Where To Invest In Your Wedding

You’ve sat down with your partner, your parents and any other financial contributors and nailed down the overall amount you’re hoping to spend for your wedding. The hardest part is over! Now it’s time to decide how you’re going to allocate those funds, and where the biggest investments for your wedding should come into play. While there are lots of digital sources out there offering tips + tricks on this subject (i.e. suggested percentages for each category), you’ll find early on that it’s not as cut and dry as that approach.

Peach, violet and butter garden wedding centerpiece on a pink velvet table at Middleton Place, captured by Sacia Matthews Photography and styled by Willow and Oak Events
Photo by Sacia Matthews with planning + styling by Willow & Oak Events and florals by Floressence Flowers

The actual amount you need to achieve your vision might look different depending on the destination, first and foremost. A lavish three day wedding in Lake Como, Italy might look exponentially different than a lavish three day wedding in Brush Creek, Wyoming for example. Without getting too nitty gritty, this can be attributed to factors like the popularity of the destination, local vendor minimums (floral minimums are a big one in many cities!), travel costs (for both you and your guests, rental companies, the season and more. That being said, these well-meaning percentage suggestions are a fine starting point, but more often than not, they miss the mark. 

Ines di Santo bridal gown with tulle bow straps and a lush garden bridal bouquet from Moss & Stone at an English country estate, Hedsor House; captured by Julie Livingston and styled by Willow and Oak Events
Photo by Julie Livingston Photography with planning + design by Willow & Oak Events // see more images from this wedding and the full vendor team here

Ultimately, it comes down to knowing your priorities and doing your research accordingly. Start by brain dumping your sky is the limit, money is no object wedding experience on a piece of paper. Write everything you can think of! What does it look like? What does it feel like? How do your guests feel? What do they remember? What leaves the biggest impression on your loved ones? From there, put a star next to those elements you know you cannot live without. These will be your absolute must-haves, and everything else in the planning process will support these priorities (everything from the venue you choose to the date you decide. I know it’s tempting to put a star next to everything, but that defeats the purpose of this exercise. Do your best to pick only a handful (at least in terms of categories), and this will save you much stress and disappointment in the long run.

pink velvet ring boxes with mixed vintage engagement rings, captured by film photographer Hannah Alyssa and styled by Willow and Oak Events with ring boxes by The Mrs. Box
Photo by Hannah Alyssa with styling by Willow & Oak Events

Maybe you’ve been following a destination film photographer since before you were even engaged, and you know they’re the ones for you. Maybe you have this vision of your guests riding to the ceremony on an Italian speeder with prosecco in hand. Maybe you’ve always envisioned an elaborate cocktail hour with hula dancers and fire breathers! What are those key moments? You know them. Now make sure you do some digging to find out what you’re looking at cost-wise for these must-haves. 

The good news about wedding budgets is that they’re fluid. They will change throughout the process as design decisions are confirmed, vendors are booked, guest counts change and perhaps you decide to raise a little to accommodate extras along the way. As you do your research in these initial stages and lay the foundations of your wedding from a numbers perspective, you’ll come to understand the industry averages in your location, for your vision. 

English manor house ballroom wedding reception with elegant tablescape and pastel centerpieces, plus a bride in a haute couture Lee Petra Grebenau wedding dress with crystal vine embellishments; captured by Julie Livingston at Hedsor House with styling from Willow and Oak Events
Photo by Julie Livingston Photography with planning + design by Willow & Oak Events // see more images from this wedding and the full vendor team here

So where do you invest in your wedding after all? No matter where your wedding happens, when it takes place or how you envision those dream elements we talked about earlier, the single most important thing you do is invest in vendors you trust. Your vendors are more than just locals showing up on the wedding day to transform a space according to a diagram. Your vendors work with you for six to sometimes eighteen months to understand you as individuals and as a whole so they can create a wedding experience that far exceeds your expectations. The relationships last so much longer than a day! When you hire vendors you trust, you allow yourself the freedom to enjoy your engagement season. You take back your life! You focus on your relationship, which is what this is all about anyways! You spend time with one another. You cherish the moments with your parents, siblings and friends more. You take that burden of “not knowing” and “not understanding” off your shoulders, and throw it out the door for good. 

intimate wedding in South Carolina with bride in an apricot wedding dress and beige sweater and groom in a sage green wool suit, toasting with wine; captured by Brian D Smith Photography and planned + styled by Willow and Oak Events
All photos by Brian D Smith Photography with planning + design by Willow & Oak // See the full gallery and vendor team here!

A quality vendor team makes all the difference in the planning process, but on the day as well. Because ultimately, they are saving you time… your most valuable resource. The creativity they employ is great and the labor they promise is crucial, but it’s the hours upon hours and months upon months that they save you with their seasoned practice and well-earned expertise that takes you from feeling like you have to take on a 2nd full time job and learn everything there is to know about wedding planning and puts you in a mindset of peace, clarity, joy and ease anticipation instead. If it were me, I’d totally opt to feel like the latter! 

No matter who you choose for your wedding dream team, make sure you know your biggest priorities, splurge where it counts and rest knowing that these pros are good at what they do… They’ve got your back! 

Til we meet again! 



  1. […] If you’re currently in the wedding planning zone, read on for tips on where to invest in your wedding here. […]


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