Plan Your Wine Country Wedding: Budget and Timeline


Once my husband and I got engaged, it was natural to be excited and start sifting through Pinterest boards of beautiful dresses, pretty decor, and gorgeous flowers... I certainly got inspiration, but looming was the worry of how much all of this was going to cost. I wanted my fairytale wedding, but I didn't want to get attached to a certain idea and then find out we couldn't achieve the wedding of our dreams. We had to put all these pretty little details into perspective and start crunching numbers. I admit that budgeting is the least fun and most un-romantic part of wedding planning. However, I promise that getting it out of the way from the start will help minimize disappointment and make planning easier and more fun along the way. Keep in mind that no matter what, your wedding will be a truly magical day  - after all, you and your partner created it! Ok, first thing's first -

1. Get organized! 

We created a Google Drive to store all of our vendor paperwork and contracts, ideas, guest list, photos... everything! You can do the same with Dropbox - whatever is easiest for you. This way you and your partner have access to all the same documents at all hours of the day.

2. Create a "wedding fund" bank account

We knew we'd be paying for the majority of the wedding ourselves, so we looked at how much we could each realistically save each month between the start of planning and the wedding date and added to our wedding fund in a joint account each month. The good thing is that the majority of vendor payments happen in installments and not all at once. You'll put down initial deposits when you secure your vendors, then a few months will go by before you need to pay the remaining installments. This allows you to build your wedding fund and keep planning at the same time.

3. Create a budget spreadsheet

According to The Knot, the average wedding costs about $32,000 (excluding the honeymoon). In Napa/Sonoma, that same wedding probably costs $10,000-15,000 more. That seems like a significant jump, but there are ways you can save in certain areas to make it more affordable. When we get into the details in future posts, I'll be sharing some tips & tricks that actually helped us come in under budget! Once you have set your wedding budget, The Knot provides great guidance on how to allocate it. Below are their general recommendations and how we fared comparatively for a wine country wedding in California.

The Knot vs. Us

  • Reception - 48% vs. 55%

  • Ceremony - 2% vs. 0%

  • Attire - 8% vs. 9%

  • Flowers - 8% vs. 7%

  • Entertainment/Music - 8% vs. 10%

  • Photography/Videography - 10% vs. 8%

  • Stationary - 2% vs. 1%

  • Wedding Rings - 2% vs. 2%

  • Parking/Transportation - 2% vs. 0%

  • Gifts - 2% vs. 5%

  • Miscellaneous - 8% vs. 5%

Your spreadsheet should have one column with your percentage allocations by category. In the column next to it, type in your actual expenses and immediately notice where you may be overspending or where you are saving. Your percentage allocations may fluctuate as you secure your vendors; that's totally fine as long as you're able to pull back from other areas and it all balances out. In a second tab, keep track of payments that are due and when you're making them. Here's how we organized our budget - feel free to clone it use it for your budgeting process!

Again, prioritize what's important to you! We decided the most important things for us were the Reception (especially food & beverage), Entertainment (music), and Photography - we ended up under budget in Photography/Video but slightly over on Attire so that balance was still in place. There's not much negotiation room when it comes to the venue rental and a DJ/wedding band compared to other aspects of the wedding where we could even potentially do a little DIY action - which we did with our stationary and I'll talk about in a later post!

Last but not least, we were told to anticipate coming in over budget by at least $5,000 so we did plan for that. To be safe, I do highly suggest giving yourself a little safety net to give you more wiggle room. It certainly gave us some peace of mind throughout the whole process - and hey, if you don't use it on the wedding, extra honeymoon $$$!

4. Create a task timeline

We googled some sample timelines (The Knot also has a good one) and created a task list. Wedding planning is a huge affair with so many details needing attention, so a timeline helped us stay on track and make it all more manageable. We started by putting all of our vendor deadlines first and then filled in the blanks in between. Here's an example of what ours looked like:


Feel free to clone my timeline template and make it yours! I would love to hear your feedback on this template or the budget one and if they prove useful to you. Any other recent brides have some organization tips for wedding planning?

Once you have the budget and timeline settled, it's onto venue hunting. Stay tuned for the next blog post in this series on finding your venue!