vendors. If you would like to spend $30 per person on food keep that number in mind so your caterer isn’t presenting ideas to you that sound incredible but leave you way outside your budget range.

You may not always land within this number but at least you have a point to start with. You can also share this number with the vendors you are meeting with. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, ask if what you budgeted is a reasonable number for what you want. If it isn’t they can educate you on what you can do for that number or on what you requested may cost.


Put it on Paper

Or put it online. Use a budgeting tool to keep track of what you spend. You can find tools that allow you to build a budget with target numbers and then plug in actual numbers as they come through.


Keep an Open Mind

Be willing to bend. Ask your vendors for recommendations on how you can achieve a certain look or feel but still stay within your budget. This might mean changing specific flowers while keeping the overall aesthetic or this could mean serving barbeque from a food truck to your 200 guests instead of a plated dinner.  Don’t be too married to something specific but keep yourself open to substitutions.

Above all, remember that this day doesn’t come around often. It isn’t about being in debt for years to come but about celebrating with those people you love the most. At the end of the day, your guests are there to celebrate with you and enjoy the occasion.