Call me a little biased, but there are a lot of pros to having a super intimate wedding celebration. Those who go the traditional wedding route find themselves jumping through a million hoops to prep a guest list as long as your arm, a three course meal, and a huge reception venue.
And while there’s nothing wrong with any of those things — they do add up!
A smaller wedding helps shift the focus back on the real reason for the day (you and your partner) and often keeps your budget (and stress levels!) from wilding completely out of control.
But while you might get to avoid some of the heftier financial obligations associated with a traditional ceremony, there’s still stuff you need to factor into your budget.
To keep you from getting caught off guard, I’ve put together a list of small wedding must-haves most couples almost always forget! Bookmark this post to help you figure out what you need to include in your wedding budget breakdown.
Don’t Forget Your Permits and Fees
When you’re getting hitched somewhere (even when it’s outside), there are a few bits of paperwork to complete to ensure it’s legit.
Remember, national parks require a special park permit for elopements and small weddings — costs can vary, but they tend to be between $60-$200. There are also entry fees and your marriage license to consider, too.
It’s crucial to factor these administrative costs into your wedding budget. Sure, individually, none of them are that expensive, but getting hit with them after spending tons of money somewhere else isn’t a great feeling.
Transportation for Guests
When you’re super excited about the awesome venue or location you’ve picked out for your celebration, it can be easy to overlook how you’re actually getting there.
The last thing you want is to stress over transportation, so make sure you figure out what it will cost you!
Obviously, transport for you and your partner is essential, but how’s your wedding crew and/or guests moving between ceremony and reception? Do you need to organize rides for your makeup/hair stylist and photographer?
Whether it’s Ubers, rented cars, or a big ol’ bus, the numbers in your budget can creep up on you, so note them in your budget breakdown from the start.
Set Up an Emergency Fund
Kind of like getting insurance: you don’t wanna have to pay for it, but you’ll thank your lucky stars you did!
Set aside some backup funds in case of an emergency. I’ve been to *a lot* of weddings in my time, and one thing I’ve learnt along the way is that things can and definitely do go wrong and having a back-up plan and emergency money set aside helps keep the stress away.
From buckets of rain on your outdoor event to catering mishaps, stuff happens.
BUT it doesn’t have to spell disaster – with a little extra money tucked aside, most crises can be averted.
Remember the Hidden Costs
When you put together a wedding budget breakdown, most jot down the costs as black and white. But reality? You need room for the grey.
Sometimes things can be a bit more expensive than we anticipated, so you’ve got to give yourself a little wiggle room.
I’m talking about three must-haves you’re likely to forget:
- Booking Deposits
- Tax and/or admin fees
Once you’ve drawn up your budget, add a 20% chunk on top of each expense to make sure you’re covering your back. The best part is if you happen to overestimate, you’ll get a sweet bonus (honeymoon massages, anyone)?
Who You’re Feeding
Not to be confused with the main meal of the day – I know you’ve already factored in what you’re feeding guests! This tip is about the catering you may not have considered.
Did you know some vendors require food as part of their contract (think servers, your band, photographer, etc.)? If you’re not doing a buffet or family style dinner where people can help themselves, it’s a good idea to set other plates aside for vendors who need to eat at your celebration.
Your Venue Decor
Just because you’re going for a smaller wedding doesn’t mean decor goes out the window!
What you imagine will just be a few flowers and fairy lights can end up being hundreds of dollars disappearing before your eyes, so think about how you want to adorn your tables or chairs or ceremony area + any other extras you want to enhance the venue.
And don’t forget signage! You’ll want to communicate certain things to your guests, like finding the venue, where to sit at dinner, and maybe even a note for each outlining the order of the day.
Beautiful handmade signs and decor can be found brand new on platforms like Etsy or secondhand on sites like Facebook Marketplace. Some couples even make their own — whatever way you choose to do it, you’ll need money to spend.
Wedding Favors for Guests
Okay, so this isn’t a true wedding must-have, but it’s a really nice touch if you choose to create wedding favors for your guests. A lovely way to thank people for coming to your celebration (and send them off with a token of the day), many couples offer little gifts that are sentimental but still low key.
Whether it’s a few treats popped on guest tables or heartfelt gifts for your wedding crew, this stuff can get a bit pricey, so make room for it in your budget as you plan!
No matter how careful you are, there’s always a few unforeseen costs that slip through the wedding budget cracks. Keep on top of the must-haves most couples forget by visiting this post for a breakdown on what not to miss.
Need help for your big day? I’m an elopement photographer and a wedding pro. Find out more details about my work and my own wedding here.