Marriage 101: What Wedding Budget?

City Living, House And Home, Lifestyle, Restaurants

Planning a wedding and buying a house are surprisingly similar endeavors.  They’re both significant milestones that can be unexpectedly stressful.  Each hinges on balancing needs vs. wants and can involve a serious financial commitment.  As well, they involve developing very definitive opinions on what previously seemed trivial (or simply didn’t exist in your world).  For example, I have very, very negative feelings towards satin chair covers.  On the other hand, my husband refuses to consider a home immediately adjacent to a school because “Old Man Wills” doesn’t want any dang kids messing up his lawn with their shenanigans and chewing gum. Regardless if you are discussing weddings or real estate, the outcome fundamentally comes down to your budget.


(…and there was nary a satin chair cover as far as the eye could see.)

The Urbaneer team’s fearless leader recently sent me a Toronto Life article on managing a wedding budget in Toronto THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN HELPFUL TWO YEARS AGO, STEVE.   As someone who only went approximately 28% over her original budget, I consider myself to be the foremost expert on how to ignore your budget while wedding planning.  Let’s see how Toronto Life and TD Bank’s planning tips stack up:

1. Set a Realistic Budget: Avoid nasty surprises at the end of your big day by being realistic about your budget. Be mindful of all of the possible costs, and remember even small details will add up.

This should be good advice but the author forgets one key point.  Most of us have never planned a giant party for 94 of our nearest, dearest, and obligatory acquaintances.  Setting a base budget is obviously important but allocating it is another matter.  I found spreadsheets to be incredibly helpful.  The wedding site The Knot is a solid resource.  The key is viewing your wedding from the perspective of percentages i.e. this “item/service” should only account for “X” percent of your total budget.  Don’t be afraid to adjust the percentages based on your priorities as there are no hard and fast rules.  You don’t have to spend 2-3% of your entire budget on stationery just because Martha Stewart Weddings says you should do so.  Early in the planning process Iain and I decided food was very important to us.  We love to go out and explore the always-exciting Toronto restaurant scene.  After a bit of a search and some comparison we settled on Canoe, the Oliver and Bonacini restaurant on the 54th floor of the TD Centre, for our wedding and reception. And to answer your question: yes, this was the exact moment our budget completely exploded.



Having an organized, itemized spreadsheet really helped me see all of the places we ignored our budget in a highly organized visual format.  Cell C3 was a particularly impressive doozy.  Thanks, The Knot!

2. Save up: There’s no way of getting around the fact that having your wedding in Toronto could involve a substantial hit to the wallet. Make sure you’re as prepared as possible by creating a smart savings plan for the year leading up to the big day. The same goes for members of the wedding party: if you know you have five weddings to attend in the summer, start saving in the winter.

I think Toronto Life may have made a typo here.  I’m pretty sure they meant, “…if you know you have five weddings to attend in the summer then you should seriously consider either:  taking out a second mortgage on your house or pimping out your fat cat as the “before” version for kitty diet food commercials.”



3. Charge it: Your credit card can be a useful tool. Many cards, such as TD’s travel cards, have rewards programs that you can take advantage of to book flights, purchase gifts, or load up points to put toward that tropical honeymoon or exotic bachelor party.

Hmm.  I’m fairly sure this directly contradicts the previous bit of “Save up!” advice but I’m not going to put too much thought into it.  I have found this to be a sound strategy when dealing with all credit card related matters.

On an unrelated note: Wtf, TD?  Using your points to pay for an “Exotic Bachelor Party”?



4. Shop around: Venues and caterers might scare you into booking ASAP or forever losing your preferred date, but there’s no harm in looking around for longer to score a deal. Similarly, bridesmaids don’t have to buy the first chic dress they see. Try and do as much research as possible before committing to big purchases.

This is solid advice in theory but it is a bit more nuanced in Toronto. You should absolutely comparison shop for your vendors.  However, much like finding the perfect detached home in Roncesvalles, you cannot waste too much time before you commit to your favourite option.   A few examples, my first choice DJ was booked solid for 18 months (but gave us an amazing recommendation!).  We were thrilled to book our incredibly talented photographer, Kamp Photography, with only one year’s notice.  They’re amazing and unsurprisingly starting to book nearly two years in advance for key weekends.



If you find a vendor you love then jump on it keeping in mind it may still be possible to negotiate on price and services.  This is particularly true with your venue.  Want a surefire way to feel awful while wedding planning?  Check out the base price for a wedding at your venue then compare it with the base price of a non-wedding event.



5. Think ahead: You’re more likely to cash in on deals and savings if you plan well in advance, especially when you’re booking flights or hotels. This will also help manage stress levels leading up to the big day.

Correct.  I have nothing pithy to add here.  Here is a picture of a lady photobombing us while we take our wedding pictures.



6. DIY: Making wedding details like seating charts, party favours and centrepieces isn’t just cute, it’s cost-effective, too. Enlist the help of crafty friends or relatives to make it easier.

Among the Pinterest-obsessed set, DIY or “Do It Yourself” is more than a catchy buzzword.  It’s a serious lifestyle choice with a commitment level on par with learning Hebrew or keeping your cat off the dining room table.  Naturally, the DIY ethos has exploded all over the wedding industrial complex.  The resulting fallout is less nuclear and more so philosophical (Why do I own three types of Modge Podge? Where is all of my money?)



I love DIY!  That is, I love DIY until I hate it.  DIY has the potential to be a money-saving strategy but it is not for everyone.  You must take into account the Time Value of Money and your hand-eye coordination.  If you are not a crafty person this may not be the best time to start.  You don’t want to spend a ton of money on supplies only to be left with second-degree burns from a hi-temp glue gun and wonky centerpieces that you will toss out.  If you didn’t know until this very moment that there are both hi-temp glue guns and low-temp glue guns that serve very different purposes then perhaps DIY is not for you.  Be realistic about your abilities, particularly for such a highly photographed event.  I may know how to use a sewing machine but I am definitely not up to the task of making my wedding dress.



I let the lovely ladies at Becker’s Bridal handle it and I have no regrets.  Pick your battles when it comes to DIY and don’t be afraid to pay someone to do it for you.

7. Stick to it: No matter how tempting it is to increase your budget as you go along, it’s important to stick to a plan and work backward. Your guests aren’t likely to miss those extra hydrangeas or notice if it’s a five-piece or three-piece band.


All kidding aside, an appropriate budget and a sound strategy are keys to planning a successful wedding.  You really don’t want to overstretch yourself and end up on the receiving end of some hilarious internet ridicule.  For the record: I will happily accept all gifts of Sour Patch Kids for any occasion.

Let’s commiserate!  Send me your wedding tips and personal tales of disappearing budgets to

I’d love to share them with our readers!

~ Kellye MacMillan, Realtor & Guest Writer


Did you enjoy this? Consider reading Kellye’s previous installment called, “Marriage 101: 5 Things to Toss When You Move In Together.”, or here’s the full Kellye The Newlywed Series!

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