Plan the perfect wedding – without going over budget

6 Minutes Read

How to prep for the top five wedding expenses.


Wedding planning is truly an activity that requires both sides of the brain – creative and logical. You get to do fun things (like sample wedding cake) while also learning how much it costs to set up 75 folding chairs in your parents’ backyard. And, if you’re getting married in 2022, you may get to be a little extra creative about staying within budget.



Here’s the situation: about 2.5 million weddings are expected in the United States this year – and Canada is seeing a surge in ceremonies as well, with weddings originally planned for 2020 and 2021 landing in 2022. Couples are (understandably) ready to get the show on the road. 

According to The New York Times, a little extra planning may be required for 2022 weddings, as popular vendors get booked up and the usual pandemic concerns (like supply-chain bottlenecks and gathering limits) continue to be a barrier. All things said, experts are predicting an increase in the average wedding cost this year from $22,000 to $25,000.

But this is not a sign to panic – just a reminder of how far budgeting and planning ahead can get you. (Need a step-by-step breakdown on creating a budget? Check out our blog post for a full rundown). Below, we break down the costs associated with the top five wedding expenses – and how you can get the most out of your budget. Pssst: wedding guests. We have a bonus section for you at the end.




Wedding Venue – 15% of wedding budget*

Booking a venue is probably the first commitment you’ll make (other than to your partner) in the wedding planning process; this step will set the parameters for the whole event. 

Before finalising your venue, run through the logistics. Out-of-the-way locations can add transportation and travel costs on top of vendor fees – and can get expensive for your guests. Then there are all-inclusive venues (like those with an in-house caterer), which might be pricier upfront, but can save money and headaches in the long run. Less-expensive options – like a backyard – might seem attractive, but keep in mind that they’ll require some extra planning and DIY. For example: parking, washrooms, backup generators, fridge space? All on you. Regardless of the choice you make, anticipating associated costs will make budgeting a lot easier. 


The day and time of your wedding is another important consideration. With the number of 2022 weddings, popular dates may already be booked at your top-choice venue. However, this could be a silver-lining for your budget: Fridays and Saturdays (and late spring to early fall) are usually the most expensive times to get married. Consider whether an off-season or weekday wedding could be worth it for you. 


Food & Drink – 16% of wedding budget* 

Whether your caterer comes with the venue, or you’re tasked with hiring this vendor yourself, there are three factors you need to consider about the food and drinks served at your wedding: 

  • guest list
  • meal type
  • open/cash bar

The number of guests you invite can really make or break your catering budget, which is usually calculated “per head.” If the average cost per plate is around $70 per head, a wedding with 100 guests to feed can expect to spend about $7,000 on dinner alone. We won’t overstep by telling you who not to invite – but if you’re looking to cut some major costs, it could help to ask yourself whether everyone on the list is essential (by the way, smaller weddings are on the rise). Just please do this deliberating before the invites go out…


Of course, the cost of catering can seriously fluctuate depending on the type of meal you’re serving. A five-course meal will cost more than a buffet, which will cost more than a cocktail party. Try to find the right balance for your budget between meal type and number of people. As the experts say, food is one place you don’t want to cut corners – it’s definitely an element of your wedding that guests will remember (compared to, say, your centrepieces)!

Now we come to the pivotal question: to open bar or not to open bar? Open bars – where the hosts pay for all drinks – can get expensive, particularly depending on the type of alcohol you’re serving. However, they are also fun. Cash bars, where the guests pay for their own drinks, can be a lot cheaper for you, but more expensive for your guests. Seriously though, the choice is entirely yours. A trend in recent years has been a partial open bar, either with limited alcohol selection or by distributing a limited number of “drink tickets” (prepaid drinks by the hosts) to guests.


Photography & Videography – 11% of wedding budget*

Ok, so this expense may not be top of mind, but it is super important. After all, you’re spending a ton of money on your wedding day – so document the flock out of it! In Canada, you can expect to pay upwards of $3,000 for your photographer. This price will fluctuate depending on what’s included in your package – like the number of hours your photographer is booked for, and whether they’re providing prints in addition to digital copies. Videography is a whole separate cost – typically starting at $2,000. Not everyone will choose to book a videographer, but if professional video is important to you, be prepared for this section of your budget to double. 


You really don’t want to cut corners when booking your photographer. Finding a family friend with a Nikon who agrees to capture your wedding for $500 sounds like a great deal…but we recommend looking for wiggle room in other areas of your budget first. The best way to spend wisely on a photographer is to ensure you’re getting the value you need for the price you’re paying. Thoroughly scan their portfolio to see if their style matches what you’re going for and whether they’ve captured similar weddings in the past. Look for reviews. Ask tons of questions – and read the contract


Beauty – 7% of wedding budget*

This category includes hair and makeup, shoes, accessories, a suit – and a wedding dress, which on its own typically costs between $700 and $3,000.

Now, you may be prepared to spend a good amount of money on a top-tier wedding gown. That’s totally fine – just look for other places in your budget where you can cut costs. However, if you or your partner are trying to find the perfect dress on a tighter budget (say, under $1,500) here are a few tips:


Consider buying the sample dress rather than ordering new. Shopping clearance racks are one way to find sample dresses for sale, but bridal salons may be willing to sell newer dresses “off the rack” as well, giving you a slight discount in the process. It never hurts to ask! Just keep in mind that the sample should be close enough to your size that it won’t need an overwhelming amount of alterations – which brings us to our next tip:

Factor in the cost of alterations when choosing your dress. Some styles are more expensive to tailor than others – for example, hemming a dress with a lace overlay is usually pricier than hemming a satin gown. Corset styles are another way to reduce alteration costs, since they are size-adjustable!

Finally, start early. Wedding dresses can take between six and nine months to arrive. Not only will giving yourself enough time widen your selection (and limit panic-buying), but you’ll avoid paying rush fees. 


Decor – 5% of wedding budget*

The style of your event majorly influences how much you spend on decor. For example, a dinner reception will usually require table linens, centrepieces, a seating chart etc. whereas a cocktail reception won’t. It’s easy to get swept away decorating your venue top to bottom…without necessarily adding the value you’re looking for. Don’t lose sight of your top priorities – and what will ultimately create the best experience for you and your guests. 


Florals (like the bridal bouquet, boutonnières, corsages, flower arch, centrepieces…) can cost anywhere from $500 to $12,000 and will likely be the bulk of your decor budget. Be sure to shop around and compare quotes. Florists will usually offer a free consultation, where they’ll pinpoint your style and the number of arrangements you’ll need (let them know what your budget is ahead of time to prevent any sticker shock). Then, they’ll create a proposal with a mockup of your florals – and a quote. It’s totally fine, and encouraged, to get at least two proposals to compare value and price tags.

Final word to the wise: while you should be tracking all of your spending, definitely be sure to keep a close eye on spend in the decor category – the individual cost of all those table runners, tealights and chair covers can add up. And remember, you can beautifully decorate any table or any venue with DIY alternatives (that’s what a bridal party is for, right? 😉)


Bonus: Guests 

Oh, hey there. Attending a wedding this year? 

It turns out that the hosts aren’t the only ones spending more money on their wedding in 2022 – it may cost a little extra just to be a guest due to rising transportation costs and the added expense of attending multiple weddings

If you need to travel to attend an event, consider combining expenses like hotels and transportation with another out-of-town guest! I mean, who doesn’t love a road trip? Also, be sure to start planning your trip well in advance, so that you can budget accordingly. 

Next up: fancy clothes. Look for options that you’ll wear more than once – or shop your closet instead of the mall. 

Now, let’s talk about that other expense – the wedding gift. Experts say that $75 to $200 is the average price range for a gift, and where you fall on that range will depend on whether you’re gifting alone or as a couple, how well you know the newlyweds and what you can manage within your personal budget. Don’t feel pressured to reach the more expensive end of that spectrum – give the amount that works best for you.

Weddings are a chance to celebrate love with your favourite people – a sentiment that’s become especially meaningful in recent years. Don’t let financial stress get in the way of a great time: plan ahead, keep your eye on the prize (your relationship), and track that budget

Happy planning, friends!


*Based on research by The Wedding Report 

Ferron Guerreiro