When I first got engaged I knew one of the first items on my to-do list was to come up with a wedding budget. If I were buying a pair of jeans or dinner with friends this would be easy. I’ve purchased those things time and time again so I know exactly what to budget. A wedding, on the other hand, I had no experience with budgeting. How much are bouquets? I can get a great one for $10 from Kroger. How much is a cake? Dairy Queen has delicious ones for around $20. Right? Obviously, I was in for a surprise.

I’ve spent some time utilizing online budgeting tools provided by various sites and can now detail the pros and cons of each. Here’s my breakdown:

Budget tool: The Knot
Grade: B
 This budget planner is very in depth. It breaks down costs into categories and each category is broken down further into sub-categories. For example, flowers & décor is the larger category and the sub-categories include bridal bouquet, bridesmaid bouquets, groom boutonnieres, etc.  While this can be beneficial down the line, when you’re just starting out it can be a little overwhelming to see each individual cost. For me, I prefer a more general budget to start off with that doesn’t break down into so many sub-categories. Also, this budgeter is fairly wordy and hard to follow. However, this budgeting tool does give a great idea of exactly what individual wedding items cost, which can also be helpful. The costs also appear to be fairly accurate, which is obviously a huge plus.

Budget tool: Project Wedding

Grade: A-
The budgeter on this site is a little easier to read. Everything is bulleted out and you can choose to see more or fewer sub-categories at one time. You can even add your own sub-category if there’s something not listed. Another benefit- this tool shows the average cost real brides spend on each category. For example, if you think you want to spend $2,000 on a wedding dress and then wonder why you’re over budget, you can easily see that the average bride spends closer to $1,000 on the dream dress. This can help you keep your costs in perspective and stay on track. The only negative I see is that all the estimated numbers are very specific. For calculations, it is easier to work with an even number like $1,500, instead of the $1,514 it recommended for entertainment. That’s my only complaint for this budgeting tool.
Budget tool: WeddingWire
Grade: B+
The format of this budget tool is similar to the others, offering both categories and subcategories that can be displayed with the click of a mouse. Unlike Project Wedding, it offers up nice round numbers for estimates. However, since I’ve been researching average costs of everything from photographers to cakes, I do think some of these estimates were a bit off. It listed $600 for the DJ and based on the quotes I’ve received, that seems low. Still, this budget tool allows you to change all the original estimates based on what you think you will spend on each item, and the totals are adjusted accordingly.

These wedding budget tools really helped provide a great starting point for me as I began setting my budget. Now that I know more about what different items cost, I’m able to prioritize what matters most to me (other than the groom, of course!) and decide exactly how I want to allocate my funds for my special day.

Nikki Stroud is a newly engaged 20-something right here in Indianapolis. Her fiancé proposed in July 2011 on the canal downtown.

For more info in Indianapolis wedding planning, check out more blog posts from Snappening or our great Indianapolis resource pages.