Financial conversations don’t have to be uncomfortable.

Love may be the reason for your wedding, but make no mistake, money is central to your celebration. As a long-time married industry pro (23 years), I’d like to share a few secrets to plan the stress-free wedding of your dreams that honors your finances.

Define the celebration you want.

Before you start choosing venues with your mom, create a united vision as a couple. Does an intimate brunch wedding sound like heaven, or are you hell-bent on bringing friends and family from the four corners of the earth for a weekend-long dance party? Maybe you prefer a wedding at your childhood home or an elopement at City Hall?  Be aware of social expectations or media influences. There is no right answer, just your united vision.

Discover the price of the dream. 

Media declares that the average cost of a wedding ranges from $20,000-$50,000. Those numbers are unrealistic when set against the backdrop of Instagram. The true driver behind the price of a wedding is the guest count. A $25,000 wedding for 20 people is luxurious but a $25,000 wedding for 200 buys a casual, DIY wedding.  The price per guest includes everything from food, rentals, linens, florals, photography, music, ceremony, etc. and falls into three categories:

Lovely at $100-$500 per guest
Lush at $500-1000 per guest
Luxury at $1000+ per guest

This is usually the first time purchasing services for an event, and sticker shock is real. Be realistic with your financial comfort level before you enter into contracts.

Prioritize your “Must Haves”.

I tell each of my couples that no matter the budget, choose three things that they are not willing to compromise. The rest is negotiable. Is it a 21-piece band or a custom cocktail bar or an 8-tier cake covered in hand-painted sugar flowers, or is it incredible photographs, a couture gown or having every single important person in your life under the same roof? Choose three and go from there.

Communicate with key players.

Weddings are the merging of two families, and parents often have their own celebration dreams and the checkbook. Begin the planning conversation with your overall vision including your “must haves” and, if possible, the costs. Ask if your parents planned on financially contributing, if they had a number or range in mind and what their wishes are for the celebration. Your father might say “whatever you want” until he learns the price of your band or that he can’t invite his golf buddies. 

As for me, twenty-three years later, we stuck to our guns with a guest list of only 75, a fantastic band and, of course, great photography.  I let my mom choose my dress and the flowers, and, in the end, I still wish I would have spent more money on the honeymoon.  – DVB

See more wedding planning advice on the Alabama Weddings blog, Et Cetera.


Donna Von Bruening has an extraordinary ability to bring clarity to a moment. Melding her Midwestern sensibility with two decades as a Savannahian, she has built a reputation as the prominent Southern photographer and writer. She calls the salty marshes of the Georgia coast home, along with her beloved husband, two teenage boys and their cavapoo, Archie.

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