Weddings include a long list of expenses, and many vendors offer an up-front payment, also known as a deposit. Understanding how this impacts your budget gives you a clear idea of how much money you must spend when planning your big day. In this guide, we’ll discuss how to break down wedding deposits and how to prepare for them.
What Is a Wedding Deposit?
A wedding deposit is a set amount of money a vendor requests you use as a downpayment for their services. This often covers a portion of the overall bill—usually 25 to 50 percent— and the price of it varies due to vendor and specific service requested. You’ll make the deposit when booking each vendor well before your big day.
Most vendors have nonrefundable deposits. This means you won’t get that money back if you have to change the date of your wedding, cancel it, or decide to go with a new vendor. Typically, vendors do this to protect themselves and their businesses. They’ve set aside time to work at your wedding, and if you cancel their service, they’re out of money and a job. The deposit ensures they still receive compensation in this event.
Everyday Bride Tip
Life can be unexpected, and you may have to cancel on a vendor for unforeseen reasons. Evaluate the best wedding insurance policies so you’re not out hundreds or thousands of dollars if you need to cancel or change your wedding date.
Main Areas To Budget For
A major part of preparing your wedding deposits is noting what you need to spend your money on as you plan the big day. Several of the areas where you’ll need to make a deposit include:
- Wedding venue
- Photographer & videographer
How much money you spend on each depends on your overall budget and the emphasis you place on each. Keep in mind that most vendors charge a deposit of 50 percent of the overall bill, so you’ll pay the first 50 percent of the service before the wedding. The percentage of the total bill a vendor charges is up to the individual company.
The venue is almost 40 to 50 percent of the overall budget. The amount depends on what’s a part of the rental package. If the location comes with furniture, decor, full food service, and alcohol, you’ll have a larger deposit for this expense than if you just booked the site.
While many venues offer food and drink packages, this isn’t always the case. This makes up the second-largest portion of the overall budget, as most couples serve a complete meal to guests. Some caterers include alcohol and dessert in their packages, while others will require you to pay for these additions. However, the caterer may not offer any additional options, so you’ll likely need to hire a baker and bartender.
Photographer & Videographers
The price of your photographer and videographer often depends on the individual company. However, most couples make this around 10 percent of their overall budget as it gives them something physical to look back on when remembering their special day.
Flowers are a major part of wedding decor, as most brides have bouquets for themselves and their bridesmaids. Similarly, using flowers as centerpieces during the reception helps add color to the space. Due to this, flowers often make up 5 to 10 percent of the overall budget.
Hair & Makeup
Typically, this makes up a small portion of your budget. However, the price varies depending on the professional you hire and whether you’ll pay for the bridal party. If you require bridesmaids to get their hair and makeup done, then proper etiquette is for you to pay. On the other hand, if you leave it as optional, your bridesmaids should pay for themselves.
A live band or DJ is important to the reception and helps create a party atmosphere. If you have difficulty deciding whether to hire a DJ or live band for your wedding, evaluate guest experience and price. While live music is unique, DJs are typically the cost-effective option. A higher booking fee often means a higher deposit.
Optional Expense: Wedding Planner
A wedding planner can be great to have; they can help you find vendors and make your vision a reality. If you hire a wedding planner, book with them 12 to 18 months before your big day. Some planners ask for a deposit based on the money they quote you for the wedding.
Optional: Guest Favors
Giving a thank-you gift to guests is nice but not necessary. The percentage of your budget that this makes up depends on what you do. Offering guests a bag of their favorite candy is more cost-effective than monogrammed shot glasses. Ultimately, the amount you spend on guest favors depends on how you want to spend your money.
Tips on Budgeting Your Money
Weddings encompass a large team of professionals, and budgeting for all that can feel overwhelming, especially when you first make your list of who to hire. First, take a deep breath; you don’t have to make all those deposits at once. Typically, you book each vendor at different stages of the planning process. Below we’ve listed how far in advance you should hire each vendor based on the date of your wedding:
- Venue: 9 to 12 months
- Caterer: 10 to 12 months
- Entertainment: 6 to 8 months
- Photographer & videographer: 8 to 10 months
- Florist: 6 to 9 months
- Hair and Makeup: 6 months
Remember that if you get married during a busy time of year—summer and early fall—you may need to book these vendors further in advance. The same applies if you want a specific, popular vendor on your big day.
Create a Priority List
We’ve talked about what portion of your budget each expense typically makes up, but “typically” is the key word here. Something that’s a priority to most couples may not matter to you, and that’s perfectly fine.
First, analyze what vendors you need and don’t need. For example, some venues have catering and furniture rentals rolled into the overall price. In this instance, you don’t need to add these areas as additional sections on your list.
Jot down every role you need to hire for, then talk with your partner about what’s most important. Use this to decide when to book each professional based on the recommended time range. If the venue is your priority, secure it and make the deposit at least 12 months in advance. Likewise, if your photographer is more important than entertainment and money is limited, schedule with the photographer first.
Talk to Vendors
Talk with your vendors about when you need to make your downpayment and whether they offer payment options. Some may require the whole deposit at once. Others will allow you to pay half upon hiring and the other portion a few months before the wedding.
Ask for a Contract
Remember to advocate for yourself—signing a contract ensures you get what you want. In your agreement, note all the details of what you expect from the vendor for your wedding. Likewise, they should clearly write out the deposit price plus the payment required after working the event. Make sure both of you sign it and have a copy of the document.
Track All Expenses
One of the easiest ways to track your expenses is by having a binder with a written list of everything you’ve purchased and a section for receipts. You could also create a digital Excel tracking sheet with a table with categories for each vendor, the price of the deposit, and what you still owe.
Choose a tracking method that’s easy to understand so you don’t overspend your money. Also, make a section in your budget for unexpected expenses.
Account for Wedding Attire
Wedding dresses are fairly expensive, and the price of your entire outfit may make up a large portion of your budget, depending on how much you spend here versus how much you have. When tracking expenses, add a category for wedding attire to include the costs of your dress, shoes, jewelry, veil, the groom’s suit, and wedding rings.
A Closing Note
Knowing how to break down your wedding deposits and how to prepare for them ensures you make the most of the money you have to spend. If the venue is your top priority, allocate a majority of your funds to it. Likewise, aim to stagger these payments based on your timeline so you can afford everything. Keep track of all your expenses to ensure you can purchase everything needed to secure your dream day!